I always have noble intentions about watching the Perseid meteor shower that shows up mid-August, but the reality is that the bugs in Maine can still be pretty thick at that time, so sitting out in the dark isn’t something any of us does for more than a minute or so.
One December, my daughter Sam suggested we take a frozen midnight walk to a nearby field to watch a bit of the Geminid meteor shower. The temperature was in the teens and it was beautiful and spooky and we bundled up and stretched out on the hardened snow to stare at the sky. I don’t remember the meteors but I remember the walk and lying on the snow and making an unforgettable memory with my daughter.
As the Orionid shower got closer, I mentioned to Todd that we ought to drive out into the country somewhere to a dark place to get a good look. He half-heartedly agreed. Half-heartedly only because we both know the truth about ourselves: at this time of year as the weather cools and the days get shorter, once it gets dark, it takes a lot to get us to venture out. We’re teetering on hibernation mode with the time change right around the corner.
On the specified night, a Friday, we snuggled in to watch TV. At about 10:00 p.m., partiers that we are, he mentioned going on to bed soon. It was then that I remembered the meteors. When I mentioned them, I could see him wince a little. He hemmed and hawed and I had all but lost interest, so I said to forget it. But then he rallied. No, let’s go, he said. We’ll be glad.
So we drove a few miles outside town to where the fields have been put to bed for the season. After turning down a familiar dirt road flanked by two wide open meadows, he parked our pickup and opened the sunroof while Dinah sat alert in the backseat. We felt a cold breeze swoop down through the opening into the warm cab of the truck.
It was dark. We couldn’t see much just looking up, so together, we stood on our seats and squeezed our top halves through the opening. Coats zipped and hoods pulled, we huddled together, leaning back against the edge of the sunroof, and stared at the sky.
I looked for the recognizable constellations that are as reliable as the sun coming up each morning. But where were they? The first thing I noticed was the Milky Way. It had been years since I’d seen it. My lazy habit is to look up through the trees on our driveway, spot the Big Dipper, Orion’s Belt, and Cassiopeia, and then shuffle back into the house away from the bugs or the cold – it’s always one or the other. But the stars on this night were so bright and plentiful, that their sheer numbers crowded out anything that looked remotely familiar. Awestruck, we gaped and wondered aloud where the familiar constellations were hiding.
We stayed about a half hour, until bright headlights turned down the road and onto us, and we scampered back through the sunroof to the warmth of the truck like two kids who’d been caught making out. We shivered and laughed. All in all, he saw three meteors and I saw one. But it didn’t matter. We’d made a memory.
We almost didn’t go. We almost missed a special moment that was so simple, yet profound. We said to each other, let’s make sure we do it again. Or something else. Let’s not be so quick to hunker down and hibernate. Let’s tend, instead, toward rallying.
Copyright © 2017 – Paulla Estes