Last week, at the predicted predawn morning of greatest activity for the Orionid meteor showers, a handful of us entered a richly dirted, well treed, five acre place, that includes a spacious “lawn” in which to stand, twirl, and stargaze straight up to the sky with views unhindered, or, if you choose, through the web of nut tree branches — hickory, black walnut, red and white and black oak, as well as sweet gum and black gum — and over a waterway that right now is rife with grasses and muds way more than waterbody, thus not a place to reflect the lights of the heavens.
As it was, this night, this early, early morning, the greatest activity for Orionid meteor showers night/morning, was pasted over in cloud. There was and would be no sky lights to see, even the 7:06AM sunrise occurred unshone. But it did not matter. The peace of darkness lifting into light with no audible nor visual disruption even though on all edges of this land were homes, a supermarket, an urban arterial, and just down from the access road, a major hospital. Even though all these trammels abided adjacent, we were not of them, we were not among them, we were not theirs, if only for these two hours in late October in northeastern Massachusetts.
And at 6:40AM a single mallard called out from the pond, one loud Honk! Two seconds later, maybe three, two warblers began to burble just in front of me, then a robin, and a cardinal over to the left, and redwing blackbird, and then a song sparrow, and then a mockingbird, and a crowd of sparrows all at once talking, clanking their lunch pails, thrashing amid the shrub that surrounds the nut trees in whose presence I then stood. The stillness was history, and to be awaited for its return in, oh, say 17 hours from now. But who can mind such a songfilled replacement to silence? I stood, enchanted, a vine entangled in one lock of my hair, the ground firm, the light soft, the day rising in its own time and at its own pleasure, and to mine.
I drove home, wishing I were on my bicycle; next time, I promised myself, fed the patiently waiting cats, saw that Mark had slept through my going out and my coming back (good thing, because he had been sleeping poorly for several days), brewed myself a cup of coffee and let rest of the day crowd in.
We were told that the Orionid meteor shower will occur at that predawn hour through November 7th with a little less intensity each day, but motion-filled nonetheless. Perhaps a clear night will occur in these 8 days up to that morning and I will go outside at 5:00 AM and stand on my street and look up with hope, or maybe I will go outside at 4:45 AM and make my way back to that once a upon a time farm, now wildland, and sit on the ground that in places is so dense, prehistorically dense that no tree can inch its roots through, so dense that it is a meadow in a wood, a wood that sways and soughs on the meadow edges, its back to disruption, its back a bulwark for this place.
A friend of mine, who never fails to speak of something of interest told me this cosmological information:
Upcoming during December will be a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. This is an event that was known to occur approximately every 400 years; however it paused or hid and has not occurred visibly since 1226. Yes, the year twelve hundred and twenty six, nearly eight hundred years ago.
The time schedule to watch this phenomenon progress and finally culminate is:
45 minutes after sunset look southwest, and
-on December 4, Jupiter and Saturn will be visibly “close” (2 degrees apart)
-on December 16-18 they are almost touching
-on December 21– they appear to the naked eye to be “one”
My friend tells me that with even a small telescope, (e.g. an 80 mm refractor) you are likely able to see and differentiate them to some degree. I haven’t got a telescope, so I will see what I can see with my trusty binoculars.
Here is Jupiter on left, courtesy of a Hubble Space Telescope photograph, and Saturn on the right, courtesy of NASA.
God ever knows what I never
know so, God, I know in you
is all before and after me and all
is near even when far