Like millions of others, I was out to see the Perseids meteor shower this morning. My wife and I groggily got out of bed at 2:30 and drove to Deer Lakes Park outside of Pittsburgh. There, the sky was noticeably darker, the stars noticeably brighter. The difference 40 minutes can make!
And so there we were among fifteen or so people scattered across a field, alone together to take in the wonder of nature. Just as we were opening our blanket, we saw the most spectacular meteor. It was the best we saw all morning, the kind you might spend a lifetime hoping to see again, streaking across the sky and slowly fading.
We saw dozens of others over the next 90 minutes. We stopped counting at about 30, but must have easily seen double that amount. I can only imagine (and look forward to) watching Perseids, or maybe Geminids (a December show) in darker skies: off the shore of Lake Michigan, in Cherry Springs State Park (one of the darkest spots in the east), or from the desert in Utah, perhaps.
But as for this morning at Deer Lakes, this was no place for an iPhone. Besides the light interference, this was a time to enjoy a rare sight and ponder the magnificence of it all. I tried my best to be present, and for the most part, I was. But some of the ideas being shared here were already firing around in my head – writing the story while still in it (does this happen to you?). Nevertheless, I spent some time just noticing what was around me. What I remember hours later:
A dark sky
Crickets and cicadas
Someone smoking across the field
Heavy machinery nearby (at 4 a.m.!)
Trying to be open and take a broad view, rather than zeroing in on a single spot
A chill that felt like September
A woman laughing
Still not knowing
Wife snoozing 🙂
The first bird chirp of the morning
Standing at the car at 5 a.m. waiting to see just one more (asking too much?)
Beauty out of chaos?
I generally seek out calm and gentleness, but last night observed the beauty that comes out of something not so gentle. These “shooting stars” come out of a violent, chaotic occurrence – dust from the Comet Swift-Tuttle crashing against the earth’s atmosphere this time each August. (And wow! The comet last passed Earth in 1992, but we and the debris keep on colliding every August without fail.) Perhaps meteors are “where the wild things are,” these fiery explosions that are fleeting and TO BE NOTICED. They’re special for their infrequency, for requiring us to pay attention, and for their sheer awesomeness.
I’ve quoted Anne Morrow Lindbergh in the past on the topic of stargazing and will again. In A Gift from the Sea, she wrote that after the smallness of the day, “One thirsts for the magnitude and universality of a night full of stars, pouring into one like a fresh tide.” Amen to that. Go out and enjoy the stars tonight. Be in the moment. Connect to what’s larger than us, and connect with each other. Enjoy!