Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Sleeping Under the Stars

It's been a long time since I spent a night sleeping under the stars. I was a camp counselor and back then the greatest challenge was keeping the girls in their sleeping bags and staving off the pranksters carrying pans of warm water.

It wasn't with the intention of dozing in starlit darkness that I ventured out the other night with a quilt and pillow. A cold front brought crystal clear skies that coincided with the Perceid meteor showers. Vermont Public Radio held a star gazing party up at Burke Mountain and conducted a live broadcast with call-in questions and commentary by my favorite Eye On The Sky meteorologist Mark Breen. I cranked up the volume on the radio and headed out to the front lawn. It was pretty chilly for a midsummer night, so it felt good to have Nelson, my dog, curl up under the covers with me.

The Perseids are a prolific meteor shower associated with the comet Swift Tuttle. I learned that the streaks of light darting about in the night sky at this time of year are actually pebble-sized fragments hitting the earth's atmosphere 100 miles above us. The light show is supposed to improve as the night wears on and I tried my best to keep up with the proliferation of shooting stars, but the radio talk of constellations and galaxies yielded to classical strains that lulled me to sleep and the next thing I knew, I was waking to the low growl of Nelson warning off imaginary night specters. I dragged my dew-covered quilt into the house, thankful that no warm-water-wielding marauders had happened upon me.

When was the last time you settled back to take in the night sky? Cheers!