To Catch A Falling Star

This morning I went outside in hopes of seeing some part of the Leonids Meteor Shower, which is peaking now (the Leonids shower through our atmosphere every year around this time). Viewing was not expected to be great because of a very bright half moon, and indeed the moon dimmed the lesser space rocks. But at about 5:45, just as I gazed at the exact right place, one huge spectacular meteor burst across the sky. In that brief moment, the moon became irrelevant, so big and startling was the meteor. It was as if a spark of moonfire shot off, past Mars, beneath Regulus, toward the Big Dipper, but arcing out of its trajectory in favor of Earth. More than a mere meteor, more than a wishful shooting star, it felt like a portent. Involuntarily, I drew in a breath and shouted — not waking neighbors, I hope, but rousing Ron up to join in the skygazing. We craned our necks 45 degrees and shivered in 28 degrees until the twilight of morning dimmed our view, but no other glories streaked the firmament.

It is easy, after witnessing such a phenomenon, to understand the awe of humankind throughout the ages of astrology as they noted the stars and attributed influence on Earthly affairs to heavenly activity. From the Star of Bethlehem to Haley’s Comet (to the recent asteroid that missed us but gave the media something to avoid other issues with), we attach significance in our mundane lives to the signs from above. I live in the age of astronomy and give no credence to “signs.” Yet, I feel the effect of that meteor now in my very bones — a message from firmament to fundament.

More than just thrilling to a natural astronomical event (actually, I believe it was a for-real fireball), I feel an ancient connection to the mysterious universe. That one glorious moment blazing into my life, burning into my memory, makes me feel special, and feeling special can result in good things. In this sense, my falling star may be a portent of good things — but, I hope, not only for me, but also for humankind, for this planet. If I am allowed a wish on that star, let that be it.