Earthdust & Stardust

The annual week-long Estrella War, the SCA's second-largest event, wrapped up and packed up a few days ago.

I was in charge of the kitchen and cooking for our group. Hilde and I daytripped, since the location, Estrella Park in Goodyear, Arizona, is only about 25 miles from home.

The event was held after a record-breaking (and still continuing) dry spell, over 120 days without rain. Which meant that the fine flour-like dirt grains in the area were no longer being held down by healthy grass. Which meant that when fairly strong winds blew the first few days...

...that dust was everywhere. And that trying to keep an operating camp kitchen was a constant exercise in wiping and cleaning, and more wiping and cleaning, and still more wiping and cleaning. It felt very much like the descriptions of the old Oklahoma Dust Bowl days of the 1930's, when dust was a constant, blowing and drifting through every crack and into every cranny. (When you're trying to work in a tent, there are a lot of cracks.)

Fortunately, the winds died down after the first few days, and the rest of the War was relatively normal. I was able to cook and serve the meals I'd planned and prepped for (Tomato Bread Soup with Chicken, India-Style Pork Chops, Belgian Beef Carbonnade, Salmon Steaks with Dill, Pork Stew with Root Vegetables & Dried Fruit, and Chickensnitzel) without too much trouble.

In fact, the winds died down enough to leave the skies clear and cloudless. Which, in combination with Estrella Park's location far enough outside the Phoenix metro area's light-island, meant that on the last night of the war, I paused from packing up stuff to take home the next day, and spent a few moments staring up at a night sky that contained at least twice as many stars as I can usually see from our yard at home.

The thing was, it's been so long since I've had, and taken, an opportunity to do that, that I've largely forgotten what constellations appear in what part of the sky. (I was never a hardcore astronomy buff, but as a kid I had a moderately good idea of what to look for in the night sky.) So I was standing there with my head tilted back, muttering to myself, "I think that's Taurus. I think that's Leo."

I think that's sad.

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