Most of the time, I view my life as a line, from my birth in 1964 to my death, which is in the hopefully distant future. Major events line up like falling dominos in between. I often believe that my own actions and choices determine how future dominos will fall.
In mid-August, however, I am reminded that I am merely a passenger on a huge spinning ball that is hurtling around the sun. For a couple days of its yearly journey, the Earth passes through a sizeable patch of space dust. Little bits of dust fall towards Earth's atmosphere. Friction with Earth's atmosphere creates a flash of light, and we see a falling star. Because these meteors seem to originate near the constellation Perseus, the mid-August meteor shower is called the Perseid.
Our family often goes camping around the time of Perseid shower, to avoid the fog and lights of the Bay Area. One of our favorite places is Grover Hot Springs State Park, which is just east of the Sierra crest. We take the sleeping mats from our campsite and lie down in a huge meadow surrounded by pine trees. We ooh and ahh as we do for 4th of July fireworks.
Last year, we didn't visit Grover Hot Springs because I attended my 30-year high school reunion in rural Colorado. The weekend was hard for me because my career hadn't gone as I had envisioned. The last event of the reunion was an outdoor taco party. Every couple minutes, a falling star would streak across the cold mountain sky. A couple margaritas released my science teacher persona. I explained to classmate after classmate that we had journeyed through this same region of space debris every August for 30 years. Walking back to our condo, I thought that I could not foresee the next domino drop and that my life isn't a straight line anyway. It's a series of circles drawn by the orbit we all travel through the cosmos.
And every August all I need is a fog-free sky to get a glimpse of it.
With a Perspective, I'm Beth Touchette.
Beth Touchette works as a science educator and writer.