As far back as I can remember, I’ve turned my eyes toward the heavens, both literally and spiritually and I guess that’s one reason I got up this past Wednesday to watch the lunar eclipse and the awesome phenomenon known as the blood moon. I saw it at full eclipse and it was indeed reddish in color.
I remember being 11 years old and living in Dundee Michigan like it was yesterday. We lived on a farm with tall corn growing out around us for miles. Much like in the movie: “Signs”. The only real view besides the corn was straight up and I would lay in a small depression in the grassy front yard and stare at the giant cumulonimbus cloud formations. They would move and transform into identifiable shapes of peoples faces and animals. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was developing my imagination skills, which later in life have helped me write about my experiences.
I owned a refractive telescope and I would try in vain to keep it focused on the moon. Over the years I’ve spent hours watching the sky at work, or looking at the stars while camping. On the desktop of my computer is a vivid photograph of the moon in all its glory taken by Baytown photographer Carl Schier. He posted it on Facebook and I just knew I wanted to see it often. I find the heavens… fascinating.
Every so often a comet will appear, never to be seen again in our lifetime and most folks I talk to, including family members have no interest in it. I remember watching the comet Hale-Bopp in 1995 and Hyakutake a year later and each night, binoculars in cupped fists, I would stare at them in wonder. My family came out the first night at my insistence, yawned, and went back in the house, apparently bored by the whole thing.
The 2 years I spent in the Big SkyCountry of Montana rewarded me one night with a reflective display of the Northern Lights and each night with the Milky Way. Incidentally, if you haven’t seen the MilkyWay, it is terribly majestic and truly amazing – not amazing like seeing a squirrel ride a skateboard, but awesome in the truest sense of the word. At first observation, it looks like high clouds, but on closer examination, it is, what it is, trillions of stars – trillions.
My brother, son, and his two boys were camping out near Austin a number of years ago and it was very late. We laid under the stars on sleeping bags and watched the satellites orbit the earth… then one turned and went the other direction. The unidentified object literally stopped and went another direction. It was a celestial phenomenon – like all the others.
For some time before I retired, I would watch the International Space Station orbit pattern on the Internet and announce to my coworkers when it would pass over us, usually around 0415 in the morning. On occasion, a few guys would join me in the back of the Plant where it was quite dark and using the projected data, I would point in the sky as the clock ticked down. As if by magic, it would appear and logic would dictate you could watch it, horizon to horizon, but that is not the case.
Sometimes it would appear almost over our heads and be visible for only 15 seconds, traveling at 17,500 miles per hour, give or take. Everyone would remark how amazing it was, but most would only make the trip once. Other times, I would walk into the control room and ask if anyone has seen the planet Jupiter. “No? Well, follow me; it’s in plain sight just outside, right besides Mars and the moon.” Often, no one would bother to go outside.
My friend and fellow sky gazer Ruthie Ames sums it up best. She loves the outdoors and often posts photos on Facebook of her kayaking in some remote place.
“I've always felt closer to the earth than the things we manufacture from it. When I was four or five years old I remember my grandparents dragging our mattress out and laying it in the middle of the backyard out by the clothesline. We would lie there in the dark looking up at the stars. I remember us quietly talking, sometimes giggling or laughing about a joke that was shared. But mostly just getting lost in that black sky with all those stars. My grandmother would tell me stories; some of them true some of them fanciful, Some of them in between. I remember noticing as the warm night began to turn chill and my little nightgown started to get damp from the creeping dew. It smelled so wonderful being close to the grass and my grandmother's garden of vegetables and herbs. There were lemon trees and fig tree's and peach trees that made a wonderful perfume that swirled around and made a kind of potion with the oil and grease smell of the nearby train. ... And like magic, every morning I awoke safe and warm in my bed.”