Earthgrazer

We caught the Perseid comet shower alright. I counted thirty-odd shooting stars in the first hour, and I can’t have seen them all. What do you think of when you see a shooting star? I figure it means something is about to happen. That’s what I think.

The night sky in Wadi Rum is really something special. Guide books say that about a lot of things, especially Petra, but I figure you get far more bang for your buck out here under the stars in Wadi Rum. Sure, I’m having to write this at half one in the morning in the stifling heat of my hooded sleeping bag after Andrew complained about the light keeping him up – through he’s still foghorning away away as I write – but I figure this is one of those nights where you have to tell it in the moment, before it’s gone. Gah, but this is unbearable. I’m taking the iPad out. I need a break of fresh air.

My apologies. I fell asleep. Let’s start this again, some four hours later, this time from a cliff a short distance from the camp. Now it’s the starlings making the racket.

By some queer streak of coincidence,some of the most decisive moments of my life to date have been marked by comet showers. I can kind of understand how people used to see them as harbingers of doom. There was a particularly memorable one the night I was chosen to go to Uganda to represent my school, and another the following year on the night before my very last and very best gig with my old Funk Band. I didn’t keep an eye out the last time the Perseid came around – if I remember correctly, I was on bedtime duty – but I remember that the last time I saw a comet shower I had my heart broken. Coincidence? Of course. But I like to believe. There’s that little bit of childish fantasy in all of us. As I reasoned in an earlier post, it’s good for the heart to let go of reason every once in a while and to trust in faith, in whichever form it may take.

After my last comet experience, I wanted a cure. Something to smile about this time. Wadi Rum provided the perfect antidote. I went wandering into the desert a couple of hours after nightfall, not exactly asking myself any deep and meaningful questions as such, but thinking overly hard as I tend to do when I’m alone. I don’t know why I didn’t remember this from visiting the desert castles in the Badia last month, but when you’re alone out in the desert, any emotion you’re feeling gets multiplied fivefold. I was feeling pretty lonely and it got almost unbearable after an hour or so under the stars, beautiful though they might be. It was a bit unnerving, too; dark shapes that became stands of grass in the darkness, and others that didn’t; the blink of a distant flashlight; the patter of feet from somewhere nearby. I think I crossed paths with a fox last night. His footprints were there in the morning, at least.

I found my way back to the sandbank at the edge of the camp to watch the peak of the shower with Daniel and the girls. At six minutes past midnight a single comet blazed brilliant white across the sky to the south, leaving a tail behind it so long and bright that it hung in the sky for a few seconds. One of those ones called earthgrazers, so I’m told, on account of their burning deep into the atmosphere. That was the one worth waiting for. The shining light in the darkness. Yadda yadda, lonely lonely. It was a star worth wishing on though, and I wished with all my heart, that’s for sure.

Standing alone to watch the stars over the desert was intense, and though it wasn’t the most memorable night sky I’ve ever seen (shock, horror, but that award goes to the stars over Bwindi with the red glow of a volcano to the southwest) it is definitely going down as one of my favorite experiences to date. Only next time I go stargazing, perhaps I’ll do myself a favor and won’t go it alone. Highly unlikely, of course, but a man can only hope. BB x

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