We stepped out of the car and I was overwhelmed by how noisy the night was. Armies of crickets, millions of them, participated in a call and response across the mountains, resulting in a continuous cacophony of chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp, deafening in the otherwise quiet night.
We set up chairs and looked upwards. The sky was relatively clear, save for the thousands (millions?) of stars, the Milky Way visible, a cloudy arc above us. We waited, and chatted, and watched, our necks craned backward. We saw an airplane, blinking lights traveling quickly across the sky, but not quick enough to be a shooting star.
I remembered the last time I saw a meteor shower. I was eight years old and it was summer. A hot, humid summer at the beach at Ocean Isle, NC. Our family was on vacation and the kids were laying on top of the wooden pergola over the walkway to the beach. We laid there, staring into the night sky, watching stars zip and zoom and sputter and fizzle and fall to the earth. I remember thinking there would be no more stars in the sky after the night was done. They would all burn out. I was excited and fearful that I was bearing witness to the last night of stars.
I wondered if tonight would be like that. After about a half an hour of staring at the majestic, beautiful sky, full of stars, but void of shooting stars, I was okay with the knowledge that it would not be like that. We saw the Big Dipper. And the North Star, twinkling brightly. And Mars. Which really did hint red. And then,
Across the sky, it burned a thick path, scorching the width of the sky. It was magical. We waited patiently and many minutes later another shooting star followed in its path. We waited patiently, hoping for a storm of shooting stars.
Our hopes were tempered by the fact that we were an hour drive from home, and had to wake up early for work the next day. After many minutes of not seeing any more shooting stars, but still dazed by the beauty of the night sky, we reluctantly packed up and drove the slow and winding road of the Parkway back towards Asheville.
A day later, I close my eyes and see the shooting stars across the sky, mesmerized by their light, their power, and their intensity. The same way that I’m mesmerized by fireflies, with their soft pulsing glow, never quite where you expect them to be. There’s something about seeing a surprising burst of light in the night that brings joy to my soul. And makes me believe that life, indeed, is magical.