Friday, August 3, 2012

Magic Overhead

            Whining urgently, my dog awakened me at 4:00 a.m. this morning, something that should have irritated me to no end.  But when I took her and the other little fella outside to relieve themselves, I gazed upward into a movie quality early morning sky.  What should have been a curse was a blessing. 

            Gauzy clouds filtered a waning moon, shedding enough light to put the surrounding trees and bushes into fantastic shadows. My imagination encouraged me to see an elephant or two and maybe a giraffe.  I suspect a few more large creatures lurked in those shadows, but I didn’t have quite enough light or darkness to identify them. 

While the moonlight was limited, a few stars managed to peer downward through periodic breaks in the cloud cover, permitting a bit more illumination on the darkened yard. I felt like I was in a fantasy land or maybe on a ride like Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean.” What I didn’t feel was that I stood outside in my own yard.  Abducted by moonlight, I was transported to galaxies far far away.

Actually, I have felt that way several times in recent weeks due to some exceptional skywatching.  Because we live in the country, far from any artificial light source, our yard is ideal for stargazing.  During the August Persiod Meteor Showers, my mom came up from the too bright lights in Oklahoma City to check out the meteor shower on our dark hillside.

That, too, was a blessing.  We got out of bed at 1:00 a.m. to watch the meteors dance across the sky.  I spread out a blanket so we could lie down and look straight up and still be able to tilt our heads backward and sideways to catch a stray meteor shooting off in those directions.  I felt like a kid again, staying up late with mom’s permission, to watch fireflies or fireworks.

As we lay there, waiting to see our first meteor flash by, the Milky Way hovered directly over us as if we could melt right into it.  Artificial satellites cruised heavenly highways, so we waved in case they were taking snapshots.  We had plenty of stars to wish upon and even a descending airplane to confuse us for a moment until we figured out what it was. 

We had to watch carefully to avoid missing the meteor shower.  Most of the flashes of distant light lasted the equivalent of a blink.  A few sported showy long tails that fanned across the sky, so we oohed and aahed appropriately. 

 I can’t think of many adventures my mom and I enjoyed more than that hour or so of relaxing under a August Kansas sky.  My poor husband had to wake up to enjoy the meteor the next night since I’d had to much fun watching them the first time.

Rural Kansans  regularly see night skies that city folks will never enjoy.  It’s good to be reminded periodically by a dog or a camping trip or a visiting mother what a treasure hovers over us each and every night.

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