The winter sky was beautiful last night in my valley where street lights do not dwell. While my big dog Mick "circled the airport" to find a special spot to do his night-time duty, I turned off my flashlight and leaned against a broad tree-trunk for balance, and looked up through the branches into a universe of stars, so bright and close that I was hypnotized... I have no idea how long I stood communicating with the galaxies, but when I felt a cold nose nudge my hand, I knew full well that it was Mick, leaning at my knee and watching with me. In this softer night, it seems that neither one of us was in a hurry to go back to the house. A night like this is pay enough for all the harshness of the bitter winter nights I've spent outside in recent weeks, waiting for my dog to finish what he's doing.