Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Working on the Bucket List

Tonight at about 8 p.m., my good friend and neighbor, the Queen Bee, called to invite me to join her outside at 11:45. She knows I'm a night owl and someone who's game for new experiences.

She's working on her bucket list and one of the items on that list is to watch a meteor shower. It's a beautiful, clear evening in northern Illinois, without a cloud in the sky. There's some type of bird outside making a wierd and plaintive call so this could prove to be downright spooky. Ok, I've lived out here for 15 years and I've heard howling coyotes and the horrible screams of a rabbit (yes, rabbits SCREAM) but I've never heard anything like this.

A gibbous moon will produce some light in the sky but hopefully we'll be able to see the meteors.

Another neighbor is an amateur astronomer with an impressive telescope. One very cold evening he set up his equipment and treated us to a look at Saturn! He travels around the country to dark sky events. These are astronomy viewing events, basically in the middle of nowhere.

One of the most astonishing things I've ever seen occurred in rural Tennessee. The Farmer and I were visiting my grandmother and were invited down to Bodie and Francis Allen's house for dinner. The evening wore on as we shared food and stories. My cousin drove Grandma home and we stayed on for awhile.

We walked out into the clear night air and started down the long driveway to the road. As we turned to head towards my grandmother's we passed a point where the Allen's farm light was blocked from our sight. It was so dark we were afraid of wandering off the road and into one of the deep hollows on each side.

And it was then that our eyes adjusted to the darkness. And we looked up. The sight stopped us dead in our tracks and neither one of use had words. The Milky Way spread out across the night sky as if God had cast a net of fireflies. It was spectacular in every sense. The stillness and the power presented in a natural tableau. We felt very small and insignificant and yet blessed to be witness to such a display.

It was many years ago, before the Farmer and I were married. The only thing that could compare was the night the Aurora Borealis filled the skies above our heads. We drove the old truck out to Swanberg Road and laid on the hood for an hour or more, marveling at the show.

I'm using Blogger's option to post this at 2 a.m. so that you have something to read in the morning. If Queen Bee and I are successful we'll stay late into the night and I'll be sleeping in late.

Do you live in place that allows you to view the Milky Way in all it's glory? Do you think a dark sky party would be fun?

There's one in Nebraska, I've heard. Now, wouldn't that be a road trip?

There's a I


Stickhorsecowgirls said...

I hope your watch was successful. I was tucked in trying to get a good (long) night's rest before a challenging day today--no luck, I tried cases in my head all night (sigh). Please report on your sightings.

And, yes, a dark sky party might be nice, although I've never heard of this (you can tell I'm game for anything). V and I might just drive to Nebraska for it!! C

Amber said...

Where we live in Eastern Kentucky, we get a beautiful view of the night sky, accompanied by dogs howling and barking lol. But the sky is beautiful at night, unfortunately, last night I wanted to watch the Perseid meteors too, but steady rain kept us from seeing anything.

Becky K. said...

We go to Cherry Springs, PA for our dark sky party. It is known to be the darkest sky this side of the Mississippi, I believe.

Last night it was stormy here, so no meteor showers for us.

Becky K.

Anonymous said...

We get some pretty magnificent displays here in Virginia of the night skies.. sure didn't get that when we lived in Phoenix, AZ and the city lights blocked the view.

Did not know about last night's display in the sky or would have stayed up later, but it's been cloudy recently so probably wouldn't have seen it anyway.....

The Blue Ridge Gal

chocolatechic said...

I heart astronomy.

Unfortunately there is no place to see magnificent skies while living in town.

Anonymous said...

Shoot, I wanted to stay up to see it too -- though I am not yet sure if the shower was visible through our weather here in Michigan. When we're on the Lake Michigan side of the state, though, I marvel at how clear the night sky is, and I like to sit in the middle of the front yard (at the Wright house) and watch the stars. I even bought several handbooks to help me brush up on the constellations!

Kitty said...

When I was a kid my best friend's Dad would take us camping in West Texas. Growing up in Houston, I never saw such a beautiful sky! We would take our blankets out and lay in the dark just looking up and marveling at the number of stars above us. The Milky Way was amazing and we could see falling stars every night. This was a childhood experience I have never forgotten. Here in Middle Tennessee we have seen some meteor showers, but the night sky is pretty bright with city lights. Fort Davis, Texas used to hold a "Star Party" several times a year. We went once when my daughter was a budding astronomer. They had a few telescopes set up and aimed at different parts of the sky and we could see a galaxy far, far, away. I love the feeling of seeing the immensity of the night sky. Sort of puts you in your place, huh?

I'd be interested in hearing about your experience last night. What fun!

Lisa D. said...

I love living in the middle of nowhere, and stepping outside to see the stars. They can be absolutely breathtaking on a clear night. At our last house, we had no yard light and I loved looking at the dark sky. Even here, in this yard, the yard light is not that bright and we can see the sky.
The problem is living this far north. In the summer, when it's nice enough to sit outside and watch the sky, it doesn't get dark until far too late.

Rue said...

I was able to watch Halley's Comet when I was young and that was pretty amazing. There was a friend of my parent's that had a cabin in the mountains and next door lived a man that was over 100 hundred years old and he was able to see it twice in his lifetime. I'll never forget him, as he was probably tea most interesting person I'll ever meet.

Anyway, it sounds like you girls had fun last night!


dina said...

We live - essentially - in town. But we live in a little corner that was plotted out in the late 30's and early 40's and has 1/2, 3/4, and even 1 1 acre plots. Our little 1/2 acre has all of the yard abutting the pretty busy road. Our house is tucked in at the very back. On a clear night we can see the most amazing skies.

We often take the kids out to lay out in the yard closest to the house to watch the skies. Last year during the meteor showers we had nearly all of the nieces and nephews here, too - and we got them up in the wee hours to troop outside, sip hot chocolate, and watch the shooting stars. It was pretty awesome!

Steph said...

When I lived with my parents we used to go and lay on our driveway in the middle of the night and watch the stars, you could do that here, but I'd be afraid of being drug off by some coyotes, lol.

Ang. said...

I love looking up into the sky at night. Living in the absolute middle of nowhere is perfect for looking at the night sky. People who live in town are always amazed at how many stars there really are in the sky!

I bet the bird you were hearing was an Eastern Screech Owl. They have a plaintive call that sounds somewhat like a whinny. is a great resource for learning about birds including their sounds and songs.

Lori said...

We used to camp at a primitive campground in NE Iowa. We would go and lay on the road at night and without any surrounding electricity, it looked like you reach up and pluck those starts right out of the sky. Absolutely marvelous! I would love a dark sky party.

Stickhorsecowgirls said...

Well, actually Pinnacle Mountain State Park in Arkansas hosts star-gazing events where they even have telescopes set up! Sounds like fun to me. I don't think I've experienced anything as spectacular as you saw that night, but I sure would like to! I will say that living out in the country in a semi-rural area,away from the city lights, you do see so much more in the night sky. I like it--especially huge harvest moons! V.

Kalae said...

The Maui sky, in the middle of the Pacific can be specatcular. It was rainy last night with a tropical remnant of Hurricane Felicia coming through. Most spectacular i have evry seen is from inside of 10,000 foot Haleakala crater. The stars are like a net of jewls pulled down from the heavens.

Karen Deborah said...

once when I was backpacking in Yosemite National Park I got to see the Milky Way in its spectacular glory and you are right it is breathtaking.

Jody Blue said...

We've seen quite a few meteors this evening when we've taken the dog out. Its pretty cool.

Jan said...

My niece and I go out to farmland in the thumb of Michigan, pull out the blankets and a thermos of mocha coffee and watch the meteor shower every August. We are awed by the glorious night sky. We hope to view the December meteor this year.