When my brother and I were kids, growing up in northern Utah, the night held no fear, unless from the stories we told each other in the dark about the man with the hook for a hand scraping on our bedroom window.
On particularly hot, summer nights, my brother and I would take our sleeping bags out to the backyard, spread them out on the grass, and lay flat on our back to look up into the night sky. The longer we looked, the quieter we got, until we spoke only in whispers, our eyes on the stars. And as important as the stars were the space between the stars, a space you fell into or which sucked you in. We traveled farther and farther into the space of the night sky as we lay awake for what seemed hours. Then (the early 60s) the Milky Way was bright and swooped above us, a pin-pricked haze of light. We learned to recognize the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper. As we gazed in awe it felt the night sky offered us a benediction, in some way it meant to bless us and introduce us into a universe of wonder and mystery, though these are not the words we would have used then.
And of course, we saw UFOs and used these sightings to scare each other, like the man with the hook. Aliens stared down on us from their craft, studying our prone figures. Should we flee to the house or stare right back?
Now, 50 or so years later, I do believe that our nights under the star-filled sky bonded my brother and me in ways so deep we do not know how to express it. Years go by when we do not see each other or even speak, yet nothing will break that bond.
As a young adult, I lived in San Francisco, and the foggy nights held their own mysteries, but nothing like the stars and the deep black space between them. It was not until I left the city for northern New Mexico that I saw the Milky Way again, and it was like greeting an old friend.