Night of the Shooting Stars: Perseid Meteor Shower

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It was a hot night in August. The weekend had drawn to a close on the heels of a long family hike in the Olympic mountains near our island home. I was tired. With boundless boy energy our son declared he was going to sleep out on the trampoline that night with his friend and brothers. Turning to me he added, “You should too.” I was thinking of the spilling backpacks and damp sleeping bags. I was thinking of my comfortable bed, the wonderful book I was reading.
“Tonight is the Perseid meteor shower,” he added.
The words hung in the air and I smiled. The boy knew I could not resist falling stars.
“Well,” I said, the fatigue falling away, “I think just maybe I will.”
sleeping+on+the+trampWe spread blankets and pillows into the sweet sag of an old trampoline and turned our eyes to the heavens.

Every August the Earth moves through the leftover debris of the Swift-Tuttle comet. This meteor shower is called the Perseids, and it peaks around the tenth of the month.

We cradled our heads in our hands and watched the fat tails of shooting stars arc across the sky in luminous trails of green. A screen door slammed. A seal huffed and snorted in the bay. The air was redolent of basil and saltwater. Each starshot across the sky moved the conversation to another idea, another thought. We mulled over aliens, the size of the universe, the evolution of intelligence. We designed space ships, pointed out constellations. Wrapping our minds around the concept of infinity we felt suddenly small and insignificant under the wide and wheeling sky.
When my mind thinks back on the past, it is the time spent outdoors, more than any other time, that I’ve distilled and saved. As we gazed at the sky on that summer evening, I felt our busy lives pause while the vault of stars created a night to remember.

Most of us have strong outdoor memories of our childhoods–shooting stars, warm mud between toes, climbing trees or riding bikes for the sheer joy of it.New Ark Adventure Playground  We live in an age of overbooked schedules. If TV, computers, and piano lessons make up the bulk of our children’s lives, there will be little time to create memories that build a dynamic concept of family and provide a permanent connection to nature. Children cannot love what they have never known. If we do not make time for unstructured play outdoors, our children will miss the opportunity to stretch their bodies in new ways and discover the out-the-back-door joy of a giddy sled ride on a snowy day, the view from the arms of a tree, the intoxicating combination of cold water and hot skin on a summer afternoon. These are the small events that shape a childhood, and provide a meaningful context to help interpret life as they grow up.

Go outside at night this week with your kids. Look up at the sky. There are shooting stars out there.

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