Columnist Margaret Miller is a longtime Creston Valley resident. (File photo)

Columnist Margaret Miller is a longtime Creston Valley resident. (File photo)

Valley Views: Starry Nights

Artist Vincent van Gogh once claimed the night was “more alive and richly colored than the day”

By Margaret Miller, a longtime Creston Valley resident

I’m a night owl, preferring to head to bed late at night and to rejoin the land of the living well after sun-up. This natural tendency is easier during retirement; there is less need to spring to attention when the alarm shrieks or to head to bed at a so-called sensible hour in preparation for the rigours of a full workday.

I inherited this late night tendency from my father, as did my siblings. As a busy GP in a family of eight, Dad was often the last to bed. He appreciated the quiet time around midnight – time alone to read a good book or listen to classical music – and joked that the first thing he did every day was to put on pajamas and go to bed.

Many of my friends are the early-to-bed, early-to-rise types. So these days, evening visits can end a few hours after dinner. By nine o’clock some are yawning, fumbling for car keys, or anticipating the strong cup of coffee they’ll enjoy at sunrise. Meanwhile, I’m considering interesting ways to fill a few hours before my head hits the pillow.

Kootenay nights are a delight. Artist Vincent van Gogh shared my appreciation of nighttime landscapes and went so far as to claim the night was “more alive and richly colored than the day”. His 1889 painting, The Starry Night, depicts a rural landscape before dawn, the moon and stars as bold bright swirls above blue-black mountains. The famous work reminds me of the Creston night sky – the moon or Venus hanging above the towering Skimmerhorns.

Living far from large cities, Creston Valley residents enjoy views of the night sky undisturbed by light pollution. Sometimes patience is needed, a wait for the clouds of late fall or the smoke of wildfire season to pass. But when the night sky is clear, the view overhead is wonderful. An immense dark dome smattered with pin pricks of light and rimmed by mountains. Light from a full moon shimmering on Kootenay River or snowy winter fields.

I like to venture outside for a little star gazing before bed. I’m not an astronomy buff – knowing few constellations by name – and am content to study the nameless light displays in the overhead abyss. A bold star here, a soft twinkle there, the smudge of the Milky Way above dark evergreens.

The night sounds of our valley are a great accompaniment to the view. The springtime sounds of frogs and their familiar croaks and ribbits. The pulsing chirp of crickets, a summer sound that’s music to my ears and reminds me of camping trips or bedroom windows flung open to cool the house.

Local coyotes often join the late night symphony. The West Creston channels below my home support a pack of coyotes and the group can often be heard late at night. It generally begins

as a few yips from one coyote, then quickly swells to a full scale chorus of barks and howls as others join the song. These sounds never fail to intrigue me and entertain visitors from the city, particularly those from out of country.

As residents of Creston Valley, we are among the 7 million Canadians who have chosen to live in a rural area. We are in the minority, representing only 19 per cent of the country’s population and heavily outnumbered by the 81 per cent who reside in urban areas. Perhaps some city dwellers would prefer a rural lifestyle but are limited my career choices and circumstances or fear of change. Others seem happy with the hustle and bustle of the cityscape, some even baffled by the possibility of small town life.

Don’t you get bored? Aren’t you nervous about the bears? Do you miss the big-box stores and other services? These are the questions some city folk have asked me.

I lived in a city of millions for two decades and enjoyed access to a variety of services and job opportunities. But it came at a cost. Traffic and noise. Less space, quiet, and privacy. Crowds and line-ups. Distance from nature and not knowing where my food was produced.

Now rural life presents an abundance of appeal. I celebrate the return of frogs and crickets and enjoy nights undisturbed by light pollution or the hum of a city. I can study the stars and fall asleep to a chorus of coyotes. And that suits me just fine.

READ MORE: Valley Views: The Wild Outdoors

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