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:
from Every Day Fiction