Saturday, February 19, 2005

Stars falling from orange skies

I've been away from the city this week. The skies in New York are orange at night, when the clouds and haze reflect the city lights, but here you can see the stars. Even so, nothing can match the night skies of Arizona, where I grew up, or Montana, where I spent a number of summers.

I was fascinated by stars when I was a kid; my father got me a little telescope that I could use to look at the moon (and with the proper filter, the sun.) I learned to tell the planets from the stars; I seem to remember that it had something to do with whether or not they "twinkled," but thinking back, I'm not sure that's right.

I had one of those little compact paperbound books on stars and constellations. I loved knowing the classifications: red giant, white dwarf. Everything was arranged by color and size - I liked knowing that there was order to everything. At one time I knew all the major constellations and their primary stars, but I've since forgotten. I can still spot the Big Dipper and also Orion (David's favorite), but the others, I don't know.

In Arizona, there were a few times when I saw meteors fall close enough that you could see them "flame out," sparks flying off them as they disintegrated in the atmosphere. In Montana, I had my first experience seeing the northern lights. Walking home at night, it was as though someone was shaking out phosphorescent bedsheets, whipping them like you would making a bed. They glowed the faint greenish-white of glow-in-the-dark plastic. I'd never seen anything like it.

One night at three in the morning, some friends and I went to a field behind the place we were staying. We lay on our backs watching the lights; it was as though the sky were opening up some sort of celestial gate, with billowing clouds that were glowing and churning. It was absolutely hypnotic and transporting. I felt very small, lying on the cold wet grass, completely supported by the earth, my eyes filled with the beauty of the lights.

I remembered that moment years later when David and I went in the early pre-dawn hours to lie on a rock in Central Park and watch the meteor shower. The night sky in New York was as clear and dark as it can get, although the lights of the city still drown out most starlight. Still, we saw a few falling stars; usually one of us would spot one and call out, while the other would turn too late to see. But sometimes we would see one together, and just squeeze each others hands tighter, both lying looking up at the sky, looking out into the universe together. Very small, very cold, but still together.


Blogger David said...

That was a beautiful night. I blogged about that at the time, as well. I remember it being a bright and shining moment in a time I was otherwise not feeling very good.

7:56 PM  
Anonymous Brian said...

Goodness, Rob, if you are going to keep making your blog a continuous love note to your husband, I'm going to have a very hard time making snarky comments!

I'm quite certain jwer will have no problem, though.

7:17 PM  
Blogger Zenchick said...

Snarky comments?

10:22 PM  
Blogger David said...

I could live with a continuous love note, frankly. :)

7:00 AM  

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