I drove from Washington, DC to State College last night, taking the more scenic route after Hagerstown that takes you…
…up Route 75 through little Pennsylvania towns like Mercersburg, Fort Loudon, past Cowans Gap Lake, and through Burnt Cabins onto Route 522 through Shade Gap, Rockhill/Orbisonia, Shirleysburg, Allenport/Mount Union/Lucy Furnace where you reach the Juniata River, and then north on Route 22 along William Penn Highway and Big Valley Pike and Stone Creek Ridge Road onto Route 26, and then up Standing Stone Road, past McAlevys Fort, past Whipple Dam State Park and finally through Pine Grove Mills before arriving in State College.
Mercersburg. Burnt Cabins. Shade Gap. Shirleysburg. Lucy Furnace. McAlevys Fort.
Aren’t these great names?
And driving along these country roads at night, you see the stars. How awesome it is to see the stars.
I stopped just past Mercersburg at one point to look up at the sky and took this photo.
After I got back on the road, I kept the window down for a little while to glance up as often as possible. The shimmering stars moving across the sky felt close, and the world felt alive in a special way, with the dome of the sky really feeling like a dome—like a heavens.
I thought about not being able to see the stars—about how many today not only grow up without a view of the stars, but basically never witness the night sky as anything other than a lit hue, polluted and opaque. It reminded me of something a friend told me recently about a distinct challenge of old age; that it is literally the loss of sight as one ages that contributes to anxiety and disorientation. The loss of clarity, of color, of depth and space lead to a confusion about life itself and sometimes hopelessness and despondency.
I wonder if that’s not just as true for those in cities and places where we’ve lost sight of the sky.