Saturday, August 02, 2008

In the Midnight Garden

I'm standing on the back deck of the house, looking up between the treetops. There's a few big clouds drifting across the moonless night sky and in the dark void between them is the glitter of a thousand diamonds.

The stars have returned and just in time for August, when magical things happen up there. I think I see a glimmer of something shifting around and wonder if there's even a slight chance its some kind of aurora.

It almost never is, but once or twice it has been, so I am filled with hope.

After accidentally blinding myself a time or two with the motion sensitive spotlight there, I walk through the house and barefoot, out onto the front lawn, newly mown. I feel the loose bits of grass on my feet as I walk out through the cool damp, refreshing on my toes. A hundred Chester Crickets are in concert in yards all up and down Not Wisteria Lane, their music punctuated by the occasional whirring chirp of a katydid.

Jupiter hangs in the southern sky, the brightest thing there. When I first saw it earlier this evening, it had a bright orange glow about it, giving the impression of a single burning ember from some faded skyrocket, suspended in time and space, forever descending from the heavens. By now, just midnight, that color has burned off, faded, so that only a glimmer of gold remains to the otherwise white star-planet.

On one hand, August's arrival is always a bit of a trial. It's the month to be a tourist on the Cape and so they are absolutely everywhere around us. And they have no qualms whatsoever about us knowing they are here. Including in the rental house across the street, where they have left the lamp post light burning tonight. My candle lanterns, often the brightest thing on the street, are overpowered by its white gleaming.

I wish I had that gadget Professor Dumbledore used in the first Harry Potter book, that took the light from all the street lamps on Privet Lane. It would be rather handy just now.

On the other hand, in just a week it will be time to choose a beach blanket and a dark spot on a sandy beach with a broad sky above, where I can lay back and watch the annual Perseid meteor show, always a taste of the spectacular on a stunning summer night.

Shading my eyes against the bright lamp light, I try to make sense of the stars. It's one of those nights where there are so many, it's almost hard to pick out the key constellations...not that I know them all, anyway. And that lamp's not helping.

A red light appears in the distance to the west, high above, and I watch as it cuts a straight line overhead, becoming three lights, moving fast, some international flight from Providence or maybe New York, and heading who only knows where across the sea.

I wonder if they know I can see them from down here, if they think about it. As the plane slides by overhead, I can hear its engines suddenly, the force behind the effortless speed. And then it's gone inside a cloud and to the east.

I wish I had a rock for that lamp. And I wish I didn't throw like a girl.

And I wonder if you're looking at the same stars where you are.


dykewife said...

screw throwing, get yourself a sling-shot. the aim is better and is sure to do the trick :) put it in your back pocket and we can start calling you dennis

MartininBroda said...

Do you usually throw like a girl? I can't believe it. Seems even Rev. Waagner has sometimes a small inclination to violent thoughts : )

Birdie said...

When I pulled out my telescope, I asked the neighbors to please wait until 11:00 to turn on their lights. Often they'd just forget and leave it off. An invitation to take a peek helped, but only one or two ever took me up on it.

It's been a long time since I've had the 'scope out. And August is surely the month to do it. Sagittarius is up and full of features that just binoculars will show.

Greg said...

A sling-shot?! Dykewife, I have a feeling I'd figure out how to hurt myself with it.

Martin, don't worry yourself about it. I never do such things, since I know the probability is the rock would bounce of something I didn't mean to hit and come back at me!

Birdie, I will have to do some research about where to look for Sagittarius, as it's my birth sign.

Paul said...

Your thought is very interesting ... once I get in one of the tin cans with rockets I loose my sense of connection to everything 35,000 ft below. It's more like: I'm way up here and I can see you, but you can't see me.

Greg said...

Interesting perspective, Paul.

I've only been up - and just briefly - in a seaplane, so I have no sense of what its like to be in a "tin can with rockets", though your description does little to fuel my curiosity!

MartininBroda said...

I was more worried about the girl issue, I forgot to mention, pleasant post.

Greg said...

Actually, Martin, I should probably be castigated for perpetuating gender stereotypes, but that was the epithet when I was a kid.

Actually, lots of "girls" I know are really crack shots and I could do much worse than to throw like them.

: )

Butch said...

I love the light tha illuminates from a candle burning lantern. It really can set the mood of the yard and garden.

It sounds like you have events scheduled well into Autumn, which we a good thing. Have you had your telescope out on these nights as well?

Throwing like a girl or man is insidental to being able to hit your target accurately. ;-)

Jess said...

It's cute that you've named your crickets "Chester." (This would be the point at which Marc rolls his eyes, if I had said this aloud.) That's similar to my calling every starling that lands in our yard "Clarice." And when each flies away, I will say, in my best Anthony Hopkins voice (which I freely admit is a pitiful impression), "fly, fly, fly, little starling." :)

Well, I amuse me! And Marc has been putting up with this for years! ;)

BTW, we don't have stars here anymore. Well, not many. When I was a kid, back in the last century, the sky was filled with a carpet of beautiful stars. Now, with all of the light pollution, all we can see is a handful of the brightest ones. When we occasionally make it to less populated/developed areas, one of my joys is looking up at the night sky and seeing the countless stars. If you can still see them up there, I envy you that!

BTW, you should see if your neighbor would be willing to put that light on a timer. The renters may not even think of such things, but the owner might be amenable to it, since it will save him/her money, as well as maintaining the feel of the block.

Java said...

My dad once told me that I run like a secretary going out to lunch. That pretty much convinced me never to run again. I don't think that was his intent, but then he's an ass.

This is a lovely poetic depiction of your nighttime visit to the garden. I like how you take us on a visit to the stellar garden, as well.

I'd love to join you on the beach to watch the Perseid meteor show. Don't remember ever seeing that.

Greg said...

It is a nice, soft relaxing light from the candles, Butch, to be sure. As for the next few months, yes, I suspect they will be rather full.

Jess, are you really drawing comparisons between "A Cricket in Times Square" and "Silence of the Lambs"?! Ha ha ha...I haven't actually named them per se, but did decide to begin re-reading that old childhood favorite last night!

As for the neighbor light, it hasn't been a problem any other week all summer, so I'll hold off on making anything like a complaint...those people were, I think, out late last night, so I can't really fault them.

Anyway, they were packing up today to join the great cluster-schmozz at the bridge which is Leaving the Cape on a summer Saturday morning.

Greg said...

Java, the Perseids are a great show. The earth enters the cloud of debris the middle two weeks of every August, and while they are most often occasional sightings, there's always a least one or two super-clear nights when meteors are shooting across the sky every minute or more...sometimes, really bright ones, too. It can be incredible.

Actually, since the best viewing is midnight to four, it's perfect in your nocturnal schedule, too, if you can tear yourself from late-night blogging! ; ) Do you have a lounge chair for the yard?

(Oh, by the way, there's a morning glory tip for you in the previous post, too!)

Jess said...

Can't say that I know the story, "A Cricket in Times Square." Yet another one I apparently missed. Either that or I've forgotten it. I'm so bad about remembering what I've read that I have a computer program I now use, so I don't start reading a book I already finished a couple of years ago. I hate being a few chapters into a book and then realizing it seems familiar because I already read it!

So is "A Cricket in Times Square" as much fun as "The Silence of the Lambs"? ;)

Greg said...

GASP!! Don't know "A Cricket in Times Square"!?! Oh, poor kid.

It's the heartwarming story of Chester Cricket, a Connecticut cricket who accidentally finds himself on a train to Manhattan, where he is adopted by a boy who's family runs an unsuccessful newstand in the Times Square subway station.

With the help of a city mouse named Tucker and Tucker's unlikely friend, Harry Cat, Chester begins learning classical music and his concerts bring rush hour crowds to a standstill...and in the process he makes the newstand pretty successful, too.

Only my opinion, but I'll have to go with "more fun" than "Silence of the Lambs". : )

lostlandscape said...

One of the things you give up when you live in a larger city is the stars with all the light pollution around. Your dark skies sound wonderful. I'm sure I'd recognize your stars, though when I vacationed farther south 10ish years ago I was so disoriented. Stars and constellations aplenty, but where the ones I knew? Where was Orion? Where was Cassiopeia? (You do have those don't you...?)

Enjoy your nights.

Greg said...

Ahh, those two I actually know: Cassiopeia was just above and behind our house, kind of northeast...and while I couldn't quite see it, I know that Orion was somewhere behind that house with the bright lamp, generally southwest!

somewhere joe said...

So that was Jupiter? I knew it was a planet because I remembered what Birdie or you once said... "stars twinkle, planets don't."

Frisael said...

Reminded me of the green grass stains I'd get on my Converse sneakers walking behind the lawnmower. And at night, the freshly cut dewy grass, the smell of it and how it would stick to your feet. Thank you.

Greg said...

Welcome, Frisael! You shine a light on why I always try to wear last season's Converse for lawn mowing and gardening!

Anonymous said...

Interesting thoughts and reflections for your night. Imagine seeing your block with every residence and property with CFL's. Ewwwwwwwwwww!

Curt Rogers said...

What a sweet and gentle visit to the garden. So many nights as of late I've stood in the park, looking past and through the orange street lamps, watching Jupiter hang in the southern sky. And I always wonder, who else is looking at this as I'm looking? What are their stories and how were they led to this moment?

I'm glad we had that moment, even if neither of us knew it.

Robin Easton said...

Aaaah, so you have the soul of the romatics and great seekers and writers. This post is so so so beautiful. I can't believe it. I literally could feel what is was like out there, even the annoying light. :) But I was so touched by this post. I loved your words:

"I wonder if they know I can see them from down here, if they think about it......"

"I wish I had a rock for that lamp. And I wish I didn't throw like a girl."

"And I wonder if you're looking at the same stars where you are."

Just beautiful and touching and alive. Good for you Greg. This is one of my favorites.

Also LOVE the tomato "Simely Face" in another post. Such delight!