Silent night (stars are bright)

At 2 AM on Friday, I looked at my friends and said “this is a night that we’ll still remember when we’re ninety years old.” And we will, in the best possible way.

On Thursday night,we had an impromptu Christmas party. Just a few of us, classmates from my masters program, all gathered at my friend David’s house for snacks and wine and a round of a (staggeringly inappropriate, ridiculously fun) game called Cards Against Humanity. I can’t explain this game to those who haven’t played it, except to say that it’s like Apples to Apples, but wrong. Play it only with those you know well, and with a sense of humor.

And then we went outside to watch the meteor shower. Thursday night was the peak of the Geminid shower, an annual event that some speculate is getting brighter each year. I think that’s been true across my lifetime – Thursday night was the best I’ve ever seen. Four of us piled blankets and coats and hats into the car (Thursday night was well below freezing) and drove out to Maple View Farm to get away from the city lights. Maple View is our favorite summer hangout for rocking chairs and ice cream. Thursday night, the field beside the ice cream shop was full of like minded North Carolinians, mostly youngish folks in pairs and groups, with blankets like ours, laughing and talking and watching the night sky. Such a community we get to be a part of – I love it. So we curled up on and under blankets, in what amounted to a four person sleeping bag, and huddled together for warmth as we watched the sky. We saw meteors every minute, streaking across the sky, trails of light so fast and bright and miraculous, the sky dark and clear in the absence of the moon. (That was part of what made this year’s shower so spectacular – a cold clear night with a new moon makes for excellent stargazing). The only thing obstructing my vision was the clouds of my own breath floating skyward in the cold. We saw several fireballs, moving bigger and brighter and slower across the sky, the only ones we could point to and say “look!”, in contrast to the blink-and-you’ve-missed-it meteors. As we lay in that field, we talked about faith and miracles and life and death and nature and beauty and everyday life. Wedged between two of my best friends on earth, snug beneath blankets on a cold winter night, gazing skyward as meteors lit up the sky was one of the happiest nights of my life.

The last few days in the news have been unspeakable. We live in a world of meteor showers and school shootings, a world simultaneously full of beauty and love and darkness and heartbreak. We suffer. I don’t have an answer to that, except to say that life is so short, and so tenuous. Blink and you’ll miss it. I think we have to love the people around us fiercely, and grab on to the meteor shower moments. Grieve, but also celebrate all of the good and the beautiful and the miraculous, because we cannot lose sight of what matters. What matters to me right now – the thing that I hold on to in the midst of the darkness – is a blanket full of friends on a cold clear night full of stars.

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