Years ago, I worked in an office in Canberra, Australia as part of an international exchange program with a governmental function. My office-mates numbered around eight, and as I was a young and curious American, they enjoyed taking turns showing me various facets of their country on weekends. One July weekend, my co-worker Pip invited me and another worker Katie to go with him to the town of Braidwood, about an hour's drive east of Canberra to inspect a rental property he had there. We drove the long trek across wide plains as Pip pointed out the subtle shades of green that characterized the landscape of the high tablelands, as he called them. We reached Braidwood around lunchtime, and found his rental house well outside the village in undeveloped woodland. Pip took us on a walkabout...pointing out features of the Aussie landscape such as square Wombat turds, termite mounds, tree ferns, kangaroos, and the laugh of the Kookaburra. I remember we followed a stream to the point that it fell over a very high waterfall from which we could look south over a huge pristine valley. With the sun setting we made fast tracks back to Pip's rental house, where we found the occupants gathering friends for a Saturday night dinner. They invited us to stay, which we did, well into the night. After dinner and tales of life in Braidwood, it was time to head back to Canberra. We all said our goodbyes and headed outside into the dark moonless night. Looking up as I lingered waiting for the others, for the first time in my life, I saw the stars. These were not just the primary stars that I grew up with above my home on the east coast of North America - where light pollution and a persistent haze obscures all but the strongest stars. Here in Braidwood, the clear and dark sky was filled with stars. Countless. Breathtaking. Astounding. I remember making an incredulous comment about the stars, and all of the Aussies around me took a moment to enjoy the night sky. They seemed pleased to show off their sky and appreciated the fact that not everyone, including me, were able to enjoy the full night sky that they did. That night was the only night in my life I that I saw the full night sky until last month, when I visited a very small town in South Africa that reminded me a great deal of Braidwood. Waiting till well after sunset and close to the end of a long drive back from visiting warm beaches on the Indian Ocean, my host pulled off the side of an isolated road so that I could see the stars again. They were ten times as amazing as I had remembered, made all the more exciting by wildfires ignited earlier in the evening by a thunderstorm along distant mountain ridge lines. I tried to take pictures but my camera couldn't capture the stars. I mapped out where the Milky Way was in relation to Orion, so that I could reconstruct the stars from home, but our night sky is too compromised by modern conveniences to reveal too much of itself. Have you ever seen the uncompromised night sky? When? Where? Sorry if this seems over-written. I'm reading Michener these days and he has that effect on me.