The Perseids: As though to breathe were life (a revisiting)

(This is a revisit to a diary I wrote last year. We’ve passed the peak of the Perseids for this year, but if you have a clear night, you will see random meteor showers. If you are patient. I watched at least three fall by tonight, between the clouds, as they chased the dark aside. Make a wish now.)

Perseids - August 2004 From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things

Unchained stars, released from the bonds of eternity, flailing and burning their way through the universe, past our eyes, but visible if we but keep eyes wide open, staring outward, staring upward. Sometimes staring slightly off-center of what we want to see.  Looking at stars is like that – sometimes you cannot look directly at a star to really see it. 

Will we see a death of elements, or a burgeoning of life encompassed in light, a changing of matter into energy? Will we see the souls that stars become, the souls of people long gone, long passed from here and now there, so far up there?

As though to breathe were life.

I’m certain souls attach to stars that burn bright, then fade, then fly away and back around in patterns of time too complex to understand, even as we plot and calculate orbits and speed. As meteors, rocks of flame and heat, our souls might cross the sky and blaze the message so quickly bright, “we are never gone, we will never die”; it all occurs within an arena so cold and still and contains spectators of infinity as stars in the field fall apart and spread their own integral elements across a void.  The earth right now has a front row seat to a great show.

Archive story link: Make the most of the meteor shower

The Perseids are raining again. It’s time for the meteor shower that occurs each year and I want to exhort anyone who can see the sky with a modicum of visibility – not too many city lights, no rising full moon – to step outside sometime in the next 48 hours at late twilight or early dawn or the middle of the night. Just wait, if you can, and you will see a falling star. It’s not really falling, you know – a star has no understanding of “down”.

Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are.

Most say the Perseid shower won’t be that spectacular this weekend, due the brightness of the moon.  For comparison and an interesting description of why Perseid is Perseid, follow the link below to the Astronomy Picture of the Day site picture from last year’s shower on August 15, 2005 – (need bandwidth and click on picture to see animation):

August 2005 Perseid link: Perseid Meteor Shower 2005

There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail:
There gloom the dark broad seas.

When I was a kid, I could walk to the edge of a cliff near the Pacific Ocean and watch at twilight for falling stars. The setting sun competes with other mysteries of the universe at that time of day, and the reflections from restless waves often battle with opposing lights from space as the horizon glows gold and pale blue and fades.  And so, I was not often fortunate to see my favored falling stars. Sometimes there would be the strange and eerie presence of dancing and floating phosphorescence on the water, an anomaly of ocean sea creatures much like green lightning bugs in a swarm hovering over the inky ocean waves, or an aurora on the water.  I thought this was the breath of whales when I was young.

And this grey spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.

Stars have saved my life.  When I’ve been down and ridiculously depressed and perhaps a lowly Wellbutrin away from worse, stars have grabbed me by my mental ears and given me a shake, “look, you; all this and we’re up here, too, so vast and all-surrounding as to make the biggest earthly care insignificant.”

The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world.

I have my favorite constellations. The Big Dipper. Some nights, I’ll watch the Dipper pour out other stars flung out into the galaxy, our worries that have gathered in the concave and tilting cup. Orion’s belt compels me to trace his figure in the darkened sky with an admiring eye and imagine the bearded Hunter on his hunt. I fancy the Milky Way, too, and memories of reading Sendak’s “In the Night Kitchen” to my daughters come to mind:

In the Night Kitchen Milk in the batter!
Milk in the batter!
Stir it! Scrape it!
Make it! Bake it!

I’m no scientist or major astronomy buff; I take a passing interest and every-so-often fleeting obsession in what goes on in space. I’m a regular observer of shuttle launches, a habit left over from growing up on Gemini, and Apollo, Kennedy’s drive to put a man on the moon.  I understand why JFK looked to the stars for a goal to reach for, succeed at, and best the competition. It wasn’t just about getting there first; it was also a lot about comprehending the depth and breadth of what lies beyond our earthbound existence. We are such insular creatures, otherwise.

One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

If you can, go out, look at a star and maybe a falling star, or even a shower of star lights if your darkness is just right.  They say it may be “a dud”. Don’t believe all you hear. I spent 15 minutes outside – right now at 2 AM PST – and I caught ’em, I caught my fallings stars.  White light painted by a rapid hand against a dark silk canvas. An extraordinary experience and once again, I am in the Night Kitchen.

Think of this as you think of all of us – the stars and planets are in the same sky that everyone on earth can see, regardless of what nation, what state, what province, what county, what continent in which exists our human condition. Even if you miss a Perseid, you will still see the sky and the stars. It is the same sky, the same comet that passes by on its continuous trip around our part of the universe. Only the earthbound can see the constellations. We all can see stars from wherever we are, whoever we are in the galaxy.  Go outside, look up, watch and breathe.

Meteor across the sky smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.

…that which we are, we are.

(excerpts lifted from “Ulysses” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson)

Thank you for allowing my reindulgence.


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  1. Just like the first time you posted this, anytime anyone quotes from “Ulysses” (The Greatest Poem EVER), I’m a sucker for it.

    Beautiful, exme.

    (P.S.: Where’s your Tip Jar, mmmm?)

  2. Tip jar.

    Heh. Looks like the scheduling worked. Coolness!

    I’ll leave this up for a bit and then I’ll delete.

    Notice the linky things – hard to see.

    • melvin on August 22, 2007 at 21:55
    if i were Karen Carpenter

    beso a beso

    1. when I was in tech support for Microsoft, a good friend of mine developed a chat program that spit back automated responses based on the words used by other chatters. There were about 150 original stock phrases into which “keywords” could be interchanged, and it was surprising how many of the “phantom” automated responses sounded like they were “human” generated. An algorithm then generated new phrases based on new words entered in by “live” chatters, and the response phrase database continued to grow.

      A lot of his code has gone into several of the messaging products that MS now spits out.

      1. –Which links are you having trouble seeing? 
        The magenta is better today. last night it was a navy blue and did not stand out. It might be nice to play with an underline capability – optional.

        –Does the white background help at all?

        yes. though for the visually impaired, it may be harder. Many visually impaired folks use a black background with larger font and high contrast color settings.

        –Can you tell me what browser you use?

        IE 6 and IE 7, though I can test on Firefox, too.

        –Windows or MacOS?
        Win XP 32 and 64 bit, as well as Vista.

        –Do you know the screen resolution and color setting?

        1152 x 864; 32-bit color; 96 dpi.

  3. I think I read something about that on MLW. If you pre post you lose the rec button. I think an admin can add one, I will go try.

    Won’t be a prob for the front page, of course.

    But maybe worth asking pacified about.

    And exme….don’t you DARE delete this work of art!

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