At about 3:45 this morning, I draped a small blanket over my shoulders and stepped outside to walk across my lawn and look up to the heavens. Two great horned owls exchanged calls as I settled into a lawn chair on the wet grass.
What got me out of bed so early was the annual spectacle known as the Perseid meteor showers that this year were unusually easy to observe due to the presence of only a small sliver of a nearly new moon. I’ve made a habit of this practice going back many years and 2015 turned out to be the big payoff.
Twenty feet from where I sat, a dear friend I hadn’t seen since 1975 was fast asleep. He’d come earlier in the week for a visit to rekindle a friendship that began in our freshman year of college. Changed almost beyond recognition, Michael was there that day almost exactly 40 years ago when I first met my wife, so with that distinction he’d earned a special place in my own expanding universe.
Within the first thirty minutes of star gazing, I was treated to the wonder-full sight of a dozen or more streaks of light that quickly melted any preexisting ideas of the boundaries of consciousness and reopened my imagination to that “final frontier.” Traveling at 30,000 – 40,000 miles per hour, these ancient rocks hurled through the Milky Way Galaxy and lit up much more than the pre-dawn sky. By the end of an hour, shortly before the light of dawn, I’d lost count somewhere around 40 sparklers.
* * * *
I am always amused by friends who, while claiming their “macrobiotic” view of the world gives them a superior perspective, seem to forget how utterly microscopic we all really are. Einstein’s Theory of Relativity coupled with short films like Charles and Ray Eames’ Power of Ten or the more recent “How Big is the Universe” remind me of a more accurate scale to consider each day. Teaching the “big view” can get a guy into trouble without some honest self-reflection.
Compared to mine, Michael’s world might seem smaller. On the way to the airport to drop him off for his plane ride home, I learned he’s never been to Europe, nor walked the streets of Hong Kong or strolled along the Cape of Good Hope as have I; in fact, he’d lived most of his life within a fairly small radius of territory in the Eastern US. I felt sad that he’d not seen the canals of Venice, the Swiss Alps or Stonehenge. For that matter, I was even more disappointed he’d missed a chance to witness the ruins of tsunami-ravaged villages along the coast of Japan near Fukushima, or met the incredibly resilient people of Samoa or Nepal after a devastating earthquake.
This doesn’t mean we both cannot make an equal difference in the world, but more to the point, can I get over my self-importance and run-away-ego when comparing notes? This old college friend has every bit the same potential within, his body composed of identical material, his mind no more limited. Indeed, we are all the same, macro or micro, part of this “life is but a dream” world.
How then can we find that inner light, that infinite place of luminous awareness that connects us through strands of particles undefined by self-imposed identities or imagined limitations? We may not need a meteor shower to gently shift our perspective. A hike with Michael up a mountain trail took us briefly to that bigger view, a tower overlooking the countryside near my home.
It’s good to change lenses when we can, cut new pathways and break away from routines that block our sense of place among the stars. If nothing else, it roused my inner muse and prose emerged.
Welcome to this evening’s contemplation
cool night air above a walkabout.
Questions posed with each new inhalation
calm surrender dispels every doubt.
Stroll along with memories emerging
which are really his, or mine, or ours?
Leave behind the perfect picture wanting;
we are little more than shooting stars.