This week the story in the stars in not about what we can see, but what we can know.
We're just about halfway through the Winter season during this last week of January, and it's at this time of year we can begin to consider the 'mystery of agriculture' as it was practiced and understood by ancient cultures.
We have to bear in mind that agriculture, the art of planting seeds into Earth that would then take root, sprout, and eventually bear fruit, was regarded as a sacred practice that could only take place during the proper season.
If we set aside for a moment that Copernican though the Earth is not at the center of our planetary system, then we can begin to imagine what motivated ancient practice.
For thousands of years the understanding was that the Earth was at the center of the universe, and that in certain very specific seasons, forces would stream toward Earth from the spiritual cosmos that would instigate growth forces to rise up out of the Earth.
So when would this kind of encounter take place between Earth and its celestial environment? Around the time of the last week of January. Astronomically, here's what's happening: The Sun, appearing to move around the Earth, is almost halfway through the season, which means days are growing longer. The Sun came to its standing still moment furthest below the celestial equator at Solstice, which marked the beginning of Winter.
In several weeks, it will arrive at its Equinox moment, the first day of Spring, when day and night are of equal length. And just prior to the halfway point on this journey, this period of time occurs, or so it was anciently held, when all the growth forces for the coming seasons had finally arrived at Earth.
Looking into the sky this week, we can see the brilliant planet Venus in the West, about 45 minutes after sunset. Then turning to face East, the spectacular planet Jupiter is rising up over the horizon at the same time. Watch these two as they move closer and closer together throughout the coming weeks and months, until they meet in the West in the evening sky, right at the beginning of Summer, in late June.
Ghost towns don't only belong to the Old West. You can find them scattered all over Michigan, including Glen Haven, located in the Leelanau Peninsula right inside the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
Marie Scott is a park ranger in the area. She says the town began before the civil war as a stop for steamers to pick up wood for fuel. As the traffic picked up, it grew from only a dock to a fully functioning town.
There may not be a “Bridge Out Ahead” sign for Traverse City drivers after all. County commissioners have backed off from a proposal to pull funding for a replacement to a Cass Road bridge.
The run-down, one-lane crossing is to be taken out when a connected dam is demolished next year. Some commissioners feel it is not worth the expense to replace, believing what is needed is a larger bridge just to the north.