Shooting Stars

September 13, 2010

Yesterday afternoon, I watched a grass spider run in and out, in and out of the crevice in the bricks, nervous about my presence but very committed to eating the dinner in the funnel of her web. I think she was afraid I’d take a bite myself. She was fast as lightning and couldn’t make up her mind whether I was friend or foe, which made photographing her somewhat of a challenge. I went through about a dozen exposures to end up with one that was merely acceptable.

When it was dark, Dominic and I sat on the hammock “the wrong way” as he says, sitting in it together and swinging back and forth like a – well, like a swing. We could smell the sweet autumn clematis and I saw a shooting star. It blazed through the leaves of the honey locust for a brief second and then was gone, a flash of arcing white light. Dominic didn’t see it and questioned my veracity first and then my sanity. Because it had been so brief, I began to question it myself. Seeing a shooting star is a rare and unexpected event, always on the edge of “did I just imagine that?” You have a difficult time believing you were that lucky, to be in the right place at the right time and looking in exactly the right spot.

Today was Tony’s 50th birthday. Most people would go out on a tear, have a party, go to Vegas. We celebrated by taking the day off and going to Lake Katherine to walk 5 miles. It was glorious today, in the 80’s and brightly sunny. We wandered around the lake twice, stopping for photographs, inspecting the butterfly garden and the herb garden and climbing the waterfall. Then we got serious and clipped around the path, getting our hearts pumping and becoming hot and sweaty in the process. The turtles were out, the cattails lush and prolific. The ducks barely noticed us.

Later, I tried to dig up some of that invasive plant in the butterfly bed but was distracted by a pair of new visitors to the garden. They were buckeyes, bigger butterflies with violet eyes on their wings. They feed with those wings spread wide open, and once they got used to my presence – and my shadow didn’t fall on them – it very easy to make literally dozens of exposures and to actually get several good ones. I wonder how long they’ll be here as I know we are merely a stop on the way back south. Y’all.

In the great scheme of things, isn’t everything like a shooting star? Tony has been here 50 years which seemed like a long time, until Dominic said, “Dad, you’ve got half your life in front of you.” People work and build and create, and it’s all really just a drop in the bucket. While the earth has been here for 4.54 billion years (give or take a millennium or two), people have been here for just a cosmic blink of an eye, a fraction of a moment, the blaze of a shooting star. And with all of our environmental mischief-making, who knows how much longer people will be here?

Maybe we are more like shooting stars than we realize, arcing into darkness.

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