In Search of Darkness

Can you still see the Milky Way at night?  It is a beautiful sight; not something to be taken for granted in our artificially lit world.  You look outside and see a dark night; but just a few years ago, Oakridge was an undeveloped 4400 acres, a darker place than it is now.   We have in our power, as a community, to work to keep light pollution down within our boundaries and contribute to our overall environment.

I’ve just finished a new book from Paul Bogard titled The End of Night, Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light.   He covers all aspects of the increasing artificial light, often poetically.   But he raises major concerns about the effects, not only to humans, but to all our wildlife in “five primary areas: orientation, predation, competition, reproduction and circadian rhythms.”

The (John) Bortle Scale of ranking dark skies ranges from 9 to 1.  Texans probably need to drive to Big Bend National Park to get close to a dark enough night to rate a 1, or 2.   A Class 1 is described as “a sky so dark that ‘the Milky Way casts obvious diffuse shadows on the ground“.!thenightskies/c44

It is a more complicated subject than you might think at first glance; an important subject I think.  Maybe as members of the community of Oakridge, we should educate ourselves to the global effort to work with the issue.  And do what we can.

A quote from Wendall Berry:  “To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.  To know the dark, go dark.  Go without sight and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings, and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.”

A Wonderful & Versatile Native Shrub


We planted this wonderful native down on our dry weather creek for bank stability.  This plant likes/needs wet feet, and is perfect for the task.  This is the Buttonbush Cephalanthus occidentalis.  It can grow to 18′ tall and 10′ wide in full sun.  The blossom looks like a button, as you can see and attracts all the pollinators; look for butterflies, bees and hummingbirds to come to it once established.  It is particularly favored by our native bees.  The plant is deciduous, but in my experience, some stems freeze back to the ground. The plant recovers each year to bloom in the summer.  I found that used in a pond environment, any submerged portion will provide habitat for amphibians, reptiles, ducks, and fish.  Some 25 species of birds eat the seeds.  A native worth planting by our creeks and ponds.

Common Buttonbush down at the creek; Photo by D.Burrows, June 2013
Buttonbush down at the creek; Photo by D.Burrows, June 2013

This picture shows the “button” later in the season, about to go to seed.