Finding guidance through A Storyteller's Night Sky

May 30, 2019  |  by Bonifas Arts Center
Listen to the interview with Mary Stewart Adams and Sue Roll

When was the last time you looked up at the night sky? If you’re like the average person, a busy schedule and a dependence on technology mean that you haven’t looked up in some time. Or, if you have, it was for a moment before a buzzing phone or long to-do list pulled you away.

This June, Star Lore Historian Mary Stewart Adams is challenging us to put down our lists, silence our phones, and tune into the stories that the stars above are trying to tell us - if we are open to listening. 

REGISTER: A Storytellers Night Sky

“Direct encounters with the natural world is restorative,” Mary said, “Surrendering to the beauty of the night sky calms us down, restores our sense to greater things, and affirms the majesty of just being. Technology is stressful. It’s not only good to get unplugged, but it is also vital to our well-being.” 

Mary practices what she preaches. In 2011 she led a team to establish the 9th International Dark Sky Park in the world at the Headlands near Mackinaw City. A dark sky park is a natural area that restricts the use of artificial light, creating a place that enables quality scientific, natural, educational, and astronomical enjoyment. She also records a weekly radio program in which she researches what is happening in the sky and relates it to modern, cultural life. She enjoys bringing lofty ideas and science down to earth with fascinating and fun human stories. One of her favorite segments circled around the constellation Lyra and the 19th-century violinist Niccolo Paganini.

“Paganini was born in October, as the constellation Lyra was setting for the season, and he died in May, as Lyra was rising,” she explains, “In ancient cultures, Lyra rising was known as the harp, the instrument of angels, but when it was setting it was regarded as the fiddle, the instrument of the devil. The reputation surrounding Paganini was that he was possessed by the devil, which made him extremely talented. It’s a fascinating story to consider as you watch the stars rising and setting overhead.”

While we may no longer believe that talent or life is dictated by constellations or planets, it is mythologies and stories like those that made up our collective historical understanding of what it meant to be human and our place in the universe. Mary believes that stories like those about Lyra and Paganini are important and should be shared because they express our relationship to the cosmos throughout the ages and allow us to keep our imaginations active as we go forward, pushing into the unknown. 

At her program, A Storyteller’s Night Sky, at the Bonifas, Mary Stewart Adams will be focusing on the compass rose. The compass rose was typically associated with navigation on ships. She will share the history of the compass rose, how it’s sense of place was rooted in the stars, wind, and directions, and will lead participants in a simple and beautiful drawing exercise. 

“I think of the compass rose drawing as an exercise in finding your way. If you’re feeling indecisive about a life event, or frustrated at the direction things are taking, here is a beautiful art exercise that can restore a sense of peace, because it is rooted in the stars and supports us to come to a place of peace and balance in our busy lives,” she said. 

Following Mary Stewart Adam’s presentation, Paul Nelson of Creator’s Hand Photography will display his stunning works of astrophotography and explain the techniques of the art. The Delta Astronomical Society will end the evening by inviting you to gaze at the celestial bodies and constellations that dot our skies through a powerful telescope (weather permitting).

A Storyteller’s Night Sky takes place on Friday, June 7 from 7 to 9:30 p.m. The fee is $20 for members and $25 for non-members. 

Contact the Bonifas Arts Center online at or by calling (906)786-3833 to register for The Storyteller’s Night Sky.

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