Bil MuhlenfeldBill Muhlenfeld is owner and publisher of Distinctly Montana magazine and other publications. He lives in Bozeman with his partner, Anthea, and always finds time to enjoy the great outdoors, when he is not writing about it.... 

There are many stars in Montana.

No, I’m not talking about Jeff Bridges, Andie McDowell, David Letterman, Phil Jackson or Ted Turner. They are mere stars of the moment, flashes of fleshy brilliance in the bottomless void of space and time. The stars I speak of are those in Montana’s night sky, where they mingle with other, nearer bright objects—the moon, Venus, Jupiter and the like. These are, perhaps, also just flashes against a backdrop of infinity; but in human terms they hold permanence and marvel.

Upwards of 70% or more of the U.S. population cannot see the night sky, the very same heavens that we in Montana can enjoy every clear and cloudless night. There are most definitely exceptions. When standing outdoors one side of my home the sky is brilliant, magical, the Milky Way curling its smokiness though the dark pitch of eternity. On the other side of my home the nearby city’s lights refract in an unearthly glow, and the stars cower from dimness to invisibility. I sometimes wonder if the people living in town venture out just a few miles to view the night sky, or if they are part of that unknowing 70%.

Does it matter? Well, I think yes. It is a powerful reminder of life’s connectedness, our insignificance, and the impossible brevity of our own existence, individually, and as a species. My own life takes on a different shade of being when I take time to notice Montana’s night sky, which makes me wonder if others experience the same thing, and if we all wouldn’t be much better off if the world just turned off all its lights at night.

Wouldn’t that be wonderful?