Passing down knowledge and one’s passion to the next generation is a wonderful thing. We do this in countless ways, and hope our children and grandchildren will appreciate what we are trying to tell them.
Passing down knowledge and one’s passion to the next generation is a wonderful thing. We do this in countless ways, and hope our children and grandchildren will appreciate what we are trying to tell them. I can apply it to my personal interest in looking at the night sky.
Certainly there were others who inspired me along the way, but the first and foremost credit must to my late Mom, Elsa Garratt Becker, who also loved the stars. Perhaps you too can pause on Mother’s Day or any day of the year to reflect on the role your mother -or grandmother- played. There are infinitely other ways and more important ways a parent - mother or father- or any adult for that matter, can influence a child. Love for the night sky is only one aspect, though it can impart good virtues in other areas of life as well.
She never had a telescope, but she loved to look up at the constellations, and read as much time allowed her. It was her father, a country lawyer, who had a big interest in nature and science, who inspired her.
We didn’t have much means. She worked very hard drawing for a local children’s publication; my Dad was a prolific portrait and landscape painter. No one got rich. Yet we managed through, and most wonderful of all, some things we enjoyed in life, like a starry night sky, were free.
We also didn’t live out in the countryside but were in downtown Honesdale, PA. It was amazing how growing up in the 1960’s, skies were quite dark even in Honesdale. There were no malls right outside of town and traffic was a good deal less. We did have a park nearby, and though we had to dodge trees, it was a fine place to see the sky- even if you had to move from spot to spot to see where the stars were all directions.
As a kid I often went to the local library - around the block- and took out astronomy books. One of my favorites was “The Stars: A New Way to See Them” by H.A. Rey. This really taught me the constellations and how the sky positions worked. I took out the book so much, my parents blessed me one Christmas with my very own copy.
They were wise not to encourage me to go and get a telescope early. Mom said rather, to see how my interest developed, before making such an investment. Back then, there were fewer commercial telescope companies, but one that stood out for me was Edmund Scientific Company. They featured a great 3” reflecting telescope, with a fiber-board tube and wooden tripod legs. It cost all of $29.95. That was a lot in 1969, at least to us. At 13, I was at work feeding our minister’s cat while they were away on vacation. Between the money I earned and extra my parents gave me for my birthday, they awarded me with my first telescope. Mom loved looking through it too when she could. We went far with that small telescope, pushing its capabilities well past what was advertised.
It was easy to carry to the park. One time my Mom and I were using it there, and a police officer stopped to have a look at the Moon. Those were the days of the Apollo moon walks,which brought up a lot of questions about the Moon. One elderly woman I didn’t even know stopped. She looked at the craters in such amazement, she insisted on giving me a couple dollars towards an even bigger telescope.
Love for the beautiful world around us, and the vast Universe we see at night, knows no age limits. Senior citizens can enjoy seeing the familiar constellations return each season and how the Dippers rotate around the North Star. They can point this out to their grandkids, and tell them timeless truths while passing on a passion has inspired mankind from ancient times to today.
So much changes in this life. It is amazing how one thing that has never changed from our human scale of reference is the sky itself. The same stars out ancestors enjoyed are the same we too may see tonight. So does our ongoing fascination with them and desire to pass it along.
Last quarter Moon is on May 18.
Keep looking up!
Peter Becker is Managing Editor at The News Eagle in Hawley, PA. Notes are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please mention in what newspaper or web site you read this column.