So last night wasn’t the peak of the peak; but Les UDs left their Big Meadows Lodge room at 3:18 AM anyway, figuring they’d for sure be the only people at the Big Meadow down the road, which has enormous dark skies. They dressed warmly – mid-August evenings turn out to be cold here, especially when you’re sitting (beach chairs) in the middle of a vast wildflower field.
The short drive over there put UD in mind of the night the lights went out over much of the United States in 2003, and Les UDs drove back from Cooperstown to their houselet in Summit in Total Rural Darkness. And Total Rural Silence, something about the gorgeous witchy world having hushed them.
So here’s a family lying in sleeping bags at the entrance to the meadow – quiet father, mother noting each meteor, and small daughter entirely into the experience. A kid, thrilled to be lying on the cold hard ground in the middle of nowhere … Three other cars stood in the parking lot, meaning people had walked through the meadow to distant viewing points.
“Thought we’d be the only people here,” said UD to the sleeping baggers.
“Oh, we set the alarm for 2:30,” said the father.
Les UDs carried their chairs far enough into the meadow to avoid the lights of passing cars, and let their eyes adjust to … yikes… the starriest vastest dome ever…
Mars, the Milky Way. And meteors diving out of the black lagoon – some mere flakes, which we didn’t count, some white missiles with fireballs, missiles so bright they left stellar contrails. With each big one we whooped and clapped and considered again the bizarre good fortune that first hoisted us up onto Skyline Drive and then settled us down into beach chairs under galactic suns.
Barred owls hooted as the heavens rained.