A Butterfly

Standard

white, unadorned
with spots or stripes
teeters in the breeze.
does it wish to be
majestic like the monarch
vibrant orange &
with regal bearing?
does it sadden to realize
that its not a
curious purple emperor,
moreland clouded yellow,
electric blue morpho?
i wonder.
it settles on a sunflower
among lilacs, lavender,
& geraniums—
it is the only thing
.
.
.
blank
waiting
tabula rasa
.
.
.
in the entire garden.
and somehow isn’t that
more worthy
of admiration?
though i’d like to believe
the butterfly doesn’t care
one way or the other
at all.



Advertisement

How to Heal

Standard

I seek refuge
in silence, in the night
sky’s bounty of stars,
like candles in every window
guiding the traveler home.
Each is a wish I send up
from heart to universe.
But will it come true?

I seek answers
in abundance, all the miracles
I already possess: family
& friends & health & self.
Love is not a thing you find
but one you create
from the inside.
What more do I need?

I seek healing
so I pay attention, and
laugh, and remain open to
connection. My body’s vibrations
align with those of my thoughts:
this positive frequency
is twice as strong when shared.
Our hopes rest in one another.

Healing through Hiking

Standard

Because I’ve been dealing with some head and neck issues since the New York City marathon last November, I haven’t been running as much as I’d like. While I work my way back into a regular routine, I’ve been looking for other avenues of fitness, and I’ve found one that I really enjoy: hiking. I can surround myself with nature for several hours at a time and enjoy the tranquility that comes with a long walk. Plus, I love that even if you only hike for a couple of miles, it’s still a workout; you’re constantly being challenged by uneven terrain and obstacles like boulders or fallen trees.

Wissahickon Valley Park, May 2019

This past weekend Todd and I visited Philadelphia, and we spent part of the trip hiking in Wissahickon Valley Park just outside the city. Situated on the Schuykill River, it extends about seven miles to the north, with an abundance of hiking, biking, and horseback-riding trails. The trails are color-coded, and signposts indicate whether it’s going to be an easy trek or a tougher one. We ended up on the orange trail, a narrow dirt pathway that wound along the river, and more than once turned into a mud pit we then had to slog through. About half a mile into the trail from our starting point, we reached a landmark called Devil’s Pool (below). The river cut across the trail, and the only way across was to leapfrog over slippery rocks to the other side. At first we considered turning back, but then decided to attempt the crossing—and somehow we made it without tumbling into the river!

Devil’s Pool, Wissahickon Valley Park, May 2019

We passed several other hikers on our trek, and with each we exchanged a friendly greeting or a nod. When we came to a bridge, we crossed the river and hiked back along the other side, first on a wide gravel road and then on a path that cut through the forest. We got to see different kinds of birds (unfortunately I couldn’t identify any except the geese), butterflies, and so much greenery. In total we hiked about three miles, but it took us quite a long time and felt a lot harder than one might expect. It felt so rewarding to get back to our starting point and take a good long rest on a bench overlooking the river.

Hiking Wissahickon Valley Park, May 2019

This summer I’d like to hike in as many different parks and preserves as I can, and find a spot to stop and do tai chi (my other new obsession, but more about that in another post) along the way. If you know of any good hiking spots along the East Coast, please share in the comments! I’d love to check them out and report on our hike there!

Acupuncture

Standard

In the past six months, I’ve tried probably just as many strategies to relieve the pain in my head and neck. One of them is acupuncture, recommended by many people who haven’t actually tried it themselves. I have a sort of love-hate relationship with it: I do feel like it helps uncoil some of my muscles, but I’m extremely uncomfortable having needles poking into the base of my skull and back of my neck. Whoever says it’s painless or relaxing must be pretty free of tension to begin with, because my muscles are tight, and I definitely feel it. I wrote this poem after one of my sessions to try to capture my feelings about it.

SESSION THREE
The lights are dim. The filmy white curtains
blow in the breeze from the open window.
I wouldn’t mind some soft music,
but there’s only
the honk of cars on the street below and
the whine of construction tools—the sound
calls to mind an ancient torture device, all
sharp spikes and grinding metal plates.
I’m laying still on my stomach,
arms splayed, a pillow under my shins,
holding myself
r
i
g
i
d
like a domino waiting to topple.
His hands go first to my neck, kneading the skin,
finding all the tender spaces where I stash
both my hope and my fear—at the base
of my skull, in the bony ridge of my shoulder blade.
I trust him, but it’s hard
to let myself go limp in his arms.
At the point of entry, my body
v i b r a t e s.
My muscles tense and spasm beneath my skin. I cry out
involuntarily.
But then it’s over, and he leaves.
I focus on breathing
through my belly to bring my nervous system back
into some semblance of operating order.
I lose track
of time. I slip
into not-thinking,
where pain is just a construct
and the universe gleams in color
and good intentions can save us.
After minutes (hours? eons?) he finally returns.
I pull myself back to myself.
He extracts the needles,
one by one; for a moment
I still feel a phantom pressure, a whisper
of a thought half-formed then lost
as I stand, stretch out, put on my clothes, and
walk outside to skyscrapers and traffic
and real life.

My New Side Project: Vacation Advisor with a Disney Focus!

Standard
Cinderella Castle decked out for the holidays, 2017.

Hi, friends! I’d like to ask for a big favor from you today: I’m embarking on a new side venture (don’t worry, I’m still planning on blogging as usual!) as a trained vacation advisor for a company called Mouse Counselor. I know you’re all aware of my obsession with Disney, so it probably won’t come as a surprise when I tell you that I’m specializing in Disney vacations! I’d love to help you, your family, and your friends plan the most magical trip possible. Best of all, my services are all for free! So if you could please like my new Facebook page, Mouse Counselor: Christina Doka, and help spread the word, I’d really appreciate it. I can also be reached by email at chrisdoka@mousecounselor.com!

Thank you so much! 😍😘

The Empty Spaces

Standard

I string together lists
of things I’m grateful for—
a kind deed and sunshine and support
a moment of stillness or peace or love.
Each is a pinprick of light;
I am a city slowly regaining power
after a blackout.

I stack letters into words
into stories into prayers—
give me strength, help me accept,
show me how to heal and grow.
Each is a voice in a choir;
I am a hymn erupting with melody
after silence.

I breathe into the empty spaces
and I fill them with hope.







Our Favorite Race: The Chocolate 5k Run

Standard

When Todd and I first started running, I wanted to find a race that was timed and competitive but also fun, with good prizes. As fate would have it, my Google search led me to the Chocolate 5k Run. It offers a challenging course (with an off-road element), a spirit of community, and both a race shirt and breakfast (eggs, sausage, pancakes, chocolate fountains!) included in the price. This year, as the race marked its fifth anniversary, Todd and I received honorary jars of chocolate for being two of only fifteen people who have participated in the run every year since its inception!

Clockwise from top right: at the starting line;
standing among the five-year participants;
getting coffee in nearby Cornwall, NY.

The race organizers, members of the Bethlehem Presbyterian Church in New Windsor, have no idea how important that jar of chocolate was to me this year: For the past six months, I’ve been dealing with a scary head pain that started a couple of weeks before Todd and I ran the New York City Marathon in November. Tests have, thankfully, come back negative for anything sinister, but I’ve still been really anxious for it to go away. Plus it’s completely affected my exercise regimen and my training, so I knew that I wasn’t going to run the 26-minute Chocolate 5k I did last year, placing in the top three runners of my age group to earn a jar of chocolate.

I’m proud to say that, on race day, I did the best I could, given the circumstances. I made sure to stretch and do the neck exercises my physical therapist has assigned to me, and despite the rain, I started the race in good spirits. I kept a slow pace for two miles, running first beside Mom, then Dad, who encouraged me with his antics (racing past me while singing, zooming ahead only to wait for me and wave me on at the top of a huge hill). I took the time to look around and be grateful, for the pretty trees and blooming leaves, the handmade signs of encouragement around the course, and the community members who stood outside in the rain to cheer us on. And I even finished the race with a spurt of speed, thanks to one very competitive runner who tried to beat me to the finish line in the final stretch.

I might not have placed this year, but my honorary jar of chocolate is an award enough, because it means I didn’t let pain or fear stop me from running my favorite race or living my life to the fullest.

From Hibernation

Standard

The bear staggers
from his cave
smelling like musk
and dreams displaced.
His snout sniffs fearful:
What did he miss during his slumber? How
can he make up for lost time? And why—
But no.
The bear does not think these things.
They are human thoughts, mine.
Anxious questionquestionquestion,
without pause to listen
for an answer in the silence.

The bear shakes
dirt from his fur,
leisurely. He lumbers
to a stream to paw for fish.
He feeds. He yawns. He lolls in the sun.
I have a lot to learn from this bear,
and step one will be—
No. Again no
thinking or strategizing,
no linear lessons
from a time-honored tome.
Just one small act,
then another.
A breath.

Not Goodbye, Just See You Later

Standard

Dear friends,

I know I’ve been miserable at posting in December, even after swearing to a posting schedule. I’ve just been busy at work, down with a cold, preoccupied with Christmas decorations and gifts and baking and cheer—you know how all the excuses go. And since failing to meet my NaNoWriMo deadline (or even come close, yet again), I’ve been feeling kind of lackluster about writing, blogging and otherwise. So, after some deep thought, I’ve decided to take a hiatus from this blog.

Continue reading

Thanksgiving Weekend in Photos

Standard

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! I know I did: it was a lot of work, but spending time with family made it all worth it. Plus, we’ve had leftovers for days—which made dinner much easier on Saturday and Sunday while we put up all our Christmas decorations. Here are some snapshots I’d like to share.

Continue reading

My Thanksgiving Plans

Standard

This year, Todd and I will be hosting Thanksgiving in our apartment for the first time. Well, my mom is going to be helping us a lot since we live in a two-family house and she’s right upstairs, but it’s the first time we’ll have both sets of our parents and a few family friends gathered around our table for the holiday. It’s really exciting to plan the menu and figure out the logistics of who’s going to sit where, but it’s also a lot of work trying to make sure there’s something for everyone and plan out my baking and cooking schedule. Luckily I’m off from work on Wednesday, so I’ll have an extra day to get things ready.

One great thing is that everyone is going to be contributing: Todd’s mom, Rachel, will make her famously delicious glazed corned beef; my mom will bring a ton of supremely yummy dishes, like Italian lasagna and meatballs, the stuffing, the mashed potatoes, and a few other Thanksgiving classics; and Todd and I will make a few Thanksgiving-with-a-twist dishes, like coconut-sesame green beans, cranberry-fig chutney, and bruleed sweet potatoes. We’ll also be making an apple-cider turkey. And I’ll be baking too: a pecan fudge pie, a pumpkin pie, and a few mini fruit pies. My brother’s girlfriend, Megan, will be making a sugar-cookie cheesecake, which sounds so good!

I’m excited to see how the evening turns out, and to take plenty of pictures of family and food (if I don’t eat it all first).

Bryant Park Holiday Market Food Photos

Standard

Since I’m swamped at work and don’t have much time for philosophical literary musings (or NaNoWriMo—I know, I know, that was supposed to be my Wednesday blog topic), I’m going to share some food photos from the Bryant Park holiday village instead. Every year, the winter market features small shops and food stands, as well as an ice rink. Todd and I visited recently to browse for some early Christmas gifts and get dinner; we tried so many places, and there are still others on our list for next time (cookie dough hot chocolate, I’m looking at you).

Continue reading

Countdown to Disney: 45 Days

Standard

20953500_10106693311536829_1695517932177272958_n.jpgMy Disney obsession is no secret. I first visited with my parents and brother in 2001, and thought I don’t remember much of the trip—to those who know me well, it’s also no secret that I have the worst memory in the world—I know I had a good time. Todd and I visited together early in our relationship, then again in 2012 when he proposed. And on our recent trip to California with my parents, we visited Disneyland for the first time (right). But every time we’ve gone to that magical place, it’s been warm and sunny—until now. This year we’ll be in Disney World for New Year’s Eve, so that we get to experience all of the holiday decor plus a special celebration to welcome 2018.

Continue reading

Restaurant Review: The Beehive

Standard

Some of my favorite Sundays are the ones when Todd and I meet up with my cousin Nikki for brunch. She planned my bachelorette party and was the maid of honor at my wedding, but we’ve been super close since childhood, when we used to make costumes out of our grandma’s excess sewing material. Because Nikki lives upstate from me and Todd, we usually try to pick a brunch spot that’s midway between our towns. Recently we tried out The Beehive in Armonk; it had gotten great reviews, and we wanted to see if it lived up to the hype.

22155143_10106837208491179_1784164517_n.jpg

A side of bacon, a chocolate-chip pancake (what’s with the sole orange slice?), and a side of ham.

Continue reading

List It or Skip It? My Recent Reads

Standard

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the books I’ve read from spring to fall, and a recommendation on whether you should add them to your must-read list or not even bother. (Goodreads Reading Challenge progress: I’ve completed 49 of the 55 books I pledged to read this year!)

List It…

The Lying Game by Ruth Ware: Ware has quickly become one of my favorite thriller writers, and this latest slow-burn thriller didn’t let me down; my only complaint is that it had a similar premise to In a Dark, Dark Wood (old friends get together and something terrible happens) but wasn’t as well executed as that earlier novel.

Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak: What happens when a British family is placed under quarantine for the Christmas holiday? You’ll have to read this engaging, funny, lyrical novel to find out. Spoiler: It involves two unexpected guests and innumerable shocks and surprises, most of them not so full of cheer.

Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy: A parent’s nightmare comes to life: two couples’ kids go missing during a cruise-ship excursion and are subsequently kidnapped. Though some details feel overly dramatic and frankly unbelievable, the book is a page-turner that will keep readers hungry for more.

The Epiphany Machine by David Burr Gerrard: This literary novel combines storytelling with interviews and “news” articles, all centered around a tattoo machine that writes on a person’s arm the one thing about themselves they’re too scared to admit—or is it all one big hoax, a self-fulfilling prophecy? The suspense keeps us reading, but the downside is that we never find out for sure.

Skip It…

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan: Despite this book’s hype and the author’s clear grasp of the writing craft, I felt no connection to the characters: a rather lecherous aging wanna-be rockstar, plus all his high-school friends, and a kleptomaniac woman trying to figure out her life.

The Chemist by Stephanie Meyer: In her first novel for adults, the Twilight creator seems to have hit a new low; when the narrator isn’t droning on about guns and tactical plans, she’s mooning over a totally predictable crush. And somehow Meyer’s writing manages to be even more atrocious than ever, with cliches and bad metaphors galore.

A Talent for Murder by Andrew Wilson: Having just reread Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express in anticipation of the upcoming movie, I had high hopes for this fictionalized account of an unexplained period in Christie’s life when she went missing. Unfortunately, the book was hard to get through, with a stilted voice and dull scenes.

A Runner’s Dream

Standard

Yesterday, for the first time in 40 years, an American woman (Shalane Flanagan) broke the finish line tape of the New York City marathon! I’d been following her career with interest, so I was especially excited to watch her succeed in what she’s called a childhood dream. Her unofficial time was 2 hours and 26 minutes—only one minute and one second faster than that of the three-time defending champion. It’s so crazy to think that had she taken a slightly slower pace, she might not be celebrating victory today. It’s something that strikes me every time I run: whenever I want to slow down, I remind myself that even a few seconds can matter, though my races are nowhere near as high stakes as the marathon was for a four-time Olympian like Shalane.

23283509_10106958985005069_1394461498_n

View from the Pelham Bridge in the Bronx. #nofilter

I’d never dreamt of running a marathon. In fact, a few years ago, I couldn’t begin to contemplate completing a 10K. But somehow, the sport takes hold of you, and once it does, you find yourself pushing farther than you’d ever believed possible. And in 2018, I will race the NYC marathon, even though racing double the amount I’ve ever run before seems intimidating at best, impossible at worst. About half a year from now, I’ll start looking into which training plan Todd and I should follow (yep, he’s doing it with me; I have the best husband ever) and I’ll focus on things like pace and gear and timing and energy gels and how to run 26.2 miles without having to pee.

23315839_10106958984476129_973240949_n.jpg

A perfect postrun snack: Cocoa-topped coffee accompanied by a homemade, whole-wheat, pumpkin olive oil bread with walnuts and fresh ginger!

Until then, though, I’m going to just bask in the run: short two-mile morning jogs under the few stars I can see from my neighborhood, long runs in the Botanical Garden or to the cemetery to visit my grandma and grandpa’s headstone. My running dream is to appreciate each experience, even if it’s hard or I just want to sit on the couch and watch TV instead. This weekend, Todd and I did a run to the beach and back home, seven miles in all. We didn’t worry about how fast we were going, we just took in the scenery and walked when we needed to and ran just to enjoy the run. For me, that’s the best part. That and and the post-run coffee (accompanied by carbs & protein!) I like to have when I get back.

Restart & Refresh

Standard

I just finished taking a short, unannounced hiatus from blogging. I felt overwhelmed trying to figure out what to write about each week, plus it’s kind of crunch time at work right now as we finish up the January issue of O. Next week will be even busier, but this morning I realized that if I didn’t start writing again soon, I might never return. It’s so easy to let this passion project get swept aside to focus on things that need to be done—but sometimes it’s just as important and soul-affirming to focus on the things I want to do.

During my time away, I realized I need a better posting schedule to keep myself more accountable, rather than just blogging when I feel inspired. It’s the same tactic I’m taking with personal writing projects: I’ve decided to do National Novel Writing Month again this year and have set a word count goal for each week (today’s day 3: I’ve got 1,794 words so far and am going to need to do some catching up over the weekend). So, with that in mind, I’m going to try to post as follows: Mondays will be for miscellaneous thoughts, whatever random things are on my mind to kick off the week or a recap of what I’ve been up to over the weekend. Wednesdays will be for posts about books, writing, reading, philosophical musings. Fridays (starting next week) will be all about food: recipes, restaurant reviews, gardening progress, etc. And I’ll try to intersperse those with holiday blurbs, follow recommendations, and anything else that pops up that seems worthy of blogging about.

Of course, I might not end up sticking to that schedule, but I’ll at least try it out to see if it leads to more frequent posts, or even just more ideas. When one thing isn’t working, it always helps to experiment with something else. Hope you’ll all still follow along on this journey!

 

10 Literary Questions Tag

Standard

I originally saw this post on Zeezee with Books, and since she’s so graciously tagged anyone interested in participating, I’ve decided to answer the ten questions as well. Without further ado, here we go!

1. What’s the most beautiful cover on your shelf?

I love so many of them, especially given that I picked up many of these books because I was first attracted to their cover. Right now the one that satisfies me most is Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen: the glow of the lanterns, the hint of darkness and mystery in the shadows and the stream. It helps that I really enjoyed the novel (I gave it five stars on Goodreads), though I generally like books by this author.

 

2. If you could bring any fictional character to life, who would it be?

Jo March from Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. I always admired her no-nonsense attitude and her writerly dedication, and I’ve long thought we’d be best friends if I met her in the real world. We have similar goals, and strikingly similar moral values, and I’d be interested to meet the character that Alcott most modeled on herself.

3. If you could interview an author, whom would you choose?

Tim O’Brien. I did interview him once, several years ago, for amNewYork newspaper, and one of the things he said has always stuck with me: Read like a writer. Find the passages and characters that move you, and then think about why. I wish I’d had smarter questions for him at the time, and I’d love the chance to ask them now.

4. Which book would you not read again?

More than I’d care to admit. One recent one I really couldn’t stand was The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George. And in general I stay away from biographies (unless it’s about Hemingway, of course. In that case I’ve read at least three of them).

5. Can you name a confusing story?

IQ84 by Haruki Murakami. I admire his writing and generally enjoy his books, but this one took a lot of effort to keep track of the story and figure out what was happening.

6. Your favorite fictional couple?

Definitely Crystal and the character of Death in Tanya Huff’s Wizard of the Grove series. It’s so unique but also feels so natural, and I’ve always loved the idea of Death as a character with human emotions. Plus, this is one of my favorite books, and since childhood I’ve probably read it at least five times.

7. Two favorite villains?

I love the Gavin/Dazen characters in Brent Weeks’s Lightbringer series because you’re never sure which one’s the villain and which one’s the hero. Does that count as two? Because I can’t think of another right now.

8. A character you would kill or remove from a book entirely?

Tom Buchanan in The Great Gatsby because I’ve always wanted Daisy and Jay to end up together. But I realize that would pretty much make the whole story a moot point, and anyway, Daisy would probably still end up choosing some other rich bloke over Gatsby, so what’s the point really?

9. If you could live in a fictional world, where would you choose?

Krynn, the robust world in Margaret Weis and Tracey Hickman’s Dragonlance series (but before the fifth age of mortals comes around). It’s the first fantasy universe I really immersed myself in, and I still like to go back there from time to time to say hello to old friends and learn from these two masters of the genre.

10. What are the biggest and smallest books on your shelf?

I’m sure I’m missing some, but Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf by Edward Albee must be one of the smallest. And as for longest, it’s probably the Hungarian-English dictionary I lugged back from Budapest with me.

BONUS QUESTIONS
(I’ve added these myself, and hope those I’ve tagged will answer them as well)

*Which book could you read a hundred times and not get tired of?

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. I’m perpetually amazed at how well the whodunit is constructed.

*If you could only recommend one book from all your shelves to a friend, which would it be?

A Separate Peace by John Knowles. Throughout the years (starting in high school, when I found a way to use it as an example in nearly every AP English Lit & Language essay I wrote), it’s meant so many different things to me, and I’d hope someone else could find meaning in it too.

Who do you tag?

Anyone is welcome to participate in the tag, but I especially tag A Bibliophile’s Obsession, The Tattooed Book Geek, Critquing Chemist, and my friend Bill at Harmony Books & Film.

 

Running: A Love-Hate Relationship (But Mostly Love)

Standard

Every weekend it seems like Todd and I either have a race or just go out for a run. I both love and hate that schedule: I like that it’s great for fitness, and great for getting extra calories to put toward food (though too often I put them toward snacks). I don’t like that it complicates plans and means getting out of the house super early after a long week at work. But we’re well on our way to completing the nine races (and one volunteer event) we need to guarantee our entry into the 2018 marathon, and that goal is worthwhile enough that I’m willing to deal with some inconvenience. (Even though I’m still kind of scared about running the 26.2 miles.) Plus, we try our best to keep our runs as varied as possible: morning runs, a few evening runs, short, long, speed, distance, indoor, outdoor. Overall, any run is better than no run, and our love of the sport means we’re willing to sacrifice things like time and toenails.

IMG_20170913_055124_474-1

On an early morning run in the neighborhood, noting all the unnecessary artificial lighting and wishing I could see some stars.

My favorite runs are long runs, especially if it’s a breezy Saturday morning and we can take our time looping through the Bronx. Maybe we’ll pass through the Botanical Gardens and snap some photos of flowers or Chihuly sculptures; maybe we’ll detour across town to Riverdale and then up to the Ridge Hill shopping center in Yonkers. The slower pace gives me time to think, to relax into my body and the rhythm of the run. Yet there’s something to be said for short runs, too. They’re faster and harder and after only two or three miles, you feel accomplished and exhausted in the best possible way. Case in point: earlier this month, Todd and I ran the New Balance Fifth Avenue Mile in the city. To my surprise, I achieved my fastest mile (7 minutes, 14 seconds) and placed 1,339 out of 3,646 women. I felt like my lungs might burst but I also felt glad because I had pushed as hard as I could. And I was very proud of Todd, who ran the mile in 6:26! That’s a time I can only dream of.

IMG_20170910_095448_819-1

After the New Balance Fifth Avenue Mile

This Sunday we’ll race the out-and-back course of the Bronx 10-Mile. Though I’m not looking forward to dealing with the subways (always a mess on the weekends and sometimes not running at all), I am excited to explore a new part of our hometown—and then hopefully eat a good breakfast. (After all, what’s a love of running without a love of food?) In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you: What are your favorite kinds of runs?  Your tips will hopefully inspire me to try a new workout or introduce a fresh element to my training, especially as we start preparing for next year’s marathon.

Book Review: THE END OF NIGHT

Standard

download.jpegI saw The End of Night for the first time on our recent family trip. We had just hiked the Hermit’s Rest Trail on the Grand Canyon’s South Rim, then took a shuttle bus back to the parking area to get out of the rain. In the gift shop, I noticed the book’s cover—all indigo sky and swirled starlight—and wished we’d planned for another night at the canyon so we could experience its darkness; instead, a four-hour drive to Boulder City loomed ahead. Next to the book were signs about light pollution, a term I’d heard of but didn’t really know anything about. I took a picture of the book so I’d remember to buy it eventually, once I finished the (literally) hundreds of other books on my to-read list.

But this book niggled at me. Walking home from the train station, I’d look up at the sky and think, I see a star! Then realize it was just a plane. There’s surely light pollution here, I thought, along with all the regular pollution in New York City. I found myself researching the logistics of a 2018 trip to Sark, an island off the coast of Normandy that I knew had been designated the world’s first dark sky island (no cars, no trucks, lighting designed to minimize light pollution, which is technically defined as excessive artificial light that taints the darkness of the sky, trespasses where it doesn’t belong or isn’t needed, or causes glare and visual discomfort). Within two weeks of our return home, I ordered The End of Night.

In my opinion, the book successfully achieves the goal of nonfiction: with every chapter, I learned something new, and the author relays his information in a way that feels like a story, with a cast of characters (experts, scientists, the author as narrator) I cared to hear from and a setting that ranged from Las Vegas to the desert to, yes, even Sark. In each place, author Paul Bogard searches for a truly dark sky, or talks to someone who can shed light (ha, ha) on some big related questions: How much artificial light (think security lights, gas station lights, street lights) do we need? Is there really a correlation between light and safety? How are night-shift workers affected by artificial light? How does darkness protect species, the planet? And, maybe most important, how can we ever know darkness if we don’t experience it?

Bogard, an associate professor of English and a dark sky enthusiast, tackles these issues and more in his well-researched book. It often reads like poetry rather than nonfiction; even the fact-heavy portions kept me engaged and interested. Bogard’s writing moved me, both in its skillful wielding of language and the weightiness of its content. Plus, I also really enjoyed the book’s cleverness: I only realized partway through that the chapters are numbered backward from 9 to 1 to correspond with the Bartle scale of darkness (9 = brightest sky, like that over Vegas or NYC; 1 = darkest sky, which can be found in the U.S. in only two remaining locations).

The more of this book that I read, the more I wanted to read, and the more I wanted to know how I could help protect the night sky—an important endeavor that not enough people are aware of. I’d really encourage you to check out this book if you’re looking for a good, meaningful read; I promise it will change the way you look at the world around you.

I’ll leave you with one of the many passages I starred while reading The End of Night:

“In the mythology of countless cultures, the hero is called one a journey that must include an experience of a dark time or dark place. For the Greek hero Perseus that meant venturing to kill the Gorgon, Medusa, but many different stories have the same message about the value of experience darkness. Are we to imagine that these heroes—heroes we were to model ourselves after—felt no fear? I bet Perseus was scared, and that the same was true of other real heroes in other cultures. Because if he wasn’t, why would I believe his story? Why would I follow his lead? What would I learn about real life, my life, this life now—a lift that has plenty of fear? With all our lights we push away our fear, and by pushing away our fear, we are a little less alive.”