I really, really needed my sleep last night. But when my mind came close to the surface at 4 AM, the Geminid meteor shower drifted in.
I had read about the event in my news feed, and had wished I could witness it.
After a while, I gave up trying to sleep. I got up, made a cup of herbal tea, and drew a chair up to the window.
These are the dark times in Dubois, when daylight ends in late afternoon and we try to find ways to stay alert through the long dark evenings until bedtime. There are two compensations for this: 1. It’s also the holidays, and 2. We’re blessed to live in a dark sky location. The sky is not just dark; it’s profoundly dark. It feels as if you can see all the stars there are.
Back in Brooklyn, when I thought of God’s promise to Abraham that his descendants would number like the stars, I had the impression that God meant he’d have 3 or 4 grandchildren. But as I approached the window last night, in every direction I looked, the sky above our wilderness was a riot of stars. They glittered in the windy air.
Out to the east, one star — or was it a planet? — gleamed especially bright and steady. I thought of the Wise Men. How long, I wondered, would I have to wait to see a “shooting star”? Would this be a fool’s errand, a waste of perfectly good sleep time?
The news site had warned us to dress warmly, as this is December. But the night sky here is so dark I could sit cozily indoors, in the dining room, wrapped only in my bathrobe.
I’m not very good at patience, but it was silent and dark and I had nothing else to do at that moment if I wasn’t going to sleep. I sat looking out the window with the largest view — the one that faces Cody and Saskatchewan — and soon a narrow flash of brilliance zoomed past, low on the horizon, just above the windowsill. A good omen.
Were those faint swipes in my peripheral vision tiny meteors, or just my imagination? Giving Nature the benefit of the doubt, I counted both of them: Two. Three. Then, closer to my center of vision, numbers 4 and 5.
My neighbor, who began watching at 2 AM (having set an alarm), told me she saw 61 in an hour or so. I began later. My count was a mere 17, but then I spent some time making more tea and trying without success to get a picture of the stars on my phone. (These images are public domain, from Wikimedia Commons.)
This image does look very similar to the night view from my window, but I didn’t see anything that looked like a fireworks display.
A meteor shower isn’t like what you take in the bathroom after a hard hike, I discovered. It’s a drop here, a splash there.
As my eyes adjusted to the dark, I began to trust the fainter flashes that would travel about a millimeter’s apparent distance across my field of vision. They vanished much too quickly to be wished upon.
But meteor number 10 was a superstar of falling debris: It began above my head and swooped slowly “northward,” toward the horizon, blazing downward for 2 or 3 whole seconds. I almost imagined I could hear a whooshing sound.
I was too amazed to make a wish.
©Lois Wingerson, 2018
You can see new entries of Living Dubois every week if you sign up at the top of the right column at www.livingdubois.com.