“Is that the Big Dipper?” exclaimed a recent out-of-town visitor to my house in Palm Desert. My response was delayed, not due to uncertainty but rather surprise. It’s a prominent constellation. As if her words had been launched into space, I cast my gaze skyward, tracking their meaning. Upon glimpsing the star-spangled sky, I looked away, ashamed. When was the last time I had taken the time to admire it? The warm summer air felt heavy, heightening my awareness of gravity. Soothing was the silhouette of surrounding mountains. “Um, yeah,” I uttered, halting our silent trajectory towards her parked vehicle. We stood in awe, gazing at the infinite beauty above.
With my guests’ departure arrived a renewed appreciation for my desert home. A long-time resident, I am accustomed to the sight of stars and the close proximity of hiking trails that lead me closer to them. I have an appreciation for xeriscape and an affinity for the creosote bush’s pungent aroma. This desert is a special spot on Earth.
In our present world of advanced technology, various apps exist to aid with the identification of constellations. But, it is the application of basic human will that is necessary for us to derive pleasure from our glittering galaxy. Humbled by a starry night, I resolved to step outside my air-conditioned house more often and direct my attention upward.
About the desert my 6-year old nephew from Northern California remarked, “It’s a paradise!” Despite triple-digit temperatures, I agree with him wholeheartedly. Its pull is powerful. Living here in the Palm Springs Valley enables me to own a small slice of heaven!
The Astronomical Society of the Desert offers desert stargazing excursions from October to May as well as several lectures from the Portola Community Center. For more information, see their website here.
Another great location to view the stellar display is at Joshua Tree National Park. For more information, roam their website here.