April 27, 2009

Celestial disappointments

Events in the sky had a way of eluding me for the longest time.

The first experience I can remember clearly was the approach of Haley’s Comet in 1986. I was terribly excited. I was 9 years old and relished thinking about what I’d be like in 76 more years. A grandma? Rich? Bones in a grave?

On the night it was supposed to be seen, my friends and I were outside waiting eagerly. It was incredibly cloudy, but this did little to diminish my optimism. This was a big deal. Something incredibly important was about to happen; my life was about to change.

We didn’t see a thing.

We were all disappointed, but I was the most upset. My friend Beau’s dad took pity on us and set off some Roman candles in the middle of the street as a consolation prize. This was only the first of many disappointments.

My grandpa bought me a telescope, and much to my embarrassment I could never see anything through it.

I wished earnestly on the first star I saw every night. I said the little chant and everything, “Star light, star bright…” Those stars never gave me anything.

Everyone I knew had seen shooting stars. While playing outside at night, friends would regularly say, “Oh, look! A shooting star! Oh, you missed it.” I would train my eyes on the sky for long stretches of time and never did I get to see a shooting star.

One night when I lived in Richmond, there was a meteor shower in the middle of the winter. It was supposed to be at its brightest around 4am when it was twenty degrees. I was eager to see the meteors, and dutifully bundled up and stood outside behind my apartment building watching the sky. After a half an hour of freezing and not seeing even a single meteor, I went back inside. This was pretty much my luck until I moved to San Francisco.

I moved in here in July 2005, and from a bench with a friend in Noe Valley one night in November, I about fell over when I saw a shooting star. I got so excited that he was a little alarmed, believing that my standards for entertainment were very, very low.

Since then I have seen hundreds of them. I catch them randomly all the time, and in October of 2007 I lay on a blanket in the backyard watching for shooting stars and contemplating constellations with someone I loved. One night last summer while on a midnight drive down Highway 1 with a friend, we saw a gargantuan flaming blue meteor, hurtling toward the ocean and we screamed with shock and delight.

Last night I lay in bed feeling desperately like I wanted to move away. I contemplated the things and the people and the memories I would have to leave behind, and I wondered if celestial events were included in those.

1 comment:

Meteor Shower said...

Nice article. Halley's Comet produces the Eta-Aquarids Meteor Shower in May. I have posted some info on my blog about it.