CULTON: Take a look into the night sky

Right now, the world can seem pretty bleak between coronavirus, national unrest and political tensions.

Like many, living in today’s world has me stressed. I’ve tried nearly everything to ease my stress — from painting (I’m terrible at it), meditating (too boring), and doing puzzles (I have literally no idea how anyone finds this relaxing. It is so frustrating).

For me, the best stress reliever has always been getting outdoors, whether it be going for a hike or enjoying a swim at the beach. Recently, I’ve found a new way to relax and enjoy the outdoors — stargazing. Luckily, Cass County has the perfect place for it.

Earlier this year, Dr. T.K. Lawless Park, located on Monkey Run Road in Vandalia, was designated an International Dark-Sky Park, meaning it has fulfilled several criteria to keep the night sky as dark as possible and fight light pollution.

Not only is Lawless Park a beautiful park in the daytime, but its new Dark-Sky status also makes it one of the most beautiful places in Michigan at night. Only one other park in the state is an International Dark-Sky Park.

Personally, I know very little about stars. About the only constellations I can pick out from the night sky are the big dipper and Orion’s belt, but that doesn’t stop me from reverting back into my 9-year-old self who thought she could be an astronomer one day when looking up at a clear night sky like the one at Lawless Park.

It’s hard to describe the appeal of the stars and the night sky, but there is just something truly calming about sitting under a still night sky counting the stars.

If that wasn’t enough to convince you to try stargazing as a form of stress relief, the Cass County Parks Department recently made it even easier to enjoy the night sky.

Last month, the department began offering nighttime hours at Dr. T.K. Lawless Park to both encourage stargazing and celebrating its Dark-Sky status.

The 2020 Dr. T.K. Lawless Park nighttime schedule is as follows:

• Until 2 a.m. every weekend in July in celebration of Michigan Dark Sky Awareness Month

• Until 1 a.m. Aug. 11-12 for viewing of the Perseid Meteor Shower

• Until 2 a.m. Aug. 21-22

• Until 2 a.m. Sept. 18-19

• Until midnight Oct. 16-17

• Until midnight Nov. 13-14

• Until midnight Dec. 18-19

I know that I’m planning to enjoy a couple of these nights, and I hope many others will too. Let’s face it, those puzzle we’ve been working on since March aren’t going to relax us, so we might as well try taking a look at the night sky.

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