Roofs and Stars

DO YOU KNOW how hard it is to live in a house?

Difficult, very difficult.  If you want to see the stars, your problem is the roof.  The roof will cover just about any star in the night sky.  A roof is very nice if its raining, or snowing, but when you want to see the stars, a roof is a considerable bother.

I went onto the Internet, of course, and began planning.  If I’m in my bed at night (and there’s Lockie, too (though he doesn’t spend much time looking at stars when there are pillows to be shredded), what are my options?


(My ceiling, pre-screen)

Have the roof move, is one choice.  The roof of the observatory on Mount Palomar moves for just that reason.  Yet, in the house I live in, not only the roof but most of the walls would have to roll away to get, say, 160 degrees of stars over my bed.

I thought about it for half an hour or so, and then decided that retracting the roof would be just too expensive.

My Plan B is a camera on top of the house.  It would need to be in a clear glass dome, and the camera would be an all-sky unit.  That could be way easier than retracting things.  The few cables from the camera would come to a video screen on the ceiling of my bedroom.  A problem began there.  What size of the screen would I need?


(Potential screen for the ceiling.)

It would have to be the whole ceiling, I thought, or at least, say 12 feet by 12 feet over the bed.  That would take, say 16 three-foot screens bolted into to the drywall.

Securely bolted.

There is a scene in Heaven can Wait, that shows what happens when a huge mirror falls from the ceiling to the bed.  Fortunately, Warren Beatty had just tossed a briefcase on the bed when the mirror crashed, so he wasn’t killed.  Then.

Securely bolted.

The Planar PS5560 Ultra Slim LCD Display video screen is 55 inches by 30 inches wide, a little bigger than the units I had considered.  It costs $4,152.99 for each one, $66,447.84 for all screens, then the camera, wiring and the securing, about $89,000 for the entire system.

I hoped it would show stars down to the sixth magnitude, like an human eye, but third magnitude was about the best the camera could send in a dark night.  There was nothing, at any price that could put the sky I wanted to see on my ceiling.

Then Sabryna came to lunch one day, and I told her about my plan.  Did she think that two cameras, linked together somehow, could they bring it up to sixth magnitude stars?  Or would a light intensifier tube be fitted to the wiring after the camera and before the video screens, would that work?  Would they be fast enough to show a UFO moving through or would UFOs be just a dim blur on my screen?

She thought about my plan, and then said, “Couldn’t you just take a blanket and sleep on the deck?”

I thought about that:


(Sabryna’s Plan.)

I’d have 170 degrees sky coverage north-south and 160 degrees east-west.

I’d have sixth magnitude stars.

I’d have full-vision display of all UFOs, anywhere in the sky.

There would be no possibility of video screens crashing on me.

There were no cameras in her plan, no video at all, no wiring.

It would save $89,000.

Lockie could sleep there, too, plus he could bark at the UFOs, an Extra-Terrestrial Warning Unit that my plan had never considered.


(The ETWU, in daylight.)

“If it rains, though,” I said.

“Would the cameras work,” she said, “if it were raining?”

No, I thought, they wouldn’t work.

A blanket.  Sometimes two minds can figure things out better than just one.


49 thoughts on “Roofs and Stars

  1. The cheaper option seems more practical and operational. Have you considered partial glass roofing-like in Orangeries or what people use to renovate barns to bring light in-those would be fixed windows, not opening. Or Velux (registered company name) windows-they have great selections nowadays that fit many parts of a roof and wall-they openand close and can be cleaned, etc…
    You could transform your room and have a magnificant place to mediatate and meander through the universe with your Lockie.

  2. What a handsome ETWU you have! If I were going to plan something, I might build a solarium onto the house, all glass, to protect from wind and damp. Or a bigger lounge, so that Lockie had room to snuggle.

  3. Good morning – I’ve always loved astronomy and viewing the night sky. I can only imagine how beautiful it must be where you are (without all the light pollution of cities and suburbs). I think Sabryna’s solution sounds the easiest, or if you’re up to the construction, a solarium as Sharon mentioned. I remember as a child, I always wanted to put those “glow in the dark” stars all over my ceiling – of course, my parents weren’t too thrilled with the idea. 🙂 P.S. Adorable picture of Lockie!

  4. As I started reading this (and before I got to the part about all the screens on the ceiling) my first reaction was that I would sleep outside and/or build a greenhouse or solarium. The screens hanging over my head would make me rather nervous being under them.

    Is it really dark where you live so that you can see lots of the stars? I thought I could see lots of stars when I lived out in the country. Then a few times I have driven through the night from where I live to Colorado. When you are really away from civilization like in the middle of Nevada and look up at the night sky — wow! It’s amazing how many more stars you can see!

    When I lived in the mountains of Colorado there was a man there the owned a home in which one end of his living room could turn to the outside. There was a large comfortable couch to lay on and look up at the stars. It was especially pretty in the winter when there was a clear sky with snow on the mountains in the silvery blue light of the full moon. It sounds like you would have liked that home.

  5. Sleep outside! Don’t turn this into “first world problem”! If it rains, you can’t see stars anyway. Rain looks more pleasant when it it runs down the window, rather than on a glass roof. 🙂

  6. Hi Richard. I like Sabryna’s plan. Although, before I got to her answer, I was thinking that you could just have a big skylight take up most of the ceiling.

    There really is something better about being outside. But it would be great to be able to see the stars from inside.

    I’ve also wondered why there weren’t more glass ceilings in office buildings. If you’re going to be inside, why not enjoy the light? And, if you’re working late, the stars would keep you company.

  7. Technology will never equalize or exceed the sublime feeling that we obtain at appreciate nature in all its splendor… Also, a screen of that size would be much warmth, the vibrancy could cause sleep problems and would affect your eyes. For all this, the Sabryna’s plan is much better 😉

    I send warm greetings from Mexico, Mr. Richard Bach =)

  8. I have to agree with Sabryna. Aren’t you lucky to have Sabryna, the deck and the lovely ETWU!? I can’t do that, no deck where I can sleep, so the roof on my daughters’ room is all covered with glow in the dark stars. I like sleeping there when they are not home. Why didn’t I get some for my own roof when I like them so much? Really, I can’t understand why I didn’t. I am off to get some right now…

  9. Unless I’m wrong, my guess is this piece had little to do with sky and stars and UFO’s and more to do with the value of a second human opinion (Lockie didn’t seem too concerned over how you solved the problem) – all of course couched in a most entertaining and educational story as only you can create – thanks, Earl

  10.    This year, my wife and I decided to sleep out on our deck to watch the meteor showers that can be seen here in mid-August. Our deck is on ths north side of the house and overlooks our 150′ shoreline on Lake Champlain. We have neighbors nearby, but the deck is secluded from their view.

    We loved the experience so much that we have virtually abandoned our bedroom, sleeping there only when it rains or when the temperature is in the low 40’s.

    Here are a few tricks we have learned:

    1. The bed is a queen-sized “Aerobed”. It is inflated and deflated with a built-in electric pump and comes with its own cloth mattress cover & skirt. It is very lightweight and rolls into a compact package when deflated.

    2. We rotate the large cantilevered umbrella around so it’s center is over the bed to keep the dew off the bed. On warm nights, a camper’s mosquito net from LL Bean is suspended from the umbrella’s center to keep the critters away. To view the meteor shower, I have only to retract the umbrella to it’s post beside the bed; the mosquito net simply goes away with it.

    3. On cold nights, the mattress must be covered with an insulated blanket because the air inside is cooled by the air wherever we are not lying on it. An open sleeping bag has served that purpose, along with a set of flannel fitted sheets. A soft blanket or two and a nightcap on my bald head keep us warm as we watch and listen to the night around us.

    4. All traces of the bed can be removed and packed away in a few minutes when the weather becomes inclement or friends are due to arrive.

    Soon winter will force us inside. These delicious nights will be a memory to be cherished in the months to come as we anticipate Spring’s arrival and our return to the “Magic Bed”.

  11. Richard, because your bed has wheels, and since you would only be watching the stars while you were awake, maybe gorgeous Lockie could wheel you indoors when he sees you have nodded off. Has he got any Husky in his heritage, I think I can see some Lassie in there.

  12. Dear Richard Bach
    You write very beautiful in your weblog, I get notification in my inbox whenever you write a new thing, and sometimes that I have time I read the whole text, and become very pleased… . I’m so happy Richard that your dreams are still alive in you, that you think and imagine, and live like in fairy tales. Your heart is just like a child’s heart, full of joy, full of life, full of love. The times that I can’t read your whole new text, I just enjoy the few senteces of your text which appears in my email, And the Subject. I say woW Richard has written an amazing thing again. Dear Richard Bach I’m so happy that you are healthy and happy, that you came out of that acceident bravely. I always appreciate you. I wrote a letter to you at that time with the shape of a paraglider drawn in it. I’m not sure you remember it or not, But it was all the best wishes I had for you.
    Be happy and healthy always, And make us happy with your beautiful writings.

    Saba Farzanyar

  13. There is so much pleasure in these comments, so much thought and life and love in them! How can I respond? After two hours this morning, I just put them all up without response. Please know that I enjoy each one just as you do, for the same delight in the fields of flowers that you feel, too. The tension to respond to each one is a wind that…I’m glad there’s a steel railing around my deck.

  14. Thank you for BEING, Richard. I am retired from the Navy. In my early years aboard ship, I used to love going out on the forecastle at night, and lying on deck to watch the stars. Nothing like it.
    Then when I was learning to fly in McMinnville, Oregon, night landings were of course, part of the training. With no moon, it was like being at Sea once again. After getting my Private Pilot license, I took many night flights, just to enjoy being “up there” alone with the Stars and my thoughts.
    Now, we live in Pukalani, Hawaii, which is about 1,200 ft. elevation up the side of Haleakala Volcano, and on clear nights…….we have the Stars once again.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts…….and I agree, that being OUTSIDE with and unrestricted view, would be my favorite place.
    Safe landings Richard.
    Aloha and Mahalo from Maui

  15. Find out how they did the one scene from “Mr. Mangoriums Wonder Emporium” near the end when the whole room covered with stars (love that movie). That would help for the nights when it is raining, otherwise I would go along with Sybryna’s plan. Kp

  16. I know just how you feel. in the summer, I have taken a blanket out to my
    lounger and gazed up til my eyes closed.
    I want to be outside more and more. I love the moments I spend sitting on my
    patio looking up at the treetops and the sky beyond
    especially in the perfect weather days we’ve been having where the light is
    like a miracle.Seth said we would benefit from waking early and
    going out to experience the world at night, so I did that for a while.
    instead of reading or counting backwards from 100 I got up and went out to
    be awake while the rest of the neighborhood sleeps to breathe the gentle air
    and commune with the stars…
    a very special person in my life died unexpectedly at a fairly young age. it
    was a shock but I know there is no death so I felt around for him to be near
    and he was,
    very near making me smile and even giggle sometimes with his new found joy
    and freedom from his physical perspective.
    so one night he came to me wanting to show me his perspective of the world
    wanting to show me how astonishing and beautiful it all is and so I flew up
    with him
    we flew for miles but that isn’t right because it wasn’t a measurable
    experience, there is much that I don’t remember now the main images are of
    the ocean in the moonlight
    glittering cities and then the stars and planets themselves enormous and
    turning and spinning.
    back in my bed still filled with the beauty of it I had a knowing that it
    was all still going on even though I could not see it. it was all happening
    now oceans and stars that I could find when I closed
    my eyes and reached for them.
    you could try that.
    Love you,

  17. Ha, you do what I do, I have a cot outside, blanket at all. I have a skylight, made of two pieces of glass, about the size of a door, in a v shape in the ceiling. When I see the stars out, I go out on the cot and gaze. Had that cot for many years now, about 20 or so. I was at a friends house a few years back, she lives in the deep woods, no lights of any kind, and we’d sit outside and gaze, saw for the first time the Skylab. It looked like a refrigerator cruising through the sky! Ha. How wonderful you figured out a way. Enjoy!

  18. Richard, you’ve again gifted us with the most delightful story, and illustrated, to boot. I loved it! Whether it’s about solving a problem for yourself, or wanting another human opinion, it matters not. You transported me during that short time of reading. The comments and responses are interesting, too. When I finished reading, I thought, “What fun!”

    Your Lockie is wonderful, with eyes looking right straight at you. Thanks for sending along his picture. Your ETWU could also be your PO (Pillow Obliterator). Reminds me of a song entitled “Dog” written by T. Dundee, where he talks about his dog Harry, who helped him “get rid of a lot of stuff I used to have around the house.” Maybe that’s a good way to think of it. All the best to you and Lockie!

  19. I didn’t know until just recently that there are places people gather, where they watch the Sunset, and Applaud!
    I love the thought of it, and now, I will add the image of Richard falling asleep beneath a Star Show 🙂

  20. The way I see it, you have three options. You can go outside and brave the elements and commune with nature, create an inside artistic facsimile of the sky, or have some sort of major construction done on your roof so you can see the “real thing” from a climate-controlled room. One is free, one requires imagination and a reasonable artistic talent, both of which you have in abundance, and the last one comes at considerable cost. No matter what you choose, Lockie could care less. He just wants to be with you and shred an occasional pillow. I think he is quite handsome and has very intelligent eyes.

  21. How wonderful! And you have the added bonus that the ETWU is also easily programmed to double as a BETAW. ( BioElectric Thermal Appendage Warmer!!)

  22. This story reminds me of “ILLUSIONS”… the cloud removal scene. It’s been 15+ years since I read it, so I hope I’m recalling correctly 🙂 The student was trying to dissipate clouds via forceful methods (projecting thunderbolts, etc). The Messiah’s approach of essentially Being-the-Cloud was apparently much simpler… but it required uncoupling from our direct senses to realize a simpler path.

    In this case, it seems Sabryna is the Messiah. But I bet in the sequel, I bet Lockie the ETWU will usurp that role 😉

    Make it a Great Day 🙂

    Jeff B

  23. Some years ago I was on a week-long dive trip out in the Coral Sea. We were about 150 nautical miles off the coast and away from any lights. One of our party was an astronomer by profession so one night he took us all onto the foredeck, we turned off the lights of the boat and he gave us an impromptu talk on the stars and constellations we could see. I have a science and tech’ background so that alone was interesting for me. However what made it so much more special was the wonder and joy in his voice as he came upon each new constellation and group of stars. He was from the northern hemisphere and he had never seen the southern constellations live before. He knew them all well enough, however was experiencing them as though for the first time.
    Gradually the science became interspersed more and more with stories and legends of the constellations until, floating on the inky blackness of the ocean, we were lost in world that stretched between times without limit. Writing this I can still picture it so clearly.
    There is wonder indeed among the stars. How lucky you are to have such a special place.

  24. What a wonderful idea…to sleep under the stars. Here in temperate Washington, it would be possible often. What a wonderful idea! Please thank Sabryna for us. And yes, why have we all put glow in the dark stars on the bedroom ceilings of our children but failed to do so for the child within ourselves? I will get some immediately.

    A friend here mentioned a group watching the sunset together and clapping. I can’t imagine a sweeter gathering.

    I so appreciate the ideas and the love that shines through from of all you through this little glowing screen.

    Yesterday, a college classmate lost her 3rd battle with cancer. She wrote her own obituary and in it she quoted Richard.

    Don’t be dismayed at goodbyes.
    A farewell is necessary
    Before you can meet again
    And meeting again
    After moments or lifetimes
    Is certain for those
    Who are friends.

    I did not know that she shared my love of Illusions. I did not know her well. But because she included this quote in her own obituary I feel a kinship I didn’t know existed.

    All of us who come here are connected through Richard’s words. And guess what? We all sleep under the same stars!

    • It’s getting a little chilly, some nights, to sleep out in Kansas. Still, I make it a point to walk down to the mailbox (a city block or 2) in the middle of the night to look at the sky. And whatever else may be look-worthy. Sounds good to me!

      I love that obit! Sounds more like a promise, as I think it is. Thanks to all for sharing!

    • Thank you, Sharon, for your reminder. The belief of separateness can be a bit of a problem sometimes, I know. Those words have stayed with me till they became my belief. They are my truth, they were written by our dear friend, Richard, but they became ours, too. Yes, we are connected through his words and our beliefs.

  25. i remember I was a house in Wimbledon (UK) and the girls bedroom was in the loft. She had a lovely glass screen (about 2 metres squared) above her bed. it was really nice.

  26. Thanks Richard for such a nice post!
    It feels wonderful when I go though your story and I also get fascinated by the comments of the readers. So many different ways of looking at things and a ton of interesting ideas from all across the globe!!! I thank my stars for letting me experience, understand, imbibe and at times allowing me to get carried away into a world of beautiful minds.

    Best regards,

  27. Oh how I love to sleep outside under the stars!–I kept thinking as I was reading this, “What is the purpose of Richard doing all this to his house and ceiling when my favorite way to see the night sky is to be out in nature and to breath in the fresh night air?”–After reading your post I realized the last time I slept outside out on a deck in the night air was when I was living on Raccoon Point on Orcas Island.–I would wake up to see the sunrise over Mt Baker.-It doesn’t get much better than that!!–Is there such a thing as a fancy yurt where you can just roll back the ceiling when you want to watch the night sky?–I might have to check into that!!

  28. How about using projectors located on the floor to illuminate the ceiling?

    If you have the camera take 10 second exposures, and update the image on your ceiling every 10 seconds, you could capture the 6th magnitude stars.

    The only downside to 10 second exposure times would be that you would not see a shooting star in motion, but rather as a stationary streak of light.

      • Yes, a meteor cam (and projector) too!

        A computer program can continuously monitor the image on the meteor cam, and when it detects motion, the image will be displayed over the more static sky image on the ceiling for as long as there is motion.

        It will capture the meteors, the space station, planes – all in real time. Yes, very good…

        • P.S. Harrison Ford’s small plane crash made me think of you and see if Google could tell me how you are doing. I discovered this website of yours, and am thoroughly enjoying reading it. It is so rare to find a mind I can relate to and enjoy. I am so grateful you are writing here. -Min

          • Many of the little family here have a similar feeling…we can relate to the text and the comments.

  29. I was building my home in Washington years ago and created a beautiful breakfast room addition with huge slanted clear glass skylights on the ceiling for max connection to nature and the sky. I slept in there as the master bedroom was being built. The new breakfast room turned out to be my most favorite sleeping place–I would watch the moon and the stars half the night. I brought me such joy. I had wished I had the money to build a retractable glass ceiling in my Master… or at least a glass ceiling.

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