Last night we let the kids stay up past their bedtimes to watch the Perseid Meteor Shower. My parents live in a rural area, so we were able to see more stars than our home in the city. We brought out chairs and blankets, popcorn and fake m&m’s. The air was warm still from our hot afternoon, but we wore long sleeves to protect from mosquitoes. Every so often we would see a shooting star go over our heads, some just brief glints on the edge of our vision, others long tails that lingered above us. We oohed and aaahed as we relaxed, full of wonder, under the stars.
I remember other times of stargazing throughout my life. Once when I was a young teen we were down on the Rogue River at one of our favorite campsites. The campground was sheltered in old growth forest, but across the river was a cow pasture. We would go over there on a clear evening and lay back (carefully!) to gaze at the heavens. We were so far away from any city; there weren’t even any small towns around for miles and miles. The sky was completely dark, in between vast numbers of stars shining down on us. I remember that feeling of awe, just trying to comprehend the vastness of space.
Another time, we went camping out in the Salmon Le Sac area with a bunch of friends. Gabriel was 3 years old. During the night, Aaron and I couldn’t sleep, so we got out of the tent and sat outside by the river. It was another of those clear summer nights, and the stars were brilliant. We weren’t keeping track of whether it was time for the Perseids or not, but apparently we caught the best part of the show. Stars were falling all around us, it seemed, lighting up the sky. It was a delightful surprise, and we went back to the tent an hour later and finally managed to sleep.
Spending time together as a family, finding things in nature that give us something to contemplate, something to wonder about, something bigger than we are – these are accessible to everyone, no matter where you live. Give your children experiences like this, and they will remember them through their whole lives.
It’s not too late to see the Perseid Meteor shower, though the number of meteors peaked last night. For more geeky science info about the show, click over to http://www.amsmeteors.org/2012/08/viewing-the-2012-perseid-meteor-shower/. For some more tips about having a star gazing party, go to the Barren River Imaginative Museum of Science web page (amazing what you can find on Google, isn’t it!) Were you and your family able to get out and see the stars last night? Do you have any fond memories of watching stars? Share them with me in the comments!