I awoke at 3:30 this morning, dreaming my backyard was filled with deer. In my dream, I stepped out onto the deck to find a couple of fawns playing, then looked to my right and discovered a few does and three or four more fawns. I could hear a buck snorting as I watched another doe squeeze her way through a small hole in the privacy fence. Just as I thought to go back inside to fetch my camera, the deer lined up for a march through another hole in the fence and they all disappeared.
But deer slipping down the rabbit hole wasn't what woke me. I wanted to catch the Perseid meteor shower, something that had eluded me during normal waking hours.
When I stepped out into this summer night, it wasn't deer that greeted me but a symphony led by a large and boisterous cricket section with a much smaller but very resonant group of frogs croaking the rhythm. Car tires on a highway in the distance tried to solo, but only managed to lend a meager humanized voice to melodic chirping.
I am no stranger to stargazing and have learned that it works best to claim a section of sky and scan it continually by moving my eyes only, not my head and neck. It isn't much different from fishing in that regard. If a spot in the pool of stars is unproductive, try a different spot. You know they're out there, just be patient.
As I waited, I was astounded at how many commercial aircraft were in the air even at this hour. So many red-eye flights. Flashing lights that crept quietly until they passed overhead and the hiss of jet engines caught up with them.
Satellites appear with stealth and cunning. A surprise movement in a sea of stillness, they creep along, unannounced and sudden, like a deer that makes a mysterious entrance in the woods. I have often had dreams of staring into night skies, looking for something, only to find all the stars rearrange themselves right before my eyes.
Not the peak time for Perseids, this hour, but I saw a quick flash in my peripheral vision. Then another. A third was nearly transparent, a ghostly apparition in the pre-dawn hours of, Friday the thirteenth. Not that I see that as a bad thing. I turned thirteen on a Friday the thirteenth. And that was, well, a bit more than thirteen years ago.
When my kids were young, they liked for me to wake them on peak meteor nights so they could join me on the deck, or on the trampoline at the time, where we would gaze in different directions until we pinpointed where all the meteors were most likely to be spotted and we shared our finds. We talked about astronomy, Einstein, forever, vastness, time and space. Topics difficult to grasp in daylight hours and especially tasty to discuss in clandestine hours when children should be fast asleep.
A bright meteor parted the sky, leaving a contrail behind. A wispy line of vapor to mark it's brief presence in the world. Then it was gone. It seemed so close, close enough that I should have heard some sound as it passed, but only the orchestral interpretations of my nighttime friends played on.
Another long streak, this one glowing bright in a final gasp as it dissolved into the atmosphere. A few more, some quick bursts, several long shimmering tails, but no others leaving behind visible vapor maps.
Four thirty. I had seen about sixty dust particles burn in brilliance as the band played on. An hour nothing shy of amazing for me. I am a stargazer and always have been. I always will be. Flashes of fleeting light, grasped for a moment by my eyes to play in my mind forever.