Yesterday should have been my first day on a vacation in Yosemite National Park, a place I’ve dreamed of seeing for years. No need to dwell on the details, but Covid-19 torpedoed that trip a few months back. I’ve been trying to keep a good attitude about the whole thing, because really, it’s not a big deal given all that everyone is facing these days.
Then I found out that the Lyrid meteor shower would peak in the early hours of 4/22. If the Yosemite trip had happened as planned, I’d have been in Yosemite Valley at 11pm at the peak. I checked the weather, and it looked clear there. Yeah, that stung.
So last night, I made a plan. I set an alarm and tried to think of a way to walk to the beach at 2am without waking up jittery neighbors. I obsessively checked the weather to see if the clouds would clear.
They did, and so, at 2:07 am, my confused dog looking on, I headed outside and jumped into the car. A few minutes later I parked in a residential area and scurried my way across the street onto the beach access boardwalk.
My plan was to flop on the sand and gaze at some stars in the hopes of seeing some fiery rocks hurling through space. But the wind was howling, loud enough that I could hear the grains of sand pelting my jacket, so I retreated to a bench up on the boardwalk.
I saw one, possibly two shooting stars/meteors.
Then, I got back in the car and headed back toward home. I stopped off at the parking lot of the nearby state park, and looked up long enough to see one shooting star/meteor.
Then I got home, and the dog wanted to go out, so I stood in my parking lot while she did her business, and I saw one more.
That was it.
It was such a colossal bust of an effort that all I can do is laugh. I know better than to try to capture even an iota of the magic that would have been stargazing in Yosemite Valley, but for some reason, likely related to cabin fever, I needed to do it. A few observations:
- No one, and I mean NO ONE, other than me, was out trying to see the shower.
- The Virginia coast is wicked light polluted. Even with no moon, there was a ton of light on the beach. I blame this for my lack of sightings.
- It was extremely uncomfortable to be out at 2am. I wasn’t afraid of animals or the dark. I was worried about people. The residents who would see me in my hoodie and assume I was up to no good. The police who would see me drive into the closed state park parking lot and yell at me. The lone car in that same lot, the window glowing occasionally as the occupant looked at his/her phone.
In the end, I’m glad I saw a few shooting stars/meteors. I’ve decided, in my sentimental way, that the first two I saw were for me and my friend who was supposed to be in Yosemite with me. He’s a doctor dealing with the epidemic first-hand, so I made a wish for him on the first one I saw. On the 2nd, I made a wish for me. And on the third, which I saw in my home parking lot, while my dog sniffed nearby, was for the future in all it’s prosaic reality. I don’t know when I’ll get to Yosemite, or when I’ll see my friend again, but it’s not likely to be anytime soon. So I wished for collective patience and compassion for all of us.
In truth, I didn’t wish those things then. I’ve decided retroactively to assign some meaning to that last meteor/star. Because at the time, I just wanted to go back to bed.