It is 4:33 AM. It took a while to remember why the alarm was going off so soon after I got into bed. I got up and looked out the window, and sadly noticed it was cloudy. The brilliant carpet of stars that I've become accustomed to as the New Mexico night sky showed only the celebrities of the big dipper, Orion and a handful of stars you can see even from cities. However, I decided to give it a try.
I take shooting stars as signs, not that I know how to read them. Like rainbows, they are more frequent here. In New Jersey, I can remember which years, when and where I saw the handful that punctuated 27 years. Each year we'd vacation on Cape Cod when they'd predict "the biggest meteor shower in history" and I never saw one then (fog, storms or just plain luck not working in my favor). So I was a bit skeptical. I put on my heaviest coat and went outside.
I didn't have to wait long. There was a patch of open sky, and I trained my eyes in that direction. However, the first one came through the haze. Like listening to popcorn, the pace increased. What I have counted before in years (and since I got to New Mexico, in months) now happened in measure beyond anything in my life. I decided to do an experiment and count how many seconds between....but instead settled on how many breaths from one meteor to the next. As I did, I saw the flow...sometimes it took as many as two breaths for the surprise. Each time was a new delight. Soon I was seeing two and three per breath. Sometimes I was seeing two or three at once. They come from all angles, at all speeds. I even saw one that skipped like a stone, making a dashed line through the roof of our sky.
Here are some thoughts that flashed through my mind, just like the bits of cosmic dust, as they flared into our atmosphere...not quite lessons, not quite answered prayers, but inspiring silent awe. Just like their trails, the light from these glimpses fades so soon that I must capture them now, to share them with you, so we may keep their light in our hearts.
You must be willing.
Tiredness couldn't keep me from this experience. I will sleep soon enough, long enough. I must be willing to keep open to experience, if I am to have the experience, and all that comes with it.
The clouds can not obscure.
The intensity of this display cut through the haze. Originally I'd wanted to go back to bed, because I couldn't even see the Milky Way. However, the mind adjusts for intention. Most of those I saw were through the shifting veil of high clouds. Sure some were too thick for any light to penetrate, but there was always somewhere to look.
The sky is too big for us to see.
When I focus on any area, I can't see another. When I zoom back to take in the widest view, I can notice that something happened, but not the detail. So it doesn't really matter where I look. It was so amazing that I noticed the walls of my house lit from the diffused and reflected light coming from all over, like you'd see lightning cast shadows.
The darkness is not your enemy, it is fragile.
It takes time to see in the dark. I shut off all lights in the house to keep my night vision, once I had it. I learned that I know where things are even if I can't see them. The entire event was so fleeting that its wonders only opened to the invitation of total darkness. In darkness, I learned to see the trails, even after the first flash was gone.
You must protect yourself from cold.
Once I realized that the show outside wasn't going away, I kept adding clothes so I could stay longer. First a hat. Then longjohns. Then gloves. Then a hood. Next a chair. Then a coffee cup full of microwaved water. The universe is a cold place. Cold is like silence, it absorbs all. But the metabolic fires that come with life are sufficient, if we prepare. The mind requires no heat, but the heart and soul do. Keeping these together means being careful and intentional with oneself.
The last time I went out, coyotes provided a primal soundtrack. I wondered how many eyes were seeing this same miracle? Our civilized lives argue against it. I can see no reason why anyone would need lights on at 4 AM unless they are driving. There is little need for protection out here, at least not in the same way that crime lights and security are needed in cities and gated communities. The light pollution meant that I could only look east...the clouds captured and amplified the streetlights of Santa Fe, 12 miles to the Northwest. The lights mask our fears, and show our reflex to replace ebb and flow with homogeneity, our desire to master our environment. In doing so, to often we miss the most profound, which makes itself known to us in the most subtle of ways.
As I looked, ever more at ease, I dared to pray for openness, that I might receive the wisdom I need to get through this time. No voices came into my head. No flashes of insight chose to appear, catching a ride on the vanishing tails of wishes through the sky. At least not that I'm aware of now. It may be that my subconscious knows the code for what I've witnessed. It may be that it was the willingness to seek, to see, to ask...that this was all that is needed...that this is all that I can do. It may be that sharing this experience with you sets in motion healing energies, which so many of us in this world need at this time.
As I sleep, my soul may feed on what the majesty of creation has shared with me this early morning. May peace beyond all understanding enter our hearts and guide our paths.
© Ferdi Serim 2001