To find the universal elements enough; to find the air and the water exhilarating; to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter; to be thrilled by the stars at night: to be elated over a bird’s nest or a wildflower in spring …these are some of the rewards of the simple life. ~ John Burroughs, Naturalist (1837-1921) ~
Take a couple of six-year-olds to the drive-in movies to see commando guinea pigs saving the world and there are bound to be a lot of laughs in between popcorn breaks. Drive-in movies, a memorable part of my childhood, are vanishing. Kids are wired up to daily movies and special effects on television, computers, video games and everywhere. It’s pretty hard to top some of the things they’ve seen.
Toward the end of the movies the Perseids made their way across the sky, tossing an occasional ball of fire into the inky heavens. It was enough to draw their attention away from the Aliens in the Attic for a bit, but there was still too much sensory overload and ambient light to see the meteors.
On the drive home at 1 a.m., I took a detour to the back of town park, where there are no lights except for the starlight and a waning moon over the ball fields of our rural community. Logan and Darian had no idea why we shook them awake, wrapped them in blankets and had them lie on the metal bleachers. “Just lie on your back and stare straight up!” It takes patience to just let go and wait for things to happen in their own time. There are no fast-forward or rewind buttons. You either see them or you don’t. Impatience turned to wide-eyed wonder as they saw the delicate arcs of meteor tails flash across the sky. “Did see that one?!!” If your eyes were on another part of the celestial ceiling, you may have missed that one, but others would follow. We tried hard to all watch the same area of the sky for the shared effect. When they came two or three in the same instant the kids were wishing hard on every shooting star. Every time they slowed a bit and we prepared to leave, more would come and we were again caught up in the challenge. On this glorious summer night in August, the Perseid Metoer Showers were imprinted in their memories. I knew they would take root and send a reminder every August that it was nearly time to see the sky show. I don’t know what they wished for (I think Darian has her eye on a pony) but I know what my own ‘first star’ wish was. I wished them a lifetime of memorable moments that were inspired by the awesome wonder of nature. I wished with all my heart that they would learn to savor, to respect and to appreciate the beauty all around them. So many things in life are fleeting, popular and ‘in’ for a while and then extinct as we move on to new things. It is in nature that we find the only true and constant things in our lives.
No matter what life throws at me, I am sure that the sun will rise. The moon goes through her many moods, but she is predictable, after all. I eagerly await the return of Orion the Hunter, my favorite constellation, in the autumn and winter sky and rejoice when we get clear skies around August 12th every year to watch those Perseid showers. Oh, Mother Nature can be cruel and the unexpected fury unleashed takes us all by surprise. Still, after the darkness, comes the dawn. Rather simplistic, I know, but it is true in every struggle of our lives.
Before there was man to clear the land, build the cities and try to tame her, Mother Nature took care of herself. Fires in forests took away the old growth to make way for new beginnings. Floods and drought changed landscape and animals and plant life adapted. We came and put our houses and concrete right in the middle of things and we struggle to keep nature and natural disaster at bay. I sometimes wonder what the state of the earth would be if no one ever mowed another lawn or tried to tame a raging river. That would be the ultimate “back to nature” experience.
I thought of the John Burroughs quote while star gazing from the bleachers the other night. I thought about how rich I was in so many ways, to be able to share this heavenly moment (pardon the pun) with my great niece and nephew. Right now they are excited about going into the first grade next month and they still live in a world dominated by razzle-dazzle, but I’m making a prediction. Some twenty or so years from now, they’ll be telling their own children about the meteors, and maybe grandchildren too. It is how it has always been and will always be, if we are smart enough to share the timeless wonders of life with them. These moments are the ones that last. How rich I am… and how thankful!