But there’s a full moon risin’
Let’s go dancin’ in the light
We know where the music’s playin’
Let’s go out and feel the night
Because I’m still in love with you
I want to see you dance again
Because I’m still in love with you
On this harvest moon
― Neil Young, Harvest Moon
Full Moon Tonight. It’s the Harvest Moon. I remember when we would go on bike rides at night on full moon nights. The last year and a half – it’s been so bad… Sometimes I feel I’ll never do anything fun again.
From my blog (I called it an “Online Journal” then), The Daily Epiphany, Wednesday, December 4, 2002. A longish entry, about falling stars.
I have always wanted to go camping during a meteor shower. I’ve tried to schedule a trip to West Texas, Big Bend, during one but the timing has never been right. One year I did drive out with Nicholas, then only a tad bigger than a toddler, and ended out in a cornfield east of Rockwall; but Nicholas was impatient, we were still in the pool of city light, and ended up seeing nothing. Last year I was ready to go out and see the Leonids, but the state was swathed in a belt of thick clouds and nothing would have been visible.
Last Month I read that this year was going to be the last predicted good Leonid storm for a long time, and I didn’t want to miss it. I have a snotload of vacation left that I have to take before the end of the year so I scheduled a day off the next day and drove out after work into East Texas, heading for Lake Tawakoni State Park, where we had gone family camping a while back.
The park office was closed when I pulled in so I dutifully filled out a little envelope, put my fifteen dollars in (nine for the campsite, five for the entry fee, and one because I didn’t have change) and dropped it into the heavy metal tube. The park was almost completely empty – only a few RV’s scattered here and there. I picked a spot on the first loop, choosing one right next to the trail to the bathrooms. It only took me a few minutes to set up my tent.
While I wrestled with the aluminum poles I spotted a bright meteor crackling down between two trees. I watched for a while but didn’t see anything else. The peak was supposed to come somewhere around three AM, so I set the alarm on my IPAQ PDA and settled down in my tent to read myself to sleep. Even if I didn’t see another meteor, at least I had spotted one – and my trip wouldn’t be completely wasted. I tried calling home but was on the very edge of cell service. I could hear Nick answer on the other end, “Hello! Hello! Who is it?” but he couldn’t hear anything I said.
It wasn’t much longer until a big diesel pickup rumbled by, screeched its brakes, backed up, and started shining a powerful spotlight on my tent. I dragged myself out and walked over to the official truck.
“I paid in the box out front,” I said.
“Oh,” said the bearded, grizzled man in the truck.
“You here for the meteor shower too?” he continued.
“Yeah,” I said.
“They say this will be the biggest one for thirty years,” he said, “and we’ll be at another park by then, for sure. There’s a bunch in the other camping loop that’s going to meet down at the dock at three and I think the wife and I will go down there to watch.”
“Well, have a good night.”
It was starting to get cold, so I slithered back into my bag and fell deeply asleep until my IPAQ started buzzing.
The full moon was out and very bright. The park was lit with what looked like a flat blue daylight. It was light enough for me to easily move around and set stuff up. If I had had a newspaper, I could have read it without trouble. There were some engines running and people moving around down towards the lake, and I thought about joining the folks down at the dock but ultimately decided to go it alone. The trees at Tawakoni are thick so I set my folding chair up in the middle of the park road and wrapped myself up in a blanket and my unzipped sleeping bag. My folding chair leans way back which is unpleasant for what I usually use it for (it stays in the trunk of the Taurus) – watching soccer games – but was perfect for stretching back and looking up at the sky. Some small animal, probably a possum (too quiet for an armadillo) shuffled around in the grass beside the road, and then shambled back into the woods.
The bright moon washed out a lot of the stars. It would be impossible to spot any faint meteors. I thought for a few minutes that there wouldn’t be anything and I’d go back home empty-eyed. But after a few minutes the shower started.
The meteor shower wasn’t spectacular; it didn’t make me think of the Fourth of July. Still, it had a powerful ephemeral beauty. There would be a pause, a minute or so, when nothing would happen, then maybe a single quick transient streak across the sky. That would be followed by a little burst – a cluster of four or five and the activity would keep up for a few minutes until it tapered off for another pause. A few falling stars were big enough to scream across a big arc of the sky, leaving behind a little trail of sparks for a split-second. I know they were silent but I could imagine a crackling sound as those fell.
It was obvious how the meteors appeared to flow from a single point, in Leo. They would radiate out, the big ones lingering, traveling across a big chunk, the tiny ones merely a fugacious slash across the dark. It was this temporary nature of the display that fascinated me – a tiny sliver of an instant… then they are gone. I had a big grin on my face, half-frozen there by the cold air.
I watched for a little over an hour or so until the show petered out. I never really went back to sleep – it wasn’t long before the sky began to lighten in the east and I packed everything up. Driving back into the city, I realized that I could go on in to work – it was early enough.
I decided to take the day off anyway.
And a piece of flash fiction for today:
Harvest Moon, by Scotch Rutherford
from Every Day Fiction
The words and the picture are beautiful. 🙂
Thanks! I have as one of my goals to increase my skill at night photography of the skyline and the moon. It’s not easy. One problem I’m having is figuring out how to carry a decent tripod on my bicycle.
Haha. Now, that’s a tricky one. But the effort definitely pays in the breathtaking shots.
Thanks a lot. I have always wanted to go camping during a meteor shower. I’ve tried to schedule a trip to West Texas, Big Bend, during one but the timing has never been right. Anyone can learn more about WordPress benefits.
I’ve wanted to go to Big Bend during a meteor shower too. It’s just such a tough slog to get there.