Dark Sky Initiative

A Bright Solution to Light Pollution

Cygnus Soars

Updated:  Thursday, 01-07-16.

If you have arrived here before reading my Home Page, please do so first.

Ok, I’ve set the goal: Nature’s Lighting Ordinance (NLO) / Moonlight Revolution. Now, a plan and path to the goal wrapped in a short story titled Cygnus the Swan Saves the Milky Way.

Science is powerful, but stories stir the stew, are primordial, fundamental, radical.

My Dark Sky Pledge

I pledge devotion to the stars of the majestic Milky Way Galaxy, and to a dark night sky in which they shine; one cosmos, overhead, clearly visible, with liberty from bright light for all.

Let Cygnus show you the way.  Below is a summary of Cygnus’ story followed by a longer, unfinished, but unfolding version.


Trumpeter Swan (Cygnus buccinator)

CYGNUS SOARS!  October.  Cygnus and her family of trumpeter swans soar south for the winter.

Cygnus suffers a near-death experience when she crashes into a tower, is rescued by children, enters a deep sleep, and has a life-altering dream. She shares it with the children, who are wiled and beguiled by its message.

full moon reflectionThe children create a campaign to adopt  NLO, Nature’s Lighting Ordinance and incite a Moonlight Revolution (MR). It goes viral, despite relentless attacks and attempts by the Powers-That-Be to stop it.

NLO and the MR succeed and prevail.  Cygnus awakes months later to a dramatically darker night sky. She regains her flying ability by soaring safely inside a large coliseum and then outside.  Her family returns from their winter sanctuary. Together they fly north, joyfully trumpeting dark skies saturated with stars.


And now, the longer version, incomplete, but unfolding:


Cygnus Soars! Photo by Tammy Wolfe

Cygnus Soars! Photo by Tammy Wolfe


CYGNUS SOARS southward for the winter with her family of elegant Trumpeter swans.  Earth scrolls below, draped in autumnal colors. The susurrous sound of wind flows over fanned feathers.

Trumpeters in flight. Photo by Hal Everett

Photo by Hal Everett

This is Cygnus’s first flight beyond her birthplace and her first extended flight at night.

Suddenly, a whisper of worry rises, fades.

Cyg_Trumpeter_Swan“Freedom!” Cygnus muses. Her whooshing wingbeats thrust her forward, cleaving the wind, lifting her against gravity’s grounding.

Less than one year old, her feathers remain clay gray, not white.

Anxiety distracts, disappears.

PatchworkquiltlandscapeBy day the land below is an artificial grid.  HUMANS!  Here, they were everywhere. Where Cygnus was born the land was wild, few humans.

Another annoying tremor.  Bewilderment.

Photo by Cody Ervin

Photo by Cody Ervin

The setting sun burnishes broken clouds, creating laser-like crepuscular rays.

Cygnus focuses on flying in formation with her family and flock.

Sunset. The last colors of daylight dissolve to darkness. She knows stars will fill the void.  Still, apprehension.

Milky Way in Cygnus. By Bum-Suk Yeom

Milky Way in Cygnus. By Bum-Suk Yeom

For thousands of generations, a swan-shaped constellation of six stars called Cygnus, guided swans safely southward to their wintering ground. But something was missing amongst those six bright stars.


Where were all the dimmer stars, the majestic Milky Way Cygnus saw at home under starry, dark night skies?

Denvr@NiteShivers!  Feathers flutter.  Muscles shudder.

The sun had set, but the sky was a dull, clay gray, like her feathers. Below, a bland land pocked with blazing blobs, blisters, and lesions of light shining upward — cities and towns…

Then it struck like a lightning bolt!    HUMANS!

Humans were the reason the sky was shale gray, not obsidian black.

This light blight made Cygnus very angry!  Humans seemed obsessed, possessed by this hideous glare and glow of unnatural light.

Still, anxiety lingered.

MikeGilbertphotography.com“Be vigilant, Cygnus,” her father trumpeted. “Watch for lights on tall towers and buildings. They look like bright stars, flashing on, off, on, off, on, off…

“Worse, many towers have dangerous wires attaching them to the ground. Avoid them, Cygnus.”

Humans once honored, cherished the swan’s migrations, land was free of fences, farms, towns, towers, tall buildings, and other things dangerous to swans and nonhumans — the Others.

Worse, humans became oblivious to the Others, to Earth and Moon, the Milky Way river of stars, replacing all of Nature’s natural lights with more and brighter artificial lights that desecrate nights!

Prairie at sunrise. Bruce A. Morrison

Prairie at sunrise. Bruce A. Morrison

Cygnus could only imagine the land below as unbroken fields of prairie grasses and flowers, all kinds, all colors. And above, an array of uncountable stars in a pristine, dark night sky.

Everywhere wildness, open spaces, clusters of clear water, pools, ponds, marshes, lakes, millions of wild birds, bears, bison, lions, deer and Others, so many Others.

Then came humans, the recent humans who chose conquest and control over care and compassion.

Melancholy swept over Cygnus.  Humans seemed responsible for ravaging and ruining land, water, and sky.


Enraged, Cygnus wondered why humans felt compelled to develop and destroy every part of Earth for money, domination, control.

Greed. Brittany Jackson

Greed. Brittany Jackson


EARTH ACHES, Cygnus thought…

…And humans are Earth Eaters!

The Others do not desire to dominate Earth and those who live within, upon, above, around, and beyond their beautiful home.

But Cygnus’s greatest sorrow was the loss of the Milky Way, the stars, erased by excessive light, disrupting ancient migration paths.

A question flashed through her mind:

How can a single swan teach humans to eliminate lights that desecrate nights?

A few humans and the Others tried to teach people how to protect the dark night sky, to overcome their fear of the dark, but they would not listen.

Astronauts — humans who’d learned from the winged ones how to fly — saw lights poisoning the night, killing starlight. Sadly, their own images of Earth at Night seemed to encourage more, not less light!

Most Indigenous Peoples, who live by Earth’s Rules — Earth First In Things, Thoughts, Deeds, Decisions! —  cannot rescue and restore the Milky Way’s wildness alone.ida_logo_117

True, a few thousand humans formed dark sky orgs, trying to evoke, invoke, change, but nothing they did for decades reduced light pollution. All seemed hopeless…

So, Cygnus wondered:  “How could a single swan create a bright solution to light pollution and sleep disruption?”

Perhaps it was just a wishful dream — to restore the night sky to darkness like her elders had known.

Photo by Greg-o-ree

Photo by Greg-o-ree

Cygnus concentrated on flying.

Ahead, she saw a bright, flashing red light.  Flash!  Flash!  Flash!  Hypnotic.

Her parents warned her:  “Cygnus, do not look at the mesmerizing, hypnotic, flashing lights.”

Suddenly, a flash of fear filled Cygnus like none before, but it was too late.

Cygnus was so very tired. Her eyes locked, fixed, focused on the flickering, blinking, winking light.


Pain!  Excruciating pain!   Deep, penetrating pain!  Cygnus’s wing struck one of the guy wires, but she knew she must fly or die.

She focused all her energy, all her will, on survival not the searing pain.  Her distress calls brought flock members to her side, trumpeting…

“Only a little further, Cygnus.  Fly Cygnus!  Fly!  You can make it little one!  Don’t give in to the pain!  We are all here with you.  We will not let you fall.”

Together, the community of swans created a corridor of air currents that buoyed her, allowing her to fly easier.

Two swans flew forward to find a safe place to land.  Moments later, they returned trumpeting directions to Cygnus and her parents. Cygnus struggled, determined to land safely.  Only a few feet above the water and barely able to maintain forward motion…

“Just a few more wingbeats, dear one,” mother trumpeted. “Keep flying,” father honked, “you can make it.”

Her damaged wing struck the water. She cartwheeled head over tail, spraying water, trumpeting in pain!  Quickly, the other swans gathered around Cygnus.  Her sad face, her twisted, limp wing…told the whole story.

“Oh, everyone, I am so sorry.  I did not mean to strike that wire!”  The other swans were also shocked.  No tower, no wires, no flashing lights, existed the previous spring.

Moments later, Cygnus drifted into a deep sleep, losing consciousness…

MORE TO COME. Please return.