The Weeping Night Sky 🌌

Outer space is fascinating. When you get a chance to observe an event like a meteor shower for the first time, it's difficult to put it into words. Read here my experience of witnessing the Perseids.

The Weeping Night Sky 🌌
Photo by Clay Banks / Unsplash

What are we, if not a grain of sand in this infinite nothingness we call the universe?
Why are we, if not to explore the elegant dark sea, glaring at you from a distance?
Isn't it astonishing?
Doesn't your brain implode when you try to push it out of the laws of our comfortable little Earth?
Aren't your thoughts and knowledge of the space ever taken over by fanatic imaginations of what it may be like out there, in reality?
It happens to me at least. Whenever I'm staring into the pitch black canvas from my window through vividly bright lights of the city with a few passing planes now and then; or when I was lying on a ridge, hundreds of feet above sea level, surrounded by plenty of people but fixated up above, gazing at the glittering pearls of the dark ocean, resonating with starry sky 🌃.

"Majestic" would be a good descriptor for that moment. It took its sweet little time though, and kept us on our toes for a minute 🥲.
Right after we got off the car and walked a few steps toward the ridge, a scream came out of Kevin, "Aye look I saw it shoot, it was so fast!". "Where?", Harika panicked, "I couldn't see, I missed it". That was when I realized, some of them shoot down so fast, you have to be looking up at the sky with all your focus. Harika couldn't catch it while we were in pursuit of finding a perfect spot to lie down, and neither could I. In my head, I knew it was just a matter of time until I experience it.

I was always intrigued by outer space, extraterrestrial objects, the universe, etc when I was a kid [a nerdy kid I was 👦🏻]. I loved watching movies related to that; I remember I was so mindblown by Zathura: A Space Adventure that I was hoping for my house to get flown away into outer space just to get a good look at those Saturn rings. I used to collect and read Safari Magazine which was basically the epitome of Science and Space facts in Gujarat at that time. It was so exhilarating to cut out the articles that explained how black holes are created, or how the traveling of light affects the events as we see them, and paste them into my "Book of Knowledge" which I was very proud of 😏. I have a blurry memory of reading about shooting stars and being overwhelmed by the fact that they're not actual stars but meteors that get heated when moving through the atmosphere and exhibit a glowing star-like appearance while shooting down. Experiencing a meteor shower became a top checklist item for me.
But then, I grew up. Moving towards a plausible career in life, the excitement of reading about space and witnessing events kept fading away. Relishing it via movies like Interstellar became the new checklist and life turned more real while the dreams kept becoming a distant reality. A practical maneuver.

Until recently, when I got to know about the Perseids meteor shower. Kevin told me about it peaking this weekend and there may be 60-90 meteor sightings per hour. That little kid, who was kind of scared but more excited after watching the meteor shower in Zathura, was trying to crawl its way back. It'd been ages since I read about a space phenomenon with such impatience and rush. I was thrilled to learn everything about it and find the best spot near the city to experience the magic. I believe this feeling was always living in my mind subconsciously; the feeling of leaving a task incomplete and moving on with life. The feeling of not doing what you've always wanted to and believed in. I could sense that this feeling was driving the excitement and I was all for it.

"Look at the number of people", Harika was surprised by the turnout as we walked towards the parking lot of Hurricane Ridge. We had to park our car somewhere on the shoulder of the hill road where everything was so dark, we couldn't even figure out the depth of the valley right beside the car. Hundreds of people turned out to cherish a night of sparkles, to absorb the beauty of the universe. We were yet to catch a glimpse of the shooting meteors, but we could hear collective gasps ["Whoa look at that" "Oooh! 😮"] as we moved past the invisible stargazers sitting and lying on the edge of the walkway. It was a bit difficult to walk freely as there was little to no light at all. A momentary patch of flash would appear every now and then, which helped us move along. In that hazy patch, I could figure from the silhouettes that people were wrapped in their blankets as it was cold. That's when we realized, we didn't bring any of those, but it wasn't going to stop us from feasting on the view anywho.

We actually had a pretty long day before the night and had different plans to see the shower. We were going to visit the beautiful Olympic National Park on the day, go back home to Seattle, rest for some time, and enjoy the showers from somewhere close to 1-hour drive from Seattle [maybe from Lake Kachess]. But the moment we got in the car in the morning, all of us unanimously agreed that let's do it from the national park, and what better place than Hurricane Ridge? It has over 5000 feet of elevation, there was an astronomy party for all the stargazers happening there, and it's farther from the city. And it all took place as we'd planned; the entire day fit the mold perfectly. We visited the gorgeous Lake Crescent, went swimming for a couple of hours, drove to the Cape Flattery, did a quick trek to the Northwest-most point of the contiguous United States, and spotted a couple of whales from a distance 🥹. While driving back, I knew that the night was going to be the perfect end to what already seemed like a dreamy day, and I couldn't wait to see it unfold.

"Oh, a LOT of people have set up their telescopes and desks for research!", I whispered to Kevin and Harika as we crossed the crowd near the parking lot and moved towards what seemed to be an empty area dedicated to the stargazers and researchers. There were long queues to take a peek at planets from the telescopes. I had expected a lot of people to come but not this many, I was impressed and sort of disappointed in myself that I'm not the one with one of those with a telescope. But it's okay, humans are kind enough to let others look through that tiny door to the universe. We found a spot on a sidewalk near the hill in the middle of what seemed like a couple of families with kids. I couldn't figure out for sure in the starlight but it sounded like a mother was explaining constellations to her son 🥰. More gasps and screams of fascination were heard as we tried to place the mats and bags down in a hurry. Lying on the sidewalk with a backpack as head support, thinking "We should've brought a blanket", there I was. Slumbering. Hundreds of feet above the oceans, but right under another ocean.. of light. It's a shame that we can't witness a sky full of stars every night. Words can not do justice to the visage of the galactic canopy. For a moment I felt as if there was nothing around me; the Earth beneath me became a chair in the void of space and my surrounding expanded into a cavalry of stars. I desired to get absorbed into the cosmos ✨.

"Oh damn! There, look.", even Harika was a part of the gasping tribe now 🙁. I'm sure that I was the only one there at that time who hadn't sighted a shooting meteor yet. As a way of accommodating my eyes to stare at a dark sky, I put away all my devices having screens, closed my eyes for a few seconds, opened them widely, and swoosh. A mildly lit dot with a tail of bright white behind it moved swiftly in the downward direction as if a painter made a finishing stroke on what was already a mesmerizing skyscape. It was visible hardly for a second but the suave with which it traveled put a smile on my face and glitter in my eyes. A couple more passed on the opposite end of my field of view. I was trying to catch as many as I could in my visual memory, moving my head here and there to make sure that I covered all directions. There was one more gliding through the Saptarshi [the tail of Ursa Major], tearing the canvas. It paused for a minute, and then all of a sudden there was another one shooting down, almost 4 times the size of what we saw earlier ☄️. It had a thicker, brighter, whiter tail and the head of the burning meteor seemed blueish. It was magnificent 🤩. This one kept going for 4 or 5 seconds and almost looked like a firecracker about to go off in the sky only to vanish into the moonless macrocosm. As if Harry Potter had whispered Lumos to illuminate the barren night, it made the surroundings observable for a bit.

We also sighted the blurry Andromeda cluster, Jupiter with its moons, and glowing Saturn with its rings from the telescope. It felt so soothing and made me believe in the philosophy of dreaming even more. If you dream of something with a strong desire, the universe would do its part to make it come true. It may be late and when you least expect it, but it does come true. 🥹

Only decent picture of the stars my phone could capture

I took a deep breath as elated sentiments circled my mind. There was a sense of peace. I could feel the universe with closed eyes. Time froze for me at that moment. My mind became the artist and my psyche became the canvas. I painted a skyscape of showering stars with the visuals from my memory. A somber sky, drizzling its emotions with sparkling teardrops from its many oculi. With my eyes closed and my soul enchanted, I saw The Weeping Night Sky 🌌.

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