Ranger Kathryn's Arches

August 13, 2010

Bedtime on the mesa has never been so good

google image of a meteor

Headlamp on, hauling sleeping bag, sleeping pad, pillow, and water bottle, I picked my way  through the tumbleweed out to the deserted basketball court nearby. Crawling into the nylon mummy, I held my breath. Not thirty seconds elapsed before the Perseids met me — larger than all life, silent, stunning, humbling.

Nothing obscured my view up here at 6000 feet — no trees, buildings, nearby towns, or even a single porch light. Meteors streaked across the vast expanse from every quadrant, toward every horizon, long-tailed and short, brilliant and barely-there. At the rate of several per minute, some made me gasp, others made me smile. I struggled against my sleepiness, not wanting to miss a single shooter on this astonishing night, but was eventually overtaken by slumber.

I dreamed of meteors.

Around 12:30 a.m. I awoke to dry crunching footsteps and a bobbing headlamp coming my way. Sitting up, I heard a familiar voice ask, “Who’s that?” It was Rob, my young Arches ranger buddy, who had come up to the Island in the Sky to visit friends and watch meteors away from Moab town. He made himself comfortable on the pavement and we spent the next 45 minutes sharing the sweetest fellowship imaginable, on topics that are much more appropriate for silent nights outdoors than for fluorescent-lit workrooms: hopes and dreams, significant life events, mentors, spiritual journeys. Celestial streaks punctuated our colloquy. All was well with the world.

Rob left to drive the 33 miles back to Moab, and I was again staring at the display that waxed and waned and startled and calmed. I roused myself often in the next four hours for multiple doses of the Perseids, and when the eastern sky began losing its darkness an hour before sunrise, I called it a night. Not just any night — the best night of my summer. The best Perseids of my life.

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