Thursday, August 12, 2010

Wishing On A Shooting Star

Jeff was over yesterday afternoon.  He had this notion that we ought to go midnight kite flying.  He thought it would be great fun to suspend a glow stick from a kite and "fool people into thinking it was a UFO!"  Sounded good to me.  It being August and as I was aware that the Perseid Meteor shower takes place in August decided to look it up.  As luck would have it, their peak performance was scheduled for that very night!

We decided to kill two birds with one stone.  Mom approved the outing and Megan was invited to come along.  I also called Steve, a night sky enthusiast friend and brother-in-law of mine.  We stocked the car with goodies, sleeping bags and ground pads and at eight o'clock, headed for the mountain.

There's a large sloping meadow above Grasshopper Flat on Taylor Mountain that made a perfect observatory.

We arrived just after sunset and eagle-eyed Jeff discovered the fingernail moon just about to set as well.
There was a wildfire in the west that turned the horizon to a deep red brown.  Through the binoculars the moon seemed ethereal and mysterious.  We all thrilled to have seen it, so thin and tall against the distant mountains.

There were clouds most of the day, but they were dissipating as the heat of the day cooled away.  At one point the sky above was brilliant with stars, but a light misty rain showered on us out of nowhere. 

We had such a great time, munching cookies, while lying in our warm bags and gazing at the majestic sky.

I suspended a glow stick from a broad delta kite I have.  I chose it because it can sail on a breath.  Trouble is, there wasn't even a breath of wind and we failed to get it launched.  You can only watch shooting stars when they're shooting and you can only fly kites when there is wind.

I told them all the story of Katie and I taking her butterfly kite to the park.  As we walked to our destination we passed a very elderly Chinese fellow sitting on a bench.  As we approached he remarked, "Beautiful kite."

It was beautiful in the shape of a butterfly.  Her sister had given it to Katie for her birthday.

"Thank you!"  I replied thinking he must be a masterful kite flier as kites are common in Asia.

"That kite not fly." he certified in a rather authoritative statement.  I expected him to call me Grasshopper, but he didn't.  Thinking I might truly benefit from the wisdom of a master, I asked, "Why not?"

"No wind."

It was funny at the time, but thinking back, there is wisdom.  We need to seize our opportunities when we have them.  Which is why we're on the mountain tonight instead of next week.

After dark, Jeff drifted right off to peaceful dreams of Alderaan and higher adventures than this, in galaxies far far away.  Megan was more determined and stuck it out until she'd seen a shooting star upon which to make her wish; before also wandering off to slumber-land.  When a coyote began to howl, she stirred seeking assurance, but soon was gone to visit the imaginations of her own dreams.

This left Steve and I to watch and muse and wonder to our heart's content.  We didn't head for home until after midnight.  The meteors were few, but not disappointing.  Most carved long slow arcs across the brilliant sky.  They put on quite a show as we mused about why they shot in various directions, and why these are long lived while others we've seen are brief little flashes.

We always bring binoculars, but I don't use them much.  The immensity of space and the multitude of stars is more than I can take in, even with the naked eye.  On the mountain, it becomes more difficult to make out the constellations as they're obscured by the visibility of so many more sparkling points of distant light. The milky way is so brilliant it looks like a cloud.  I begin to hum John Denver's Rocky Mountain High.  It isn't exactly "raining fire in the sky" this time, but there are fireworks and they are worth staying up, climbing up, to see.

Sleepy heads, still in their bags, are buckled into seat belts for a satisfying ride home.  Home is visible much of the way.  A pleasing cluster of welcoming lights spreading across our quiet valley, stars above and stars below, both beckoning me home.  I guess I'll go down for the time being, resting assured that up remains a distant certainty.

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