Sand and Stars

About Me

Waldo and MeMy name is Susan Young. I am a writer. I love the stars above everything. I love the Kalahari. So I decided to set off with my dog, Waldo, my telescope and my tea-brewing kit and wander around under the Kalahari’s pristine dark skies, star-gazing all night long, every night long.

My greatest passion in life is astronomy. Astronomy is a culmination of everything that matters to me. Beauty, curiosity, adventure, excitement, wonder, awe, the need to explore, wanting to know why the universe is organised like it is and how it’s evolving, the need to know where we came from and where we are going, and, of course, wanting to know if we are alone.

One can always look into the night sky and say with definitive certainty that the answers to those questions are out there, carried to us from the furthest reaches of the universe by that cosmic time traveler, light. We may never be able to translate the answers but it’s never worth not trying.

People often ask a stargazer what was their earliest and most memorable encounter with the night sky – a comet, a meteor shower, or their first glimpse of another planet in a telescope. When I was a little girl at Melsetter boarding school in then Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), we were woken up one night in October 1965 and taken out to see the great sun-grazing Comet Ikeya-Seki, which proved to be one of the brightest comets seen in the last thousand years, and is sometimes known as the Great Comet of 1965.

Comet Ikeya-Seki, 1965. Photo by James W. Young (TMO/JPL/NASA)

It was the most beautiful and awe-inspiring thing I had ever seen. The sight of it flying above the Chimanimani Mountains is seared into my memory. And every time I look through my telescope I see other beautiful and awe-inspiring things. There is no end to them.

How long do I intend dallying amongst the stars in the Kalahari? For a while, as I’ve also lugged along my portable salt mine…. luckily, as a writer I can have my office anywhere – under a camelthorn tree if I feel like it – in order to write for the corporate clients which funds my star-struck life. 

About Waldo

Waldo whizzing along en route to the Kalahari
Waldo whizzing along en route to the Kalahari

Waldo is the most faithful of little companions, and I love him with all my heart. (He was rescued in the most wretched state from a squatter camp outside Cape Town.)

Star-gazing never really gripped him – he couldn’t see the point of sitting out in the cold and dark all night… not when you can be tucked up snugly in a comfortable bed with feather pillows and a duvet.

Then my darling star-gazing dog, Daisy, who had observed with me every night for years and years, went to the stars – and the first evening that I took the telescope out without her, Waldo walked out… looked at the telescope… looked at me… looked at the big hole in space where Daisy used to be… and lay down.

He’s been out stargazing with me ever since.

Waldo 1
Waldo enjoying the early morning sun after a night’s observing

Dogs and stars… truly the best of friends.


Copyright © Susan Young 2016