I was a bit disappointed to learn, my first summer back in a place without light pollution, that August’s Perseid meteor shower was going to be washed out by a full moon. The other night, I received a consolation prize.
I had finished my homework and was about to go to bed, when I realized it was pitch black outside. And relatively warm. I poured myself a nightcap, put on a sweatshirt, turned off the lights in the house, and carefully made my way down the steps to the backyard with Pendleton the dog.
It took a while for my vision to adjust. I closed my eyes for a minute to coax my pupils to dilate wide enough to take in the pinpoints. At first I saw only a few, then a few more, then ten times more, then twenty times more. After fifteen minutes or so, the Milky Way was fully visible, stretching across the sky toward Ruby Peak.
It’s all about waiting for the stars to come to you. I even caught a few shooting stars, perhaps remnants of the Perseids. I had to stand in a place that my vision wasn’t blocked overhead by the apple trees in our yard. What I should have done was walk out into the field, but I didn’t want Pendleton to rustle up any deer that were undoubtedly bedded down out there.
Mike and I were recently in Portland, visiting friends. Our friends’ kid was showing Mike her new bedroom furniture, and he pointed out that, from her bed, she could look out the window at the stars. She gave him a blank look. He remembered that you can only see a few stars in the city; not anything to impress a nine-year-old.
Standing in my yard, I was reminded of getting up at 4 in the morning every night last winter to let the puppies outside. In January, I regularly heard the Great horned owls conversing. Now, I could hear cows yelling, sprinklers whooshing, grasshoppers singing, and Pendleton munching on windfall apples.
I wished I could bring my friends’ kid out to our yard, so she would understand what Mike was talking about.