Aug 13 2015
I spent a while last night outside on my deck, watching the Perseid meteor shower. It was a good night for it, too. The skies were clear. The weather was cooler than it normally is here in August – cool enough that I could wear long sleeves and pants so the mosquitoes wouldn’t eat me alive. And I took an old blanket outside so I could lie down and watch the skies without straining my neck.
I don’t know about most people but I can count on one hand the number of shooting stars I remember seeing in my life, and in less than an hour watching the sky last night, I saw twice that number. If I were more outdoorsy or lived in a less populated area growing up, I might have seen more. Or maybe I only really remember the times I saw a shooting star because I associated it with some sort of positive omen or a celestial bit of reassurance during troubled periods in my life.
To wit: A little less than five years ago, Michael and I made the decision to move to Missouri from the DC area. We had two weeks to find an apartment, to pack, to move ourselves, to say goodbye to our families and closest friends. Outside of all the crap we had to do (the crap everyone has to do whenever they move), it was an emotionally overwhelming time. I had never been so far from family and friends, we were moving to a city and also a culture that was different from where I grew up, from the only place I had ever lived.
We were driving together, but in separate vehicles. After we spent our first night at a motel somewhere in Ohio (a night which the cat spent hiding inside a bed frame), we started out early the next morning, early enough that it was still plenty dark. After about an hour or so on the road, somewhere in Indiana, the sky was just beginning to lighten. To my right, in a corn field, a shooting star arced across the sky and into a line of trees. Michael called a couple minutes later and I asked him if he had seen it. He had.
I remember it for two reasons: the most obvious is that I took it as a sign that we were doing the right thing and that things would work out well, even though I was exhausted and terrified at the time. The second reason is harder to explain. Watching the stars, as romantic as it sounds, has always struck me as primarily a solitary practice. Try pointing out a shooting star to someone as you sit together… it’s difficult. You can point out stars and planets by explaining where they are in relation to constellations. But for something as fleeting as a shooting star, seeing the same one is strictly a matter of chance: you’re both looking at the same section of sky, at the same time. There’s a kind of magic intrinsic to that experience.
So as I lay outside on the deck in our yard last night, marveling at the sky, I also marveled at where life has taken me. Nearly five years in our new state, and three years in our own home, and soon to be eight years married. And just like I gasped every time I saw a meteor last night, even though they just kept coming down… as normal and every-day as those facts of my life are, there’s still something kind of overwhelming and marvelous about it all.