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If the conditions are exactly right, at least, you can still disappear into the sky. You float on your back in the Bahía Mosquito on a moonless and cloudless night, trailing your arms beside you in the warm Caribbean water. You lift them up and point from Vieques towards Orion, and suddenly the stars are falling along your arms and past you and you are diving up into the sky and away.  

But the simple magics for escape are waning. All our magics for escape are waning. You used to only have to evade the moon and the clouds, but now people are building along the shores of the Bahía, and the oblivious lights of their carports slash between the earnest dinoflagelates and the billion far sad stars. Who builds on the shore of the world's brightest bioluminescent bay? And who, having picked this of all the places in the world to stack yet more buildings, puts lights on the outside of them? Who drags sacks of cement and disregard out to a twenty-mile island off the east coast of Puerto Rico where the army finally stopped dropping bombs, and curses some of the best darkness we have left?  

Buried in a karst sinkhole in Arecibo, less than an hour's flight from Vieques, is the reflector dish of the world's largest radio telescope. This is a different darkness, and a different way of trying to reach into the sky, but signs on the viewing platform have to beg visitors to turn off their cell phones, and are probably one bad funding decision away from having to beg them not to perch houses and Subways and ferret stores on the ringing hills. And maybe darkness doesn't sound like it's worth that much, or that the kind of amazement we can see in tiny light-up sea monsters and SETI@Home are petulant objections against seeing where you're parking your Durango, but these scattered oases of left-alone darkness are part too of how we see who we are.  

We're in Puerto Rico, Belle and I, to float in darknesses and sit on still-near-perfect beaches for a few days before we go back to gray New England winter and the last few months in which we're not yet parents. So we're part of the problem ourselves, in the strictest sense. We don't leave any trash on the beaches, but we drive rented cars to them. We paddle around the biobay on kayaks, with little cyalume sticks, but I can't pretend I really know that this is harmless at the current scale, never mind the ones implied by the flow of people like us. Las Cavernas del Rio Camuy, just a little south of Arecibo, used to be a private magic kingdom for bats and brave Camuy kids with flashlights, and now they're a trolley-fed public park where tourists from Boston and New York line-up to point digital cameras at, mostly and necessarily, the new buried lighting system hacked into million-year-dark stone.  

We always change what we observe, of course. Tourism and colonialism are differences of degree. Arecibo beeps like the Earth is backing up, and we kick millions of dinos into panicked glow, so even in the last few darknesses we the just are not just listening. Curiosity is inherently presumption. Our worst egotism and our most powerfully humane hopes are both entwined in science, and everything we touch we touch. Our greatest revelations and our most inexcusable massacres share the gaudy heraldry of discovery. There were people here when Columbus came, and none of them are left to make forests again out of his statues and plazas.  

And no, I don't know how to follow him into promising unknowns without following him into collapse. I don't know how to stop asking questions, or how to stop answering them with more and faster. I don't know how to stop wanting to be the one for whom we make the exceptions, the one person allowed to make the near-perfect darkness one more person less perfect. I don't know how to improve the world in any better way than by trying to make what we discover be worth what we can't keep it from costing. I don't know what better to do with our vanishing darknesses than promise to remember them with our fondest curses. I don't know how to promise that there will always be a sky into which to disappear. For a while, probably, but before too long we're going to need what we used to only want. Selfishness and charity are differences of timing. We will fill in all these holes. We will build highways from everywhere to everywhere else, until all that is left of place is name. We will build casinos on the moon, and come to them to throw away whatever we saved from home below.  

But every once in a while, if we run a little quieter and faster, just outside the lights, we get to see a little of what it used to be like. And what we can't help displacing, we will find tiny ways to become. Everything we touch at least has touched us back. I believe in darkness, but not as much as I believe in us. I believe we help more than we hurt, and that we understand more than we know, and that we know enough. I believe we're ready, and that this child and this world will be grateful for each other.  

I will miss Orion, when he finally turns and leaves us here, but not a billionth as much as I'd miss these blaring lights and crushing statues and people if we too gave up and disappeared into the sky.
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