Harbor Springs, Michigan
Issue for the week of January 4-10, 2012 Volume 41 • Number 1
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Celebrating our Dark Sky Resident and dark sky enthusiast Mary Adams shares her night vision
Business Community reported strong here Conversation Have a suggestion for our Community Conversation feature? We welcome ideas. Email: Editor Kate Bassett, firstname.lastname@example.org
By KATE BASSETT and DANIELLE McINTOSH Harbor Light Newspaper
It may have been a green-- not white-- Christmas, but holiday cheer throughout the month of December was as festive as always in northern Michigan. Despite the lack of snow (and temperatures that seemed more akin to mud season than winter), merchants and restaurants still fared well, thanks to a combination of folks dedicated to shopping locally and an in-flux of visitors ready to take advantage of area resorts’ snowmaking skills. “It’s so exciting to know that people intentionally shopped locally this year,” said Stephanie Baker, a Harbor Springs photographer and graphic designer who volunteers her time coordinating the “Show Your Love” shop local campaign. Baker’s campaign has spread throughout Harbor Springs and Petoskey downtowns, celebrating how supporting locally-owned businesses keeps communities vibrant and strong. -CONTINUED on page 8.
Fur Sale 50% off at
State & Main 526-6914
Sky Park. How did you help get the designation? Why is it such a cool thing for Emmet County? The designating body for Dark Sky Parks is the International Dark Sky Association in Tucson, AZ. I was made aware of this organization through the Petoskey Outdoor Lighting Forum. In 2006, the OLF recognized my efforts to raise awareness about the night sky by awarding Our inability to ‘see’ the stars, as a
is not only because of light pollution,
dream and to tell stories and believe that we are connected to the stars it is because we lose the courage to
me the Gary R. Williams “Dark Sky Advocate of the Year Award.” I had moved permanently to Northern Michigan in 2002 and had been working for several years with students at local schools and in area youth camps, as well as writing occasionally for the paper and lecturing at North Central Community College about the night sky, why it matters and how it is disappearing. As a result of the award, I found a community of people dedicated to protecting the night sky, and while each carried their own interest in why it is important, there was definitely consensus that a beautiful night sky enhances the quality of life in the area where the star shine is protected from light pollution and light trespass. Out of shared interest with this group, it was decided that I would lead the initiative to get IDA recognition of our area as a dedicated
Dark Sky Place. I presented my intentions to the Emmet County Board of Commissioners in 2009 and they rose up in unanimous support. They’ve been exceptionally supportive of this initiative throughout the process, and their enthusiasm about what can come is really exciting. The Headlands is one of many gorgeously dark sky places throughout Emmet County, and having it recognized in the international dark sky community brings a
School District: Board to review pool
options, sinking fund ballot, tech tools and finances at meeting Jan. 9
Harbor Light Newspaper portrait by Mark Flemming
-CONTINUED on page 4B.
> Upcoming meetings of local municipal and community groups in January
To stay connected with what’s going Wonderful, Warm on at both the county and Winter Wear city level, here’s a list of the month’s area up185 E. Main • 526-9780 coming municipal and committee HARBOR SPRINGS meetings. Note, this is the current list of scheduled meetings. Be sure to confirm the meeting with the organization if you plan to attend.
By KATE BASSETT Harbor Light Newspaper
A new year brings new challenges, projects, and possibilities to the Harbor Springs School District, many of which will be discussed at the upcoming Board of Education meeting Monday, January 9. With results of a community report about the pool, gathered by HARBOR Inc., now in hand, superintendent Mark Tompkins said board members will begin the next steps in a long-term management process. “People generally want to keep it going, and that’s what we needed to know,” Tompkins said of the survey results. He indicated the report’s findings showed a majority of respondents were both interested in a potential “recreation authority” (encompassing more facilities than just the pool) and third party management of said authority. “HARBOR Inc. did a tremendous job gathering information,” Tompkins said. The partnership between the school district and the nonprofit area planning organization will likely end now that community -CONTINUED on page 4.
Mary Adams held Venus (left) and the moon in her hands during a visit to the Little Traverse Bay waterfront recently.
How to Get Involved
Emmet County Road Commission A component unit of the county, manages county roads Next meeting: Thursday, January 5, 2012, at 1 p.m. at Boyne City Hall, 319 N. Lake Street, Boyne City The purpose of the meeting is to -CONTINUED on page 5.
Outerwear Womens Mens WOW
Harbor Springs teachers learned about potential technology tools for their classrooms during a “show and tell” with vendors on Tuesday, January 3. The tools will be purchased with money raised through the Technology and Transportation bond, passed by voters in November 2011.
185 E. Main St. • 526-9780
Paula Lishman Knit Fur
> Tell us about your work with the Dark
at W Wear
Editor’s note: When this area’s natural resources are described, woods, fields, and waters often take center stage. The largest resource of all-- the sky-- is rarely mentioned, likely taken for granted as a given that will always be there. So too, perhaps, are the human elements of our area’s “rich resources.” In this Q&A, we honor both the community’s night sky, and a local resident who has worked tirelessly to protect and celebrate it. Mary Adams is a storyteller, a star gazer, and a teacher, and her work to have Emmet County’s Headlands in Mackinaw City designated as an International Dark Sky Park brings the promise of night sky preservation for generations to come. Kate Bassett
“I love my bank! How many people can say that today?” — Nancy K., Northwestern Bank customer
Harbor Light Community Newsweekly
Week of Jan. 4-10, 2012
Celebrating our Dark Sky Resident and dark sky enthusiast Mary Adams shares her night vision; helped start Emmet County Dark Sky park program -CONTINUED from page 1.
prestige to conservation efforts. As one of only six such parks in the U.S. and nine in the world, we are poised to provide information and experience about the night sky to an international community that carries the accent mark of our area, its rich indigenous history, its vital role in the history of the Great Lakes and the United States. And always our emphasis is on the cultural consequences of star knowledge. Elsewhere you will find the major telescopes and research facilities. Here you will find the humanities approach that puts the flesh on those research bones and keeps the imagination lively. In Northern Michigan we have great organizations dedicated to protecting land, water, wildlife, and now, the night sky, one of our last great resources. Protecting the night sky saves energy, which in turn, saves money, and in very important ways, safeguards the human imagination.
How long have you been interested in the night sky? What’s the pull for you?
My conscious interest in the night sky and the rhythms of the planets and the stars really began in my 18th year, so about 30 years ago. My approach was somewhat like working a jigsaw puzzle. I first learned about the rhythms of the planets, and then the ancient star lore that was the astrology of former cultures, particularly the Egyptian, Babylonian and Greek. I spent years reading traditional folk and fairy tales to my children, and over time the moral wisdom in the tales matched up with the great archetypes taught about in the mythologies of the ancient cultures. At a certain point in this research it became obvious that the greatest civilizations in the history of humanity, as well as many of mankind’s highest achievements in science, in architecture, in art, all resulted from the striving to understand humanity’s relationship to the starry world. This striving motivates the highest research even in our own time. What is of greatest significance for me is that we not lose the human factor, that we not get so enchanted by our telescopes and satellites and computers that we lose the ability to dream our way to the stars, to storytell, to find poetic rhythm. These may seem pale comparisons when you consider astronomers are now discovering exo-planets, and scientists are moving particles faster than the speed of light, but what story is this telling us, what are we learning about ourselves as a result of this contemporary research? The human being is physiologically capable of seeing about 10,000 celestial objects. With the use of telescopes and satellites, astronomers can now identify upwards of 900 million celestial objects. This increase in what we can see hasn’t meant an equal increase in what we know, so my work is in always trying to keep my very human feet on the Earth while we reach further and further into space. Unlike Stephen Hawking, I don’t believe we have to populate other planets in order to sustain the human species. I believe we have to recognize our enchantments, and how the harmony of the cosmos can be emulated in life on Earth. When our scientists use violent language to describe cosmic phenomena, what does that do to our sense of security and connection to the greater whole? Our activity on the Earth is like the footprint our world makes as it travels along its orbital path around the Sun. We are making an impression, and what impression is it?
> Does your neck get sore always looking up? When you do look around (ground level) what’s your favorite vista in this area?
It is true that I am frequently accused of walking around with my head in the stars, but that doesn’t always mean I’m looking up. More often than not it means I am walking around looking within. A lot of what I do has involved training myself to understand planetary rhythms and seasonal starlight. For instance, it takes Mars two years to orbit the Sun. If I hear someone talking about an experience two years ago, or even referencing small children in their “terrible two-year old” stage, I find myself in research mode, trying to understand if there’s anything in what this person is experiencing that really has a Mars quality about it. This is not astrological prediction, it is looking for cosmic order in human life. I also do this relative to the stars overhead in each season, or the position of the circumpolar constellations, which are always overhead for us. Take the Big Dipper. In the Northern Hemisphere, we always see it, but in each season it appears in a different angle of relationship with the horizon. Over centuries of time, cultures have tracked the changing pattern made by the Big Dipper from one season to the next, and this became a powerful symbol of constancy and eternity. What significance, if any, does that have for us now? And if it has none, then what have we replaced that with, and why? Since the beginning of the Copernican Revolution in the late 1500s when man began to think of the cosmos physically as opposed to spiritually, there has been a waning of the storytelling of the stars, and an attitude of dismissiveness about the role of storytelling in star knowledge. From the perspective of the storyteller, astronomy is our contemporary mythology, and it will grow and change over time, so we do well to pay attention to the story we’re telling ourselves. One of my most favorite vistas is anyplace where I can see Eastern and Western horizon when Moon
is at Full Phase closest to sunrise or sunset. Our proximity to the lake lends itself to this being a consistently dramatic encounter with the natural world. A few years ago in September, the Moon was Full right at Autumn Equinox, so late September, out of season. I hiked to the top of Nub’s Nob before sunrise to catch the Full Moon setting into the bay to the west while the Sun was rising in the east. There was a panorama of colors, from the warm, hot, yellow, orange, reds of sunrise in the East transitioning all the way to blue, silver, cold Moon setting into the water to the west. This kind of drama witnessed outwardly can have a steadying effect, almost as if we don’t need so much drama and chaos in our personal lives when we can see its full transition in the natural world.
> What constellations or sights do you think of when you here the words “sense of place” and “northern Michigan?”
I am a hopeless romantic, so when I hear ‘sense of place’ or ‘Northern Michigan’, I think of Full Moon arcing over the dunes at Petoskey State Park, casting its moonbeams like a bridge across the Little Traverse Bay; I think of the great good fortune we have up here of being able to swim in a Great Lake as it is reflecting starlight. Consider, 70-percent of the Earth’s body is covered with water, and water is such an integral experience to life in Northern Michigan. One of the main properties of water is that it is reflective, so I take great solace in the fact that 70-percent of the Earth is, at any given moment, reflecting sunlight, starlight, moonlight. I love to swim in water that is reflecting this cosmic brilliance, it’s a bit like taking a bath with the stars...what could be more restorative and healing? No telescope required, just a sense of adventure...
> Here’s your chance to encourage folks to turn off lights, step outside, and take in the night sky. How can taking the time to view the heavens ground folks more to their place here on earth?
Our inability to ‘see’ the stars, as a humanity, is not only because of light pollution, it is because we lose the courage to dream and to tell stories and believe that we are connected to the stars. And when we never give ourselves the chance to be in the dark, truly in the dark, then we never encounter that part of ourselves that is full of mystery and wonder. Ours is a culture of instant information, not one of living in the dark, literally and intellectually. Finding ourselves in the dark can mean subjecting ourselves to our greatest vulnerability. It is here where we must reconcile ourselves to our belief about who we are and why we are, and its no wonder we want to shine a light into that place. Although our striving to understand this connection is what drives science and logic and reason, this is also the stuff of religion and spirituality. How do these disciplines meet in each of us? This is why it’s so important to have experiences in the dark, and to celebrate the many majestic achievements of humanity in learning about our place in cosmic whole; what is the order of the planets in our system; what is the distance from Earth to Sun; how long does it take a comet to return; and what does any of this have to do with me in the course of one life between birth and death? I was recently in NYC lecturing on the role of star knowledge in urban environments. I wasn’t just trying to be clever, I was trying to demonstrate what happens in environments where starlight can’t reach the surface of the Earth. There is research available now regarding the damaging effects of light pollution on migratory birds, on the circadian rhythm in human beings. It is obvious that spilling light up where it’s not needed is a waste of energy and money. Besides, it’s also good practice to pay attention to your outdoor lighting to be sure you’re not over-lighting your neighbor’s yard, home or indoor rooms. Turning lights down and off may seem a simple solution, but nowhere in conservation do you have such an immediate return. If you take down a forest it will take many years for it to be restored. If you turn out the artificial lights, the stars return immediately. I appreciate that kind of response. Adams is currently traveling around the state sharing star knowledge, and will be at the Outfitter in Harbor Springs on January 17 as part of the shop’s monthly lecture series. The Headlands hosts free public events every month about different aspects of star knowledge in contemporary and historical culture. Information is provided on the Emmet County website and Adams offers an email blast at least twice a month, including video greetings about what can be seen overhead in the coming days and weeks. www.emmetcounty.org/darkskypark/
For three years, Adams published the wall calendar Fairy Tale Moons, which is now becoming the reference book A Time for Gathering Stars, which celebrates cultural star lore of ages. More information about her programs and publications can be found at www.fairytalemoons.com