Perseid Meteor Shower Over Hempstead

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Wrapped in sheets I had washed in iron water and hung on a line to dry, I slipped my leg out from the covers and pulled the blinds over the window back a bit.  The morning not quite here yet, I could feel the rhythm of dark before dawn that plays out in the sounds of bird and beast beginning to wake.

I hadn’t missed it yet, I thought. I slipped away from Silent Bob’s side and in the quiet of  gentle sleep-breathing of those I love in various rooms of the old farm house, I quietly eased the back door open.  The air was humid, even here, 100 miles from the Gulf Coast and as my bare feet touched the dank ground I let the dew soak into them a bit. My nightgown, thin and lose because those are what I favor, billows around me a bit as I move. In this early morning the heavy air feels good as I consider the freedom of running around outside in my nightgown.

Barefooted, I know there are snakes in crevices and ants and moles that inhabit the ground. They are waking too or the nocturnal ones slithering off to rest. They share the ground with worms and nematodes  and parasites that find even in old skin such as mine  an opportunity of lucky happenstance in which to burrow through. But there is pleasure in the intimacy of me with the world in this morning. I like making contact with this ground.

Sliding into the golf cart, the dew is heavy on the plastic seats and it wets the back of my gown. The cart moves silently through the pasture as  I look down towards the lake. The water browned from cattle bathing, shimmers slightly in the rising east Moon. I’ll lay on the dock to watch.

The dock has no rails and we’ve had enough rain that the water level laps against the dock’s bottom boards. Spider silk is all about. I am disturbing them as they wait for early morning catch chances to escalate as the insect world wakes up. As I lay back on the dock, the still dark night sky above me, fish  feed around me. They tails slap the water.

I’ve watched the Perseid meteor shower before. I have never watched it alone.

Every August, a prolific meteor shower happens because of a comet called Swift Tuttle. Comets are weird things. Made up of ice, dust and rocks with a swirling  temporary atmosphere around them, they swing way out into space and back around the sun in orbits that are never circular, but regular. Swift Tuttle makes its trip every 130 years.  As it goes it loses some of itself, in a stream of debris. Like dust kicked up from the back of tires on a dusty road, the comet debris stretches all along the path it has traveled. In the year 4479, around Sept 15th, moving around 60kilmeteres per second,  its going to come really close to the earth. Really close. In the meantime, every August, depending on where that stream of star dust is, meteors fall into the atmosphere of earth, at the rate of 60 or more a minute. Early dawn is best to watch because as the earth turns her face towards the sun and moves through space, meteors are scooped up into Earth’s atmosphere.

It takes a minute to orient myself. I see Orion low on the east horizon, a sure sign that we are moving towards winter. The moon is bright and beautiful framed, Venus to her left and Jupiter on the upper right. To the south the glow of Houston follows low on the horizon as 2.1 million live and sleep. I rest my head on the back of my hands and feel more dew as it seeps into my gown from the dock boards. I see the first meteor as it streaks through the sky. You cannot just look in one place, you must scan the heavens, your eyes and brain uniquely capable to do this amazingly complex feat. I count. In less than 60 seconds another one. At times there are two, only milliseconds from extinguishing themselves, burning through Earth’s atmosphere together. Several times I could see their flaming trails visible long enough that my eyes settled on their place of demise in the sky. Long enough, that I knew I could conjure their memory,  photograph-like and recorded in chemicals that settled for safekeeping in the folds and contours of the gray matter that is me.

For forty minutes I watched and then I closed my eyes. As I rub the soles of my feet together, I can feel the dirt that layers them. Moist from the dew, I know how grounded to the earth  I am, how mortal I am, this life can be.  As wonderful as the mind of man is, how great is our knowledge of the heavens and comets that we can know the timing when parts of their tail will extinguish in the atmosphere of earth, I  consider the evidence that people are increasingly trusting that science seems destined to explain all. For some I reckon it is easier to believe that possibility then this one: that there is something so far beyond the beauty of the human mind’s understanding that we have little chance of capturing His glory there. And it’s the very nature of this possibility that rings more true and more sensible than a science dependent upon man defining the very world an incomprehensible God could create. In the heart of man, there is pride that finds itself wishing there wasn’t a God, in the soul of man there is the knowledge that He is. Grateful to know as wonderfully made as I am, something more wonderful, more spectacular, with the stars at His command is who fashioned it all. It is He who can soothe sorrows and make promises more sure than I can imagine. It is He who can make it all.

I snuggle back into bed, there is a bit more time before everyone will wake.

“How was it?’ Silent Bob asks as he rolls towards me and puts his arm across my shoulder. I place my hand upon his, clasping, as we have done over many years.

“Wonderful,” I say.




3 Responses

  1. I’ve missed your writings about the farm….albeit this wasn’t so much about the farm as it is another glimpse into your soul. But the farm was the absolute place for you to be…and missing your Jake. How wonderful that even then, you scan the heavens and marvel at all the God has created, knowing full well that Jake was watching you from his most high vantage point. I know he marveled at you too, his beloved mother.

  2. Very nice!! I was certainly imagining myself there with you. Umm…not in bed with Bob, but everything else, I mean.

  3. Thanks so much for sharing your experience with such lovely descriptions! Gary and I slipped outside to try to see the shower, but only saw clouds and the haze of Houston lights.
    What a majestic creation God has given us!

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