Hal Borland, from his lovely book Sundial of the Seasons

(Image from the lovely blog Dear Lillie)

Sundial of the Seasons is a nature / natural science book I often utilized in the home education of my four children. It is out of print, but is worth tracking down for middle school nature studies. I always found Borland's writings to be factual, yet beautiful and comforting....and most importantly for educational purposes, his words encouraged wonder.

An excerpt, entitled, "The Winter Stars - December 28"

"The Great Bear is now down on the horizon at evening, come down, the legends say, to wash his paws in the deep December lakes before they are all iced in. And the Little Bear hangs by his tail from the North Star. Cassiopeia, the queen, sits high in the sky, and off toward the west, Cygnus, the swan, is in flight toward another hemisphere, the eternal migrant. The Big Dog and the Little Dog, off to the east, watch Orion, the Hunter, as he faces Taurus and the Zenith. Almost overhead are the Pleiades, those seven shy sisters who are best seen from the corner of the eye.

These are star nights, with the moon late rising, in its last quarter today, and with Winter-Brilliant skies. Walk the countryside these evenings and the whole universe accompanies you, for the earth is all open now to the starlight, leaf fall complete. The stars lean so close that if one stood tiptoe on the highest hill, he might grasp at least one star in his tingling fingers.

It is illusion, of course, but the December stars seem twice as brilliant as those of June, for the sky is doubly clear, the mist chilled out of it, and the dust of summer settled at last. An illusion, but a pleasant one on a brittle night; the sun seems so far away that the stars should come closer. We should be able to glimpse eternity through those spark holes in the blanket of the long night. And perhaps we do. Where else is such order, such eternal pattern, as in those stars that light the winter sky?"

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