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Monday, August 18, 2008

Stargazing Party Brings Summer Back Home

The Best Evenings Are Right Outside Your Door

As published on Associated Content

We were recently invited to a bonfire to celebrate the end of my daughter's musical theatre program. This was the third cast party we had attended and we enjoyed it so thoroughly because of what it didn't have that all the others did. There were no tiki torches, and there wasn't a pool or hot tub surrounded with themed lighting. There was no fenced-in yard with a swing set or bar full of Sangria. What there was, was a sky full of stars above a wide-open field, a homemade swing that sat three, a crackling fire, and great companionship. The guests were each instructed to bring our own camp chairs and favorite snack, and to wear shoes that would not keep us from the games.

We arrived and played football for a while until it was too dark to see, and then the game of jailbreak commenced. Outside of the fire circle were the shadows of our children chasing each other around and giggling as they each were caught. The best entertainment was in the night sky. We oohed and aahed as each parent discovered planets and constellations, shooting stars and satellites flying across the sky, and even some wayward meteorites that my husband swears were merely fireworks. We argued over the position of some of the constellations and searched in vain for the Little Dipper. One couple laughed over the winking stars that were really fireflies. At one point a flashing light swung quickly across the sky and the kids all got excited thinking it might be a UFO. I thought it was a military object, my husband said it was a helicopter, but whatever it was, we spent the rest of the evening with our eyes trained upon the heavens looking for whatever we could find.

I have never had a conversation before where I didn't look at someone's face as I spoke to him or her, but it was not a hardship; I simply could not stop watching the atmosphere. So we all chatted facing upwards and chuckled about it as we did so. I recalled how many hours I spent gazing up at the clouds and the stars when I was a child and I was contented knowing my children enjoyed the same uncomplicated pleasures. It was a simple, effortless evening, and it certainly beat watching TV, going to the movies, or playing video games.

I plan to make our own fire circle in the backyard this week and really enjoy the rest of summer and the autumn. We have lots of deadfall in the woods beyond our yard and plenty of space that we never use. The simplest pleasures of life do not require cash, fancy yard furniture, or even a ride in the car, they can be found right outside our own back doors.

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