My decision to show some story frees me when I’m running late. I wrote this after watching the summer run of meteors in 2009.
Last night I succumbed to the stars. Flipping off the backyard security lamp, which usually joins its brother glowballs encircling the horizon, I saw past the usual orange light-buzz to the Milky Way, due Up, a gossamer swath across the full globe above. It was 11:30 and the first meteor streaked – one ten-thousand, almost two, abbreviating its path with particles of intense coals, sparking out in line — from the North over Gunnison, or thereabouts, and gone, perhaps over Durango.
The half-moon started its low arc over Medano Pass in the Sangres. The Dunes below took form in a glimmer of spilled light, but they were far away, and the dark space of the unreflected firmament above was so much closer.
I decided the hell with it: even I’m Not There, the brilliant Dylan-inspired film on tele that night, not even that Brother-in-Arms, Art-At-Last film held me in.
It was a warm, wafting-breeze night, gentle, so far. I wrangled the chaise off the porch onto the walk where Tony Little’s Gazelle grazes, and retrieved the binocs and the dirty old comforter from the back of my old Pathfinder. Tucked in and open-eyed, eyeglasses pocketed for a major change, and content, very content, as Path‘s bulk blocked the first hour’s transit of the half-moon so effectively, I forgot it was climbing the eastern bank of sky, at all.
The first hour or so I counted 30 meteors crisscrossing the sky. Mostly north-south, but the westward one I caught in the binoculars was close enough to imagine hearing its sizzle and think it was red, white, and blue. I started to drift about then, and realized the air was gaining some mist, forming some wispy clouds.
About 1:00, I rolled back flat and opened my eyes to the damnedest sight in a while, out here where things can confound you. The air was crisper, and I noted clouds low along the globe, and the Way obscured by pervasive vapor. No thunder or lightning flashes; no worries. But then I saw there was a thin, but not too thin, translucent east-west streak across the sky, a dividing line hundreds of miles long. Straight and sure as a paint on the Gunbarrel, or some desert road to infinity you see elsewhere laying before you as you come out of a pass and see clear across a valley floor, forever. Holding still, there in the sky. It took me a few minutes to agree to shed the cover, step out between the garage and the barn, and see if some idiot car dealer in South Fork had got himself a carbon-arc and didn’t have sense enough to sweep the sky but just left it –no. The line wouldn’t touch base, west or east, it just hung across the roof of sky like a sign. I dove back under cover and lay watching, trying to understand. I saw the beam trisected three bright stars, and made note to see if anything moved, or dared to, while I guarded reality, sanity, and whatever other principles soothe us all.
I missed the certain mystery of the Milky Way, now fully obscured. This new crisp beacon of milky light needed explanation; I felt the old human urge to understand.
When the half-moon rose just enough to peer over Path‘s right front fender, I realized it was in direct alignment with the Path overhead, and three meteors arced as if to celebrate Reason, that old friend to our species, even to me. The bright left face of the shadowed moon provided a spotlight across the vaporous sky. The water vapor was so evenly distributed, the white beam shone straight and true across the whole valley. Wonderful.
No wakening to pelting hail or thunderhead downpour. No glory in celestial fireworks rivaling the best of Independence Day, were they heralded meteors, or my old friend lightning, back to seek me out. Just fine as it was.
I climbed out of the chaise, tossed the blankie and binocs back in the Path – yes, I said Thank You out loud — and headed in. The clock read 2:45. A lovely night. Wish I’d been on the mountain, but at least I’d had sense enough to Go See.
Mark my feeble words — Go See. It’s always a good idea.