The ultimate luxury is natural darkness.

What would it take to achieve it?

Obviously, we'd have to move: from the urban wildland to the wildland. Urban is the enemy of the dark, it is the faint glow that vitiates the vast night sky and blows away the incandescent cobwebs of a billion years of pre-history; it is the pernicious miasma of photons that eats away at the pin-holes in the firmament that reveal the heavenly light; it is, quite simply, the destroyer of the star map - that most ancient guide to the fortunes of humankind.

What's up with the dark in Upper Ojai?

The lights of Santa Paula creep up over the Sulphur Mountain ridge washing the valley in a pale luminescence that turns the bejeweled black velvet of the night into a worn, grey, dish towel. From the west come the glaring security lights of the Black Mountain Ranch barn compound, and closer yet, the ridiculously over-lit, overwrought and, yes, over-the-top, gated entry to the otherwise mostly charming community that lies to the south of the 150 just a few hundred yards to the west of Koenigstein. Beyond, there's the smudge of light that filters up over the grade from the town of Ojai and creates a faint halo around Kahus, Bear Mountain. Don't talk to me about practice and game nights at Nordhoff High School - Friday Night Lights are destroying small town night skies all over the country.

Belatedly, and still not quite yet, Ojai City Council has a new Dark Sky Ordinance. It is sitting on the City Attorney's desk. Unfortunately, in the usual disfunctional manner of the Council, said attorney just upped and retired leaving the document, still awaiting his approval, in his in-tray. Gail Topping has worked on the ordinance for six years and finally presented it to the Council for adoption this March. If approved by the (new) City Attorney, it will replace a ten year old code.

A lot has happened to raise awareness of light pollution in that decade and the issue is now front and center in any city intent on preserving natural amenities: our ability to appreciate the night sky has been deteriorating, in plain sight, for far too long. Gail crafted the ordinance by referencing the work of cities such as Santa Cruz, Santa Monica, Santa Ynez, Berkeley, Tucson, Boulder, and Ketchum.

We live in an unincorporated area of Ventura County which has no effective Dark Sky Ordinance. However, our closest neighbor, Margot, is rigorous in limiting light pollution: she has no landscape lighting and minimal, fully shielded deck lights. We are also paragons of virtue in this regard relying on just two,13w, fully shielded lights on the garage and, when we remember to turn it on, a single compact fluoro down light in our entry eave soffit. We have also eschewed landscape lighting.  Ken and Charlotte who live up the hill, have two lights at their entry gate visible from our back yard, and they were persuaded to drastically reduce the lamps' wattage. We have, therefore, been effective in keeping our patch of south-facing valley on the dark side. Unfortunately, we look out to the south onto a hillside studded with extraneous lighting.

Although one could argue that humankind has spent the last few thousand years quite deliberately emerging from the gloom, I believe a more compelling narrative can be developed that suggests that we are skototropic - we seek out the dark. It is only in the last two centuries that the west has developed the kind of technology that convincingly holds the night at bay and we are beginning to understand the deleterious effects of that effort on our health, our imaginations and our spiritual well-being.

An absence of light causes S.A.D. (seasonal affect disorder), I would argue that a far more prevalent ailment is C.A.D.D. (chronic absence of darkness disorder). The two are clearly connected. Our ancient lizard brains are attuned to a circadian rhythm - to the chiaroscuro of light and shade, of night and day.

Denied the daily reset of the void, with its fierce, yet impossibly remote starlight, our urban world has degenerated into the light and the not so light. It has been a long while a-coming. There are reports of street lighting as early as the ninth century, and by the 1400's when the Mayor of London ordered that "lanterns with lights to be hanged out on the winter evenings between Hallowtide and Candlemasse" (Wikipedia) it received its first beaurocratic mandate. Benjamin Franklin invented a storm-proof candle-lantern and is credited with introducing street lighting to Philadelphia; by the early nineteenth century, parts of London were being lit by gas-lamps. In 1880, Wabash, Ohio became the "First Electrically Lighted City in the World" using Edison's recently perfected incandescent light. Today we are on the cusp of consigning his invention to the long dark night of History but light pollution remains perhaps the fastest growing and most pervasive form of environmental pollution (Missing the Dark: Health Effects of Light Pollution, R. Chepesiuk, 2009).

Yesterday was the Summer Solstice. Our thoughts are on long-summer days, perhaps, rather than short dark nights. Yet, the density, the viscosity of the night, however short, preserves the wonder of the 'rosy-fingered dawn' and completes the circadian dyad of night and day. The purpose of the Ojai Ordinance is "to protect and reclaim the ability to view the night sky and thereby help preserve the quality of life and the tourist experience of this desirable visual resource". But this rather meek objective does not plumb the existential question: if a fully dark night is our balance, what becomes of us if we relinquish this essential prop to our humanity and to our health? We exist in a world that serves as a living experiment: where our twilight nights constitute an ongoing exploration of the impact of darkness deprivation.

Paolo Sassone-Corsi, a U.C. Irvine pharmacologist writes,

"The.....circadian clock affects physiologic processes in almost all organisms. These processes include brain wave patterns, hormone production, cell regulation, and other biologic activities. Disruption of the circadian clock is linked to several medical disorders in humans, including depression, insomnia, cardiovascular disease, and cancer....Studies show that the circadian cycle controls from ten to fifteen percent of our genes, so its disruption can cause a lot of health problems.” (Missing the Dark)

Ironically, the one dark place remaining in Ventura County is Mt. Pinos, which the Chumash understood as the center of their world and the source of its balance. It represents the tallest peak in the County and is a favored location for amateur astronomers and star-gazers. In Upper Ojai, or              ?Awha'y, valley of the moon, the stars of fourth magnitude brightness are no longer visible. These illustrations of the 'alchuklash fables have disappeared from human view (Space and Practice II). The layered complexity of the night sky has been replaced by a parody where only the brightest stars remain visible like the last sequins hanging on a threadbare magician's cloak.

Our eyes seek the starlight experience of infinite depth, of infinite complexity and overwhelming awe in the trite electronic entertainments of our age. We have, as Robert Frost writes, " ....taken artificial light, Against the ancient sovereignty of night".

What's up with the Dark? It has become dark-lite. We are denied the solace of the Night Sky, where that old Romantic and renegade Transcendentalist, Walt Whitman, finds a regenerative transformation:

 ".... tired, and sick, Till rising and gliding out I wander'd off by myself, In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,  Look'd up in perfect silence at the stars."