Daily Affirmation

The best things in life are free.
The second best are very expensive.
- Coco Chanel

Monday, October 22, 2012

Catch A Falling Star

This weekend was kind of special.  Many of you may have been aware that there was an Orionid meteor shower putting on a show in the night sky, with the best viewing time set for early Sunday morning between the hours of 1:00am and 5:00am.  Special events of the starry kind always get me excited.  I get it from my dad, who (as I've mentioned before) has an almost child-like curiosity about everything, and most especially events that have to do with solar or star displays.  Many times these occurrences are rare happenings, and such was the meteor display this weekend.  It won't happen again for several decades, which leaves the chance of my dad or me seeing it in the future virtually nil.

L casually mentioned that we should go out to the desert to see it, so I researched different locations that might be good viewing spots.  I got the idea of taking my dad with us, and couldn't shake it.  I just knew he'd want to go and see it.
As luck would have it (and I've been PRAYING for cooler weather, so I can only blame myself) the clouds and fog began to roll into Southern California at the end of the week.  Everywhere I looked from the coast to the mountains was going to be cloudy and overcast during the meteor shower.  We could have gone to Bakersfield, but that's really far, and really, no one wants to go to Bakersfield.  We could have gone to Baker out in the desert, but I couldn't think of a single place to stay there.  Or at least any place where I could sleep without imagining bugs skittering around in the dark.  Ugh.  Baker is a place where you stop for a potty break and maybe a drink while on your way to Las Vegas, but that's it.  No staying overnight.  Las Vegas looked like it would be clear, but again, you'd have to really go out far from those lights to see the ultimate display.  And it's a few hours' drive away - not good for my parents.
Finally, on the Weather Channel website I brought up Palm Desert, and during those early morning hours it was going to be "mostly clear."  It seemed like a good compromise so I called Dad up and asked if he'd like to go.  He sounded excited, yet a little hesitant.  What about his medications?  Would it make him feel worse to lose sleep?  And I understand.  When you're in the middle of chemotherapy, everything is a crap shoot.  He was nervous that he wouldn't be a good traveler, but I reminded him that I have medications I have to bring too, and that I don't like to have my life defined by illness.  I don't want to miss out on special events because I might not feel good.  And he would be with family who would understand all of those factors.  So he threw caution to the winds and got excited.
My mother was less than enthusiastic at first.  But she has a kindred soul in L, who hates all things having to do with morning, and who always takes care that we stay in a place that is clean and pleasant.  We ended up booking rooms at the Holiday Inn Express and they had free breakfast!  That sealed the deal for Dad.  That's another way in which I'm my father's daughter: we both love a good breakfast.  Bacon? Sausage? Eggs? Pancakes? Cinnamon rolls? Juice?  Yes please to all.
I quickly threw some Snickerdoodle dough together and baked them up for the trip (knowing my dad has a famous sweet tooth.  Oh yes...me too.)  They came over to the house at around 5:00 Saturday evening and off we went.  I kept scanning the skies on the way out to the desert and it was cloudy and stormy looking.  But as we drove around the San Jacinto mountains that surround Palm Springs/Palm Desert, the clouds dispersed.  And although it had been 90 degrees that day, the evening was cool and comfortable.  I had to laugh though - at home it was chilly and we all had sweaters on.  Everyone there was running around in shorts and sandals.  During the drive out, Dad kept commenting on how he was enjoying our little adventure and my heart was happy.
We checked in and met back in the lobby to grab a bite to eat.  There was a Panera Bread close by on Highway 111, so we set out and enjoyed sandwiches and salads.  If anyone ever goes there, please notice what a nice staff they have.  They treated my parents with such kind, friendly respect, and they should all be congratulated more than the little bit I gave them.
And then it was back to the hotel and off to bed.  We were going to get up at 3am and head out to a special spot up in the hills on highway 74 that L and I had scouted out.  Amazingly enough I was able to knock right out and didn't wake up until my iPhone alarm started playing the running brook sound, which is my alarm of choice.  Much less jarring than a loud blaring sound.  We met in the lobby and off we went.  I'm sure the desk manager on duty thought we were nuts, but then again, I'm sure they've seen everything.  My mom and L were a little groggy (OK, a lot groggy) but Dad and I were wide awake and ready to go.

This isn't fair.  Mom doesn't usually look like this.  (She will kill me for this picture)  

Normally (when it's not 3am) she looks like this:

See?  She's always been such a pretty mom.

Dad is a lot more chipper in the morning.  He was happy and ready to go.  You'll notice there are no 
early morning pictures of L and me.  You're welcome.

As we headed up into the hills away from city lights, the sky started to fill up with stars and I got excited.  We pulled out a couple of beach chairs we'd brought for Mom and Dad to sit in, made sure everyone was bundled up with enough coats and blankets, and turned our faces skyward.



I wish I could say that we saw hundreds of meteors.  If you were viewing in a clear sky away from city lights it was said you could see between 25 and 30 meteors an hour.  Here is what I was hoping to see:



I wish I could say we saw even several of them.  But we didn't .  We started to notice a fine layer of clouds here and there very high up, and it did affect the show.  It definitely needed more cowbell.
We sat there until 5am - 2 hours -  and all told we saw about 9 meteors.  Most were small, faint, and quick.  Two of them, however, were spectacular, streaking gloriously across the sky, and when they put on their show we got very excited.  When that happened it looked more like this picture, minus the trees. And the house lights.



All in all, it was still beautiful and amazing, and I feel lucky to have seen the ones that we did, considering city lights and the clouds.
But the real show was the family adventure we all had together.  Instead of staying home because it was easier than making an effort, we traveled from our home base, got up at an ungodly hour to sit in the cold darkness together, and sat for 2 hours looking at the stars, making our necks ache.  We laughed.  We talked.  L and my dad pointed out constellations to my mom and me.  We cheered at each meteor (although each person didn't see ALL of them) and at the best two of the night we were reminded of why we'd come.

It was amazing how many cars traveled by that lonely turnout during the hours of 3 and 5am.  A couple of them slowed down to see if we needed assistance, and then quickly sped on when they saw we were fine, just crazy people watching the stars.  I half expected the police to come check us out, but that never happened.  Luckily.  Finally at 5am we decided we'd had enough and we packed it up and started back to the hotel and sweet sleep.  As we drove down the winding road we saw a couple of other cars that were pulled over with their occupants watching the stars.  For some reason (because the show hadn't been all that I'd hoped), seeing other people doing what we'd done made me feel validated, less crazy.  There were other people who had indulged their imaginations as well, wanting to see a cosmic event.
Before we retired to our beds, Dad wanted to make sure we were all meeting for breakfast at 9:00.  I sleepily replied that I wasn't sure if I'd be there and that L most certainly wouldn't be - he is not a breakfast eater.  I could tell he was disappointed.  And wouldn't you know it - I woke up at 7:30, almost exactly when I usually do on a normal day.  I tossed and turned a bit.  I got up and took my meds, and then decided I might as well go down and have breakfast with Mom and Dad.  Bacon was sounding pretty good.
When I knocked on their door I think they were surprised to see me.  We had a good time eating and talking, and Dad was in good spirits talking about our little foray into the night.  Sometimes just breaking routine and doing something different sparks you up a bit.  I know it has that effect on me.  So even though we didn't see quite the beautiful display my imagination was hoping for, we made a memory.  We decided to go for it and take a chance.  And it was fun.  A special memory with my dad I won't ever forget.  Thanks Mom and Dad for being good sports, and once again indulging my whim.  And to my true companion L - thanks for realizing how important this little adventure with my Dad meant to me.  It was such a special time scanning the heavens and marveling at it's vastness.  We were small and insignificant, yet inspired to achieve great eternal heights all at the same time.  An ordinary weekend spontaneously transformed into a nocturnal adventure spent viewing nature's fireworks, (or in our case, nature's sparklers with a couple of spectacular fireworks slipped in for fun).  Filed away in memory as one of the best weekends ever.

15 comments:

  1. This was a fantastic idea, karen. You summed it up so well in the last paragraph that I hardly have anything to add. Your adventure reminds me very much of that scene in Close Encounters of the Third Kind in which the chosen ones gathered on a hillside on the outskirts of town to watch the light show as alien spacecraft whizzed by. I am so proud of you guys for stretching outside the comfort zone and going for the gusto. As you pointed out the four of you participated in a unique bonding experience that produced happy memories you'll cherish the rest of your lives.

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  2. It wouldn't have mattered if you hadn't seen one meteor. Your parents would have loved you for the effort. What a fabulous adventure.

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  3. Oh what an endearing story! You made a wonderful memory that you can look back on forever ... and smile. What a fun family time!

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  4. I do love a good adventure and when breakfast and Panera are involved it has to be great! I'm so glad you made this special memory with your parents. Remember when it was them making the special memories for you? I do hope you made some special wishes on those shooting stars...I can just imagine what they would be. Your Mom and Dad are a handsome couple..even at 3am!

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  5. What a terrific time! Just being together with family would have been worth the effort, and that some great meteors got thrown in, too, well that's the icing on the cake.

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  6. Aw, this made me happy! I can see Grandpa really enjoying this. This is also the kind of stuff my dad would love. And yes, Grandma is usually very pretty. :)

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  7. Pretty sweet memory to create! Saturday night I noticed what I thought were a cluster of stars in the sky and now I am wondering if it's part of that whole show. Certainly nothing spectacular - but the important thing is the time spent with your parents. Good on ya!

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  8. I loved reading this post! Nothing feels better than getting out of our routine and enjoying the small moments with the people that mean the most to us. I'm glad you went on this little adventure!

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  9. My favorite part is the memory aspect of this. It will get better the farther away it is from now. What a great idea, and I'm glad you got to share it with your folks.

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  10. Do you remember when I was in Hawaii and we watched shooting stars together over the phone? And yes, grandma is going to kill you for posting that pic, lol.

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  11. You are a neat daughter.

    =)

    PS. You were so close to my mom's house. Hope she never finds out or she won't let you hear the end of it!
    ;)

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  12. I truly enjoyed this story and the fact that it is true makes it extra special. No one can take this sweet memory from you. Time spent with your family in such a special situation is something you will hold onto and treasure.

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  13. Do you know that we were going to watch the show, but totally forgot!! I cannot imagine why you didn't come and stay with us!!!!!! We have two guest rooms and would have been so happy to have had you here. We usually just go out in our back yard and lay on our fold down chairs. Oh my gosh, I still cannot believe you were just a couple of blocks from my house. If you had only known that we are listed in the phone book, you could have called. I am upset that we forgot , but saddened that you didn't think to call us. You could have gotten our phone number from Sue too. She is right, I was yelling so loud when I read that you were right here, that Dick had to come in to see what was the matter. I read your blog to him. Well, at any rate, you did have a lovely weekend and I'm so glad your mom and dad are none the worse for the travel. You and LaMar will really have to come over yourselves on a weekend. Do remember that we'd love to see you.

    Why the heck could Sue think we would never find out? She knows I read your blog.

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  14. and what a memory....good for all of you. time given to each other is the best!

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  15. Hi Karen,
    I've been away from visiting blogs lately because of my Mom's visit, so I hope you won't mind my late arrival! I loved this post because I was super stoked about the meteor shower too! Elliot and I stayed up until 1 am to view it from our back deck. We saw a total of four, two of which were bright with long tails. It was a wonderful memory that we shared together. I thought it would be easier to stay up late than to wake up early. When we went out, the college kid who lives in our neighborhood was having an outdoor party, so we listened to Queen and Boston as the stars fell. I'm so glad you shared this memory with your parents.

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