Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Eye Catching

I can sit in my backyard each night, warming myself by the fire and marvel at the beautiful stars that grace the night sky. Or I can walk out on my front porch to pick up the newspaper in the morning and see colorful stars of different shapes and sizes dangling on the fence across the street in the school yard.

No, this is not a midsummers night dream. There they are, in all their splendor - 350 magnificent stars! The project was born from the imaginative, Eileen Nittler, a neighbor on the other side of the school. Her children have been attending the community school, River Road/El Camino de Rio in Eugene, OR, for many years. She had seen a school in Portland, OR where they had put salmon on an old ugly Cyclone Fence and thought it would be a great idea for our neighborhood to see stars in the sky day and night.

Why stars? She says the students are known as the Shining Stars and she along with an artist in residence, Alex, helped the children design their own stars to put along the fence. Each student made two stars that would be attached through the fence for both sides of the neighborhood to see.

Working feverishly the last few weeks of school, they managed to get 350 children to create these works of stellar art. At first, Eileen thought she could cut the stars from plywood with a jigsaw. When this became an overwhelming project, she turned to the internet and found stars in Vermont. Ash stars to be precise. She picked two sizes, 3.5 inch diameter for students K through grade 2 and 5 inch diameter for grades 3 to 5. Her son Henry felt this was a bit unfair, since little kids always get little stuff. But this project was already two years from concept to completion and Eileen was determined the stars would come out this summer.

So all through the summer, she and her husband Greg, have been hanging the stars along the fence, one of them on each side of the fence working in tandem to connect each matching pair of stars. Locking their ladders up each night along the fence, I found that neighbors walking by began the conversation around the ladders. Were the stars going up or coming down? As the length of the starry trail, grew, the question soon became, whose putting up the stars?

A small neighborhood community drawn together in conversation and thought over stars that appeared in daylight. Who would have thought that these shining stars would rise to such heights? That's something a wise grandma should have thought of!

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