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June Skies, as published in Home Magazine, (June, 1932)


"June Skies"
by Helen Keller

"What is so rare as a day in June?" Of all the twelve beautiful months of the year -- for I love them all because of different delights -- I love June best. "Then, if ever, come perfect days" -- days of deepest blue, days of sparkle, song and laughter, when the fields are white with daises, and roses climb over garden walls, and the voice of the bobolink down in the dell tells the world, "Life is good!"

If June days are glorious, what about June nights? Since the day of the Psalmist they have been a golden theme for the poets. No, I cannot see the stars you see shining up there in the velvety darkness of the heavens, but other stars just as bright are ever shining in my soul. My mind searches other heavens for their marvels.

Because the sightless cannot look into the heavens for stars, they look into themselves. The inward gaze demands an image -- something for the spirit-eyes to feast upon. Imagination puts forth quivering antennae which explore the fields of night and find them a-bloom with star-flowers of light. Seeing the manifold glories of the mind, the blind forget their blindness, as the astronomer of the Greek story, who, gazing enraptured into the starry sky, forgot his science, and in transport of spirit touched earth no longer.

So do we travel out into the immensities of space when we visit a planetarium. This marvel was invented and developed in Germany. Now there are planetariums in fifteen German cities, in Vienna, Rome and Moscow, also one in Chicago and one being built in London. Every night crowds of people, old and young, stand waiting for the performance to begin, and the magnificent spectacle never loses its hold upon them.

You enter a dome which is like a hemisphere, and represents the vault of heaven. As the lights are dimmed, and the stars come suddenly into view, you forget you are in a building, so potent is the illusion that you are out under the open sky! On the clearest night out of doors you see less than three thousand stars with the naked eye, and in the planetarium in Berlin the firmament is radiant with five thousand and four hundred stars! All these stars are projected from an odd looking apparatus in the center of the floor.

This mechanism, with 119 projectors, looks like a vast dumbbell. On either end of it there is a sort of hemisphere which somewhat resembles a diver's helmet. There must be two "helmets," so that the apparatus may project the stars of both the northern and southern hemispheres. Within each of these "helmets" is a powerful incandescent lamp. Set into the sides in various positions are sixteen lenses. Behind each lens is a kind of diaphragm bearing the right stars in the proper places. These project slender pencils of light, corresponding to each star, to the inner walls of the planetarium dome and "lo! Creation widens in man's view!"

Beside the myriads of stars the Milky Way is shown, and different parts of the apparatus are worked so that you see the motions of the heavenly bodies. Thus the stars rise in the east before your eyes and set behind the "distant" western horizon. The planets are there, too, moving through the fixed stars at different rates of speed! Other marvels are performed which enable you to picture to yourself how the heavens look, not only from New York or Philadelphia, but also from the Equator, from Buenos Aires, from the Arctic or the Antarctic Pole, and at the Poles you behold the midnight sun!

You also seem to travel, not in space only but also in time. Under the magic of that spectacle you are carried back into the past, so that you see how the skies looked fourteen thousand years ago, or you are swept forward, so that you gain an image of how the heavens will appear ages hence. In a few minutes you get a better conception of the splendors and activities of the heavens than you could in a lifetime of patient outdoor study and observation.

Now the planetarium, so crammed full of interest for the crowds who have the good fortune to visit it, is a splendid example of imagination -- the faculty on which the blind depend largely for their enjoyment of life. Parents and teachers should avail themselves of this unique opportunity to acquaint children with the wonders of the universe and cultivate their inner vision. For most people think they must suppress as practical men and women the imagination which God gave us all. Very few have any after childhood, and what a pity! The things we perceive with our natural senses cannot compare with the wonders we might create if we would look into our own minds and see the suns and stars shining there.

The divine attribute of the imagination is, it is irrepressible and unconfinable -- if we do not clip its wings -- and where the real world is shut out, it can create a world for itself; it conjures up glorious shapes and forms and brilliant visions to make solitude populous and irradiate the gloom of a dungeon.

Yes, "God gave man an upright countenance to survey the heavens and to look upward to the stars."

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