Dark is great

Living in the desert: clear skies, brilliant stars, luminous moon

DESERT PLACELiving in the desert includes more than sunshine, dryness, unique vegetation, and vistas. I enjoy the nights too. The sky is clear, the stars brilliant, and the moon luminous.

Many of our desert creatures find nights pleasant when it's a little cooler to forage. The owls hoot, the coyotes converse, the pack rats roam, and the rattlers slither.

Living downtown in the city isn't that much different from other towns but living on the outskirts in Cave Creek one is closer to the natural desert. 

Our house is "nonsmoking" and since I'm a smoker I'm out on the deck all hours. I consider it a boon. Others may not have reason to venture outside at night, but I recommend it.

night skyOur house has large windows and a deck facing north. I enjoy sitting on the deck in the evenings and reading into the night. Also, our bedroom's windows face off the deck to the north so the moon shines in on my pillow and I pull the covers over my head for shade.

We're fortunate that our neighbors must also enjoy the dark desert at night. They don't feel compelled to light it up with motion sensors or security, entry and path lights except for visitors or trouble.

My neighbor to the north, when building his home, installed a motion sensor outdoor light. Fascinating at first. Off and on throughout the evening as I sat on the deck reading. Later he changed it just to be on – pretty bright. Then, wouldn't you know, he eventually didn't even turn it on!

Another neighbor installed a set of low voltage lights around his drive to the east side of the house. However, everyone drove in on the north side to their garage. Lights on the drive-around were on a timer, I believe, because they burned very late into every evening. I didn't have the nerve to call him but if I read after midnight the lights were out. Lately they don't seem to be on a timer because I only see them once in a while when they are appropriate for visitors.

The new house to the east is interesting. A swimming pool and patio, somewhat visible from our deck, are where kids enjoy a few parties with music in the evening, which seems right. All goes quiet and dark at reasonable hours in the evening. But around 5:30 in the morning two windows light up and later another one. This works as my alarm clock to get up also.

It's great that none of my neighbors feel so insecure as to need outdoor lights on all night.
About 11:00 or so at night, sitting on the deck reading by a 40-watt light shining out my window, I can observe the stars near the North Star. The North Star is straight out and the Big Dipper rotates around it. The big "W," Cassiopeia, is opposite. I don't know the constellations very well, but these two stand out. Around here it's like going on a camping trip and enjoying the night with only a campfire to read by.

However, living in Cave Creek does have some lightless drawbacks when visiting neighbors in the evening. We always carry a flashlight. Returning home can be a challenge: finding the car, backing in blackness, and checking for slithering critters. Nevertheless, I really enjoy the darkness, the stars above and the feeling of peaceful solace that permeates the desert.

It's appropriate to offer an attractive lighted oasis for visitors. Safety for many is a real concern. However, too bright lights can be intrusive. When neighbors are crowded together, too many bright lights destroy a portion of that feeling of being in tune with the desert. I sincerely appreciate my neighbors' lighting restraint.

I don't advocate anyone becoming a smoker, but I do heartily recommend stepping outside at night to enjoy this desert in the dark. It's great!

Photo: Taurus Among the Hills of Cave Creek; Used by permission, Marion J. Haligowski