When we moved to Canaan six years ago (on Emily's second birthday), I started to put stars in her sky. Instead of random patterns of glowing stickers, I tried to map out the constellations of late August over her bed and across the ceiling. The constellations of her nativity include some that always abide in our northern latitude - the great Queen Cassiopeia and the great northern bear - and some, like Scorpio with its mad eye Antares that scuttles along the southern horizon, dreaming of hot desert winds and equatorial nights. High overhead, winging through the Milky Way, I placed cruciform Cygnus with gleaming Deneb at its tail, diamond white Vega adorning the Lyre, and Altair, the Eagle's eye, completing the great triangle.
We saw them all last night, the three of us driving out at dusk to the open farmland between Sheffield and Egremont, the spine of the Taconics low in the west and nary a porch light to mar the view. We turned onto a dirt road and watched the sickle moon slide toward the hills as the stars grew ever brighter above. I showed Emily and Elias how to find Polaris from the lip of the Dipper, and taking a bearing from its handle to arc to Arcturus and spike to Spica. We found the Northern Crown with glowing Gemma, the Dolphin leaping in the creaming wake of the Milky Way, and the Teapot, short and stout, with luminous Jupiter near at hand. There were shooting stars, half a dozen perhaps in the course of an hour, building up to the Perseid's crescendo in the early hours of August 12th. We saw myriad planes with their flashing lights, and two faint satellites following their regular paths to the vanishing point. We lay on the hood of the car, telling stories of the heroes and beasts that dwell in the firmament, and it didn't matter that it was well past time for bed. The greatest show on Earth is in the heavens.