The Quadrantid meteor shower last night.
Woke without the alarm at 1:30 a.m., gathered my kit—the long cushion from the patio swing, pillow, jacket and an assortment of wool blankets and throws—and stretched out on the driveway, the vantage with the best view of the north/northeastern sky.
Fuzzy moonlight overhead. Owls hooting at the edges of the pasture. The distant lowing of a worried cow. The occasional rumble of a neighbor’s heat pump. And waiting.
Patience is the lesson of most meteor showers. 80-100 meteors per hour does not mean a cosmic schedule of clocklike regularity. Last night, patience meant waiting for moonset and the clearing of the night’s high fog; meant knowing that, for a while, only the brightest, strongest shooting stars would be available to me.
Moonset. The vanishing of the light, a new kind of silence, as if a hiss had gone from the sky. I opened my sight to the reach of my peripheral vision. And then. The show. The one that had been going on all along, even when I couldn’t see it. Meteors. Long-track ones, horizon to horizon. Tiny pale ones. Sparkly bold ones. A twin: two meteors, side by side, a synchronized swim in the sky. Two almost at once, from opposite directions, the second appearing before the first was gone. A green one.
Was I the only one out there in my little valley, under the sky? Probably. And as I lay out there, waiting for the ooh/ahhh, grinning when it came, I thought—as I so often do, in the oddest of circumstances—how much like being a creative person this was.
Alone, we are. Braving the chill at absurd hours. Lying in the dark, waiting for the miracle.
What sort of happy fool would do something like this? What inner-whatever does it take to appreciate the long wait for a instant of beauty; to witness the last living moment of a well-traveled bit of heavenly scree as it transforms so magnificently from matter into something else? What would the neighbors say if they saw me out here?
The answers to those questions are the essence of what we are as writers, artists, musicians. We wait in the dark and the cold. We wait alone. We wait with wide eyes, hoping to capture fleeting flashes of beauty that we struggle to remember, to feel, to describe…the magnificent instants that may well have meaning for nobody by ourselves.
We are the wait. The longing. The brief, brilliant light. We are the meteors at the true north of ourselves, the instants worth waiting for.