Curiosity Kept

July 29, 2023 at 4:14 p.m.
Ralph Warner was about 14 years old in this photo taken at his parent's farm near Hayden, Idaho
Ralph Warner was about 14 years old in this photo taken at his parent's farm near Hayden, Idaho Ralph D. Warner

"Never lose a holy curiosity." ~Albert Einstein


Each summer in early August an awe-inspiring astronomical event, one that people can see throughout all of North America occurs. The Perseid Meteorite Group has made its yearly round of the sun and comes again into contact with the earth's atmosphere, resulting in a unique astral display. The first time I witnessed this meteorite shower I was 14 years old, full of half-conceived notions and waiting for something big to happen.

On those warm summer nights while crickets played their magic music and night hawks chased their supper, I often slept in the field on my folks' farm. Wrapped up in a ragged, dusty sleeping bag and chewing on green apples, I would stare at the stars as they changed color and dream that they were sending a special message to me.

One night as I was contemplating the heavens there was a sudden sweep of light, originating in the southeast quarter of the sky and streaking across into the northwest quarter. While I seen shooting stars many times before this one was especially impressive and fully awakened me. As I started to settle back into my sleeping bag another falling star shot across the sky in the same direction as the first; this second one had barely disappeared before another meteor lit up the sky.

These shooting stars were unusual, not only in their size, but in their sound. Most falling stars are simply small silent streaks of light; however, the ones I was watching seemed to be accompanied by a hissing, swishing sound as they traversed the sky. In their wake they left a phosphorescent streamer lasting for several seconds before fading away -- quite often I would see two or three streamers at the same time.

The meteorite storm reached its height at about two AM, with 10 or 15 falling stars in as many minutes. Occasionally an incredibly large meteor would slash the sky, causing me to lie back and rejoice. Perhaps this was the Apocalypse or maybe H.G. Wells' martians were invading the earth. I slept very little that night as I watched those wanderers of space end their voyage with a spectacular rendezvous.

I've seen the Perseid Meteorite Group several times since then and each time it awakens in me a sense of reverence and renews a "holy curiosity" about the wonders of the universe.

Ralph Warner and his wife moved to the Long Beach Peninsula from North Idaho in 1987. They now reside in Ocean Park. 

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