Sunday, August 15, 2010

Looking Up and Looking Down

If I were a painter, I would have to paint a canvas of Roger and me sleeping out on the deck under a snug down comforter with meteor showers and planets twirling over us. There is something about waking and looking up at a star-filled sky and seeing meteor after meteor shooting across. It is a deep and satisfying reminder that we really are on a planet whirling in a galaxy, among a billion galaxies. From the time I was young, I have wished we could see stars and planets during the day. I wanted the fact of our speck of dust existence to be omnipresent. A balance to our insane homo sapien sense of exceptionalism.

Some of the meteors we saw were mere hints of moving light, but others took our breaths away and made us giddy, like kids. "Oh wow, did you see that?" "Whoa, look over there." Whoosh. Gone. Neither of us can remember when we first started loving August for the chance to see the Perseid showers, but it's from very early on in our relationship. We've been out under the stars everywhere we've lived, but have not seen showers like these before.

The night here is very dark. We could see the dustiness of the Milky Way directly overhead. A single planet shone in the southern sky. I was reminded of the different skies I've seen over the years. How a mere handful of stars dots the skies of southern California on the clearest nights, or how the millions of stars in a prairie sky shine with such depth and multi-dimensionality you can get disoriented and feel the planet actually spin beneath your feet. Here there are plenty of stars, but less of that awesome depth. The lights of Sacramento 60 miles away must leak into our darkness.

We stare up for as long as we can (it's 4:00 in the morning!), saying we'll go back to sleep right after the next one, and then the one after that. Pretty soon we really are sleeping, and the meteors go on flying over us, even when we're not looking. That's what I would paint, if I could.

Roger continues to heal quite well. We've managed to do some good hiking and even took a short trip to the Yuba River. There, it is just as much fun to stare down into the clear and sparkling waters and see the light glint brightly off the river stones and the shiny scales of very friendly fish, as it is to stare up into the Perseid night skies of August.

1. Top pic taken off the internet without permission. I could never get a shot like this.

2. Roger stood in the Yuba River to get this shot. There were so many of these 12 inch fishes, and they were curious about him and fearless.

29 comments:

  1. Being able to see the skies like that at night is one thing I truly miss living in a large city. Your description is truly awesome! Enjoy the rest of your weekend and have a great week!

    Sylvia

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  2. I tried hard to stay awake so I could go out and see the Perseids, but I fell out about 1am. Lucky you!!

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  3. Great pictures of both looking up and down. It sounds wonderful to do that at night. Our main problem out here are neighbors who have to have these big yard lights. Ick!

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  4. Isn't that a lovely way to enjoy an evening? We were overcast here, plus the neighbor's security lights would have dimmed the show if it had been clear.
    I have done it before however and it is beautiful.
    So glad you and Roger are feeling up to a bit of hiking. Wonderful news.

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  5. August Perseids are a tradition from childhood for me. We would sleep out in sleeping bags, lying in a row like a package of hot dog buns. On the shores of Lake Champlain, there was some ritual of always arranging ourselves with our feet toward the Vermont shore opposite, best viewing angle according to us.
    Continues today with my youngest daughter. We collect the quilt, and lie out on the deck and watch with the same "ooh, ahhh" wonder that you describe. She has a new digital SLR that was a graduation present, so we have some long exposure photographs of the night sky. She never did capture one like you posted, I had to pirate one from the Internet for my blog too. The number of stars in the galaxy that do show up on film is truly amazing!

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  6. Too much cloud cover this year for me to enjoy Perseids, but last year I bundled up on a chaise in the backyard to see quite a few meteors (still 'shooting stars' to me). I only lasted until 1 a.m., but afterall, it was a work night!
    I have no childhood experience of it. My first Perseids experience was in 1982 with a few friends on a housebouse on Lake Shasta. It was great to lie on top of the roof and call them out!
    As in your pictures, looking up, looking down, there's magic and wonders everywhere! :-)

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  7. backyard campout! sounds wonderful. we had fog/clouds, as we have every night and most days lately. but there is really too much light pollution to see much, even on a clear night.

    the river water is so clear.

    glad you are healing well, roger!

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  8. wonderful post. i'm glad you stayed out all night to watch the meteors!

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  9. I am giddy and dizzy from your description of the night sky. How marvelously insignificant we are, how grand the universe!

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  10. Very beautiful. Sad that I missed them this time around. What a treat to have at least as much darkness as you have. Here in Southern California, it's almost perpetual and unnatural light.

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  11. Lovely reflections....soothing to the spirit. Thanks

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  12. Much cloud cover here during the main event, but I checked out the sky before the main event on the one mostly-clear night we had and caught sight of a meteor blazing into our atmosphere.

    So good to hear that Roger continues to mend and can go hiking. The fish surely got a good vibe from Roger, or had something to tell him.

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  13. I was that last anonymous. I didn't like the verification word and refused to type it in, but it sent me right through anyway! Now it's sliob, which looks like a typo for sliabh, so that's okay.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2JEc4cufXgw

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  14. How utterly romantic. Sigh.

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  15. Look to the stars and still remain grounded. Good advice for all of us.

    Too overcast here for us to see the Perseids.

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  16. Too light to see them in Seattle proper, but we have seen them elsewhere in the past, and lying out watching the stars wheel overhead is a fantastic experience.
    Sweet meditative post.

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  17. My husband and I watched the meteor shower from our deck in Issaquah, as well.

    "And when the night wind starts to sing a lonesome lullaby,
    It helps to think we're sleeping underneath the same big sky..."

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  18. We spent many August evenings over the years, lying on the kids trampoline watching the P's.

    That was great writing by the way.

    And those fish were beautiful.

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  19. I share your appreciation of meteor showers... they are worth getting up early/staying up late, much more than any work assignment I've ever had. The magic is out there. I missed this one :(

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  20. Here's a good link for planning (2011 basically the same as 2010 dates)
    :
    http://www.theskyscrapers.org/meteors/index.php/year/2011

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  21. When I was on Orcas Island last week, my friend and I laid on our backs in the yard and watched for meteors, an unrewarding activity in the middle of Seattle. I saw 3 in about 45 minutes - startling, as you say, when they occur. I'd love to get somewhere again where you can see that multidimensional quality.

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  22. Scientific View for meteor
    A meteor is a bright streak of light that appears briefly in the sky. Observers often call meteors shooting stars or falling stars because they look like stars falling from the sky. People sometimes call the brightest meteors fireballs. A meteor appears when a particle or chunk of metallic or stony matter called a meteoroid enters the earth's atmosphere from outer space. Air friction heats the meteoroid so that it glows and creates a shining trail of gases and melted meteoroid particles. The gases include vaporized meteoroid material and atmospheric gases that heat up when the meteoroid passes through the atmosphere. Most meteors glow for about a second.
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