Perseids

deer ears

RRRRrrr rrRRRrrr rrrRRRrrr. The incessant grinding noise emitted by my computer was making it almost impossible to concentrate on anything. Some days it went away after a few hours of operation, but not yesterday, and by 10:30 p.m. I’d had enough. I shut the computer down, went outside, and saw two meteors, one right after another, as I stood there with my fly down, flapping my free hand in the direction of a mosquito’s whine. Some nights, if I didn’t have to pee, I might not step outside at all.

And it’s not often we get clear weather during the Perseids. I reminded myself that one of the last times times we did, I ended up writing a poem about it (note the urination theme). On that occasion, I was actually lucky enough to hear the meteor as it fell — a rare and mysterious phenomenon supposedly caused by very low-frequency (VLF) radio waves that are picked up by objects in one’s vicinity. “Simple materials like aluminum foil, thin wires, pine needles — even dry or frizzy hair — can intercept and respond to a VLF field.”

So I got up early this morning and sat out in the field with my coffee mug, watching the stars fade as the small stain of light slowly spread above the eastern ridge. It was good to get reacquainted with Orion, standing roughly where he’ll appear at nightfall in January, and the Pleiades high overhead like a lucky ring found hiding under the sofa cushions. It’s a little sad to sit outside at dawn this time of year and not hear any wood thrushes — or most any of the other exhuberant singers from just a couple of weeks ago.A screech owl quavered a few times, but otherwise it was still, and cool enough to keep the mosquitoes from flying. And in all that time I only saw a single meteor, and that one only out of the corner of my eye.

But it has been too long since I’ve done any stargazing, I decided. Usually about all I remember to do is wake up early on mornings when the moon is full, and even then I tend to sit close to the house. Getting away from the trees when the sky is dark and very clear, I am reminded of the ultimate strangeness of reality — something I often lose track of with all the comforts and minor dramas of daily life. When I got back to the house, I thought perhaps I might have a poem in me, but instead I found myself fetching a screwdriver and opening up my computer.

I knew what the problem was: the slow death throes of the old hard drive from my previous computer, which my cousin Jeff had mounted alongside the new hard drive when he gave me this good-as-new recycled computer a few months back. He had told me it wouldn’t be hard to disconnect it, and it wasn’t. It took me less than ten minutes to perform the lobotomy and close the box back up. I turned it on with much trepidation, but lo and behold, my operating system came up without a hitch — and in blessed silence.

Later in the morning, I walked down the road to unlock the gate at the bottom of the hollow for an expected visitor. Mosquitoes were singing in both ears — the first real hatch we’ve had all summer, thanks to the recent rains. I surprised a doe and her half-grown fawn in the stream, and they bounded up the opposite side of the ravine and stopped, watching warily as I continued on my way, their big ears backlit by the sun and revolving slowly, like dish antennae tracking a distant signal.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave's writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the "share alike" provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

8 Comments


  1. I saw a very bright meteor on the last drive up here, and the other night, sitting on our porch when there was still daylight, J. saw another one – that one must have been really bright. Glad you got outside at night, Dave. I miss the stars a lot when I don’t see them for a while, and for some reason it’s comforting to know they don’t miss me either way. I rather like their total disregard.

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  2. Yes, exactly. It’s a more powerful dose of the same vibe one gets from being in a wilderness.

    Tonight is supposed to be the height of the meteor shower, but I’m not sure how clear it’ll be – we have thunderstorms in the forecast.

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  3. Your photograph shows something of this morning’s unusual sparkle.

    I enjoyed this journal entry and the wonder of it all. (Nice ending, as always.)

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  4. Meteors, mosquitoes, hard drives, and deer…I’m trying to work out the connection. Maybe it’s that they/we are all part of Being, linked neither more or less closely than two stars in the same sky that are millions of lightyears apart. It seems to come together in the ending, as Peter implies.

    That’s wonderful about hearing a meteor.

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  5. Everything’s a-buzz for you! For all the meteors I’ve been fortunate to see, I’ve never heard one. Didn’t know it was possible!

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  6. Richard: I suspect sound, with the deer’s ears providing their link. Hearing meteors, yeah that’s pretty wild!

    Dave: When a hard drive starts making (non-trivial) noise, I generally figure it’s time to toss the thing, as that really is “death throes”. Similarly, back in college I learned that a disk with 10% bad blocks will soon have 100% bad blocks. (That many bad blocks suggests a platter scratch — with continued use, the damage will spread across the disk.)

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  7. Sunday night, I stepped outside to see if there were any breaks in the clouds. There was just one small open patch directly overhead. Seconds after I looked up, a meteor streaked across the open patch. I waited a few minutes, but that was the only one I saw.
    In the past, I’ve seen quite a few meteors, some of which seemed to descend nearby. I’ve heard about 3 or 4. A couple had greenish tails and even seemed a bit like flares…sort of wiggly as they neared the ground. They made a pffffffttttt sound like plunging something hot into water (as you’ve described). I’ve also heard a sound like high-pitched chimes or breaking glass while watching the aurora on cold nights. An Inuit poet that I met about a decade ago mentioned that sound too. It’s pretty neat to have the sight and sound together — feels all the more magical.
    Beautiful photo of your nemesis deer.

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  8. Hi all – Thanks for the kind remarks.

    David – Yes, and fortunately I had already made the transition to a new hard drive and managed to avert disaster, thanks to my cousin Jeff.

    Bev – Sunday night/Monday morning was definitely the height of it. A neighbor of mine went up to Cherry Springs State Park in northern PA, which supposedly has the darkest skies in the northeastern US, and was amply rewarded – two meteors per minute, he said.

    I hadn’t heard that about the aurora – fascinating. Of course, living where I do, I’d be happy just to see the northern lights once in a while.

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