Hey, everyone. Thanks for stopping by. Been one of those days. Ups here, downs there. Just, this and that. I’m sure you know at least part of what I’m not talking about here. What’s worse, I sat here for a good long time, hours and hours, today trying to come up with something to write about. The words just didn’t come. Full moons, super moons, stars, planets, meteors. There’s literally trillions upon trillions of things to write about, yet there wasn’t a lot there. For the year or so I’ve been working on this, there have only a been couple of times when there were no words, and I felt the towering fear of the blank page.
If you’re a writer, too, you know all about this. You wrote yesterday, and it worked well enough, maybe the words poured from your fingers. Today, though, nothing. The tap was dry; you’ll never write again. Writing about the night sky is a peculiar thing. Writing about the thing that gives you the inspiration you need to write, and get through life, sort of seems like a conflict of interest.
This sort of lack of inspiration, this helplessness, happens to everyone, writers or not. I feel it more than I’d like to admit when I’m working on some domestic project, when I’m cooking for my family, or in my parenting. The tank’s sometimes empty.
As my daughter and I drove home from a late gymnastics class this evening, both of us too tired to talk, she pointed to the sky. “Daddy, what’s that?” she asked, as she does sometimes, over the old U2 song, suddenly 30 years old, playing on the stereo. The windows were down, and the car was filled with some of today’s lingering warm air, the smell of drying leaves was even stronger than usual.
“Uh…,” I said, “I think that’s Arcturus.” I wasn’t sure. The roads where we were are curvy and full of leaves, like in an ad for an expensive German performance sedan, and I’m never sure what direction I’m going any given moment, other than it being more-or-less toward or away from my house. It could just as easily have been any star, but the skies were brighter there than anywhere else, so I guessed it was west.
I was lagging behind by a minute or two when we got home. My arms were full of the last of the groceries, school books, and whatever other detritus a grade-schooler manages to collect on a 15-minute drive to a single place and back, as she darted into the house. As I hoisted myself from the car, I heard the front door of the house swing closed, its hydraulic arm softening the slam to a hiss and a thud.
As my feet dragged in her wake, I took a second to look up. Just to look up, not think about what to write, but just look at the sky, the same sky I’d been looking at every night for the last 35 years, the same sky humans have been watching for many thousands more.
The sky was flat, broad and mostly starless. A line of clouds was moving in from the west. Overhead, bats. First one or two, then another couple. It was like watching the stars appear out of nowhere as your eyes adjust to the dark. The more you see, the more you see. I love watching them circle overhead, chasing down their dinner for hours and hours. Before I knew it, it seemed like there were hundreds of them dipping, diving and dodging above my street.
As I stood watching, a very bright object made its way across the sky out of the northwest. Big and bright, and more steady than other things; not flashing like an airplane. It didn’t take long to figure out it was the International Space Station. The ISS is quite a sight. It looks strange and conspicuous. It orbits relatively low to the ground, only about 250 miles, just a bit more than the distance from New York City to Washington, D.C. It somehow gives depth to the sky.
So, I stood, and waved at the three astronauts circling above me, a family tradition from my daughter. I wondered what they were doing; what they were looking at through their windows. Were they drinking Tang, experimenting with Velcro, and eating freeze-dried ice cream? Were they chasing down their dinner? I stared. No, I gaped: bats and space exploration at once. Even on days like these, it’s amazing how the sky can still show you something you haven’t seen.
I’m going to grab a beer, and a couple of cookies, and watch the Moon rise softly into the evening. Thanks for stopping by, and clear skies, everyone.