Wednesday, October 21, 2009


A friend emails from the city, telling me to watch the Orionids this morning. Of course, I will do this, I replied--boasting You know, I can see The Milky Way here. Though I'm really more of a Perseids kind of gal, the sort to laze on my back on a steaming August night, a curious goat thoughtfully nibbling my hair--hoping that wasn't a night-flying mankiller wasp just landing on my thigh.

At 3:00 a.m., lately my usual bedtime, with dogs grudgingly settled on their side of the bed (but eying my pillow like a leftover snack), I turned out the lights and stepped onto the balcony with a lawn chair. I settled, opening my night eyes. Directly above were the Pleiades, always the most easily recognizable star grouping for me. When I was a child, my mother would take me into the night, resting my head in the crook of her elbow and point out the constellations, giving the stars names. In those days, you could see The Milky Way, even in Bluffton.

"That is the Pleiades, also called The Seven Sisters," she said.

I felt impressed and self-important, because my grandmother had six sisters and I thought the stars were named for my grandmother and great-aunts. What a thing that was, to have one's family written on the fabric of the night. It would be several years before I figured out my great-aunts weren't moonlighting as Artemis' retinue and we were not so grand after all.

As a tween with a bursting heart, I'd go out and lay on my back on the lawn, staring up at the stars until the world fell away and the hurting stopped. I felt sometimes I was floating in the sky, only coming down to shine a red flashlight on my star chart. When I wrote "Saturniides", that was the feeling I was describing. In workshop many people said they didn't know what "falling into the stars" meant. I don't know. Often I take my life experiences and how I see the world for granted. I imagine everyone must have come across the feeling of being consumed by the night. But there are places where the stars don't shine like that and where lovesick girls don't turn to the stars for solace.

I looked toward Betelgeuse and a white knife sliced the sky. It's not too showy, but enough for me to reach out, catch it and put it in my pocket.


I need to make a correction on my Snowbird post. My brother tells me I have it backwards. The FAA facility on Snowbird is for flight navigation with instruments. It uses VOR (VHF Omnidirectional Range) which is outdated but still commonly used by most planes. Newer planes use GPS. They'll probably close the Snowbird facility in a few years when all planes make the leap to GPS.


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