I am sad to tell you that tonight is the night of the Perseid meteor shower. Sad because here we have pouring rain and crashing thunder; not the best conditions for viewing.
A meteor shower is the debris shed by a comet as it orbits the sun, and we on Earth pass through several showers of comet-debris during the course of each year. When one of the meteors happens to enter our atmosphere, it is traveling at such a tremendous rate (thousands of miles an hour) that it’s ignited by friction—giving the impression of a falling star—and generally burns up before it hits the ground. (Sometimes a meteor makes it all the way to Earth without being consumed, in which case it is termed a meteorite. A few very large meteorites have made impressive dents in our planet.)
The Perseids are the meteors of the comet Swift-Tuttle, through whose rubble we pass in August. They are named for the constellation Perseus, because from Earth’s perspective they seem to be coming from that direction. In mid-August in this hemisphere Perseus rises in the northeast at around 11 pm or so. This year, August 12th, starting at around midnight, is supposed to be the best time for viewing the Perseids. Ha! Well, probably some of you live where it is not raining.
To view a meteor shower, it’s best to get out of the city or densely populated suburb—in other words, head for an area without lots of artificial light. In past years we have set the alarm clock (sometimes the best time is 3 or 4 am) and then gone out to sit on a deck, or lie on a rooftop, or stretch out in a big treeless field on a blanket (or, if in Vermont, shivering under the blanket) and then waited, gazing at the night sky.
Some years we’ve seen many, many. Other years (as above) we’re not so lucky. But go do it anyway. How often do we even take time to look at the Milky Way? That in itself is a rare and wonderful experience for the frazzled urban person. The additional sight of sparkling shooting stars sailing across the night sky is seriously magical.
From a long-ago and somewhat yellowed sketchbook, when my son was about four, sharing a straw hat with his Daddy on the beach. Happy Fathers Day, all you fathers out there.
With my father
I would watch dawn
over green fields.
Thanks to my tech-savvy son, my Ireland sketchbook is now up on my website. This is the first page, and you can look at the rest here. I hope it will be followed by other sketchbooks soon.
Follow-up to Each Day post 3/4: more sketches from a Vermont trip, this one from an afternoon hike along country lanes.
To see some really beautiful images of Vermont, go to the blog of Vermont artist Susan Abbott, who, among the many other things she does, has been traveling the state capturing its wonders in paint and sketchbook. Her son is the creator of the “802” video mentioned in yesterday’s post; obviously talent runs in the family.
Here are a painting and sketches of my son when he was around 2 or 3 years old, when he could count among his achievements succesful potty training and looking adorable.
Today he turns 26 (!!!) and still looks adorable (still potty trained too). He’s also a more sociable party guest than as depicted in this old sketchbook (although somewhere along the way he lost his Mess Detector). Besides this he is funny and smart and a wonderful writer; speaks Japanese fluently, which is useful in his work for Japanese television; is a cool painter; is sweet to his parents, generous to his friends, and a fabulous big brother to his little sister. Happy Birthday, dear Devin, and thank you for coming.
In the northern hemisphere, early February is the season of festivals of light, spring, and beginnings, because of its placement approximately mid-way between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. Candlemas and Groundhog Day are but two examples. Another is the ancient Celtic festival Imbolc, named for the pregnancy and lactation of ewes, and celebrated with the lighting of fires in anticipation of the returning sun. In Japan the festival of Setsubun marks the beginning of the spring season, and this year, according to the old lunar calendar, it falls on February 3rd.
Given the numerous Japanophiles in our household, we are moved to celebrate Setsubun. First, we eat special sushi rolls containing seven ingredients—seven being a lucky number—in complete silence, while facing the auspicious direction for the year (in 2010 it’s sort of south-southeast) and making a New Year wish. After dinner we eat one roasted soybean for each year of our lives so far, pondering the memorable events. This alone keeps certain of us busy for some time. Then we toss the remaining soybeans out into the darkness and shout ONI WA SOTO! FUKU WA UCHI! to chase away wicked demons (and wary neighbors) and bring happiness. Some people (not us) also hang a fish head on the front door. Depending upon the kind of demon, I bet this is pretty effective.
A page from my Ireland sketchbook.
I was looking through sketchbook-calendars and came across this drawing from a January 15 years ago, with Devin (about the age Eileen is now) and Jim playing a post-Christmas game of Enchanted Forest. How poignant it is from the perspective of 2010 to read the events so simply stated on an old calendar.