From our hillside here in Ireland the big triple window at the foot of the bed looks out to the south over Ventry Harbor and Dingle Bay. As I lay in bed at night the view is all sky. It is summer, of course, as always when we are here, and in the middle of the night the ecliptic -- the approximate path of the Moon and planets -- lies parallel to the horizon, seemingly right outside the window. When I wake in darkness -- the nights are brief this time of year -- I don't even have to raise my head from the pillow to watch the parade of the zodiac marching by.
First, Spica, alone in Virgo, tooting her tinny horn: "Make way! Make way!" Then those two inconspicuous stars of Libra with the wonderful names, Zubenelgenubi and Zubeneschamali, twirling their batons. Ta-ta! Ta-ta! The Scorpion, with its blazing red heart -- the giant star Antares -- and curling stinger dragging in the sea. And Sagittarius, the centaur archer, prancing into view, draped in the flowing robes of the Milky Way.
Once a month the Moon joins the parade, full or nearly full, like a big booming calliope. Some years we have Mars, or Jupiter, or Saturn, in their sequins, doing handsprings across the horizon; this summer only Jupiter joins the parade, pulling up the rear, chased by the dawn. The occasional satellite soars upwards out of the horizon like a Roman candle. In August, shooting stars fly the other way, extinguishing their fires in the sea.
All in all, it's hard to sleep with that razzle-dazzle and hulabaloo high-stepping past the foot of the bed. I suppose we are lucky that this is, after all, Ireland, with its customary curtains of cloud.