Please welcome today’s guest writer, Christy Admiraal. Christy lives in Manhattan with her husband, Scott, and their cats, Garrus and Midna. When she’s not proofreading, editing, and copywriting at a retail marketing agency, she’s reading comics, exploring the city, or slowly but surely narrowing down her Netflix queue.

The longer I live in Manhattan, the more affection I have for where I was before. It’s not that I don’t love New York. I love the way there’s always someone on the street, typically many someones, no matter what time it is or where you are. I love the East Coast craft beers you drink in bars while you’re answering trivia questions and calculating how late you can stay out and still rely on the subway to get you home at a nearly reasonable hour. I love the vintage jewelry shops and the bodegas and the conveyor belt sushi joint on 2nd Avenue. But there are some things I hold dear that you just can’t get in the greatest city in the world. And that’s where the stars come in.

When I was at Calvin, one of my roommates studied light pollution in Grand Rapids and how it was making some of the dimmer stars in the sky less visible. She’d throw a fit if she walked through Manhattan after dark and looked up. Sure, we have skyscrapers, but there’s a distinct lack of twinkle in the sky. It’s a rare evening when I can spot Venus, and more than once I’ve mistaken an airplane for something a bit more natural, a bit more miraculous, then found myself sorely disappointed.

I wouldn’t have to go far to see a star or two. I imagine it’s possible in parts of Brooklyn and likely most of Queens, and I spend time in both those boroughs. (Being a borough snob is one of my greatest fears.) But my preferred spot for seeing stars will always be Michigan, particularly Michigan in the winter, when the sky is inky black and they pop more than ever. My parents live in the suburbs of Grand Rapids, and their basement is my husband’s and my dwelling when we’re back in our home state. The house is in a neighborhood of condos, and despite the fact that there’s a golf course in the backyard and a busily trafficked road a stone’s throw away, nature makes itself known every night. Much of the year, it’s the crickets that interrupt your sleep; I’m accustomed to honking horns and boisterous conversations outside my window, but the incessant chirping seems so much louder. During last week’s trip home, though, there was a different kind of visitor outside the basement windows: an owl, going through its classic “Hoo-hoo-hoot, hoot” routine.

I don’t see a lot of wildlife in my Manhattan neighborhood—lots of Chihuahuas, sure, and more pigeons than I ever realized existed, but no raccoons or snakes or other animals I’d spot on my cycling trips around the West Michigan suburbs. I miss that sometimes, the same way I miss the stars and the road trips to Chicago and the completely unnecessary trips to Target.

But whenever I’m away from New York, I miss the familiar rhythms of what I now think of as my city—the way cabs wave hurried pedestrians across streets, the difficulty and ultimate reward of muscling your way to the front of the line at Hale & Hearty, even the grudging acceptance that the guys at the bodega know your name from the many times you’ve stopped by in a pre-caffeinated haze. Michigan was my home first, New York is my home now, and I’ll never stop calling either of them by that name.

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