Saturday, August 11 was supposed to be a perfect night to view the annual Perseid meteor shower. I debated where to go to watch the sky light up, while also being close enough to Ann Arbor, a city about an hour south of me, to attend a production of West Side Story with my aunt and out-of-town cousins.
But what was the perfect location?
Why, the farm where my mom grew up; the place I, as a kid, hung out in barns playing with the farm cats, or pretended to drive a tractor down the lane, while sitting on my uncle’s lap.
I have so many special memories of the farm and my grandparents, my aunt and uncle, my cousins.
So I was grateful to get permission to camp Saturday and Sunday nights near the back of the farm, in what used to be the orchard. Today it’s a beautiful mowed area with a mulberry tree, beautiful oak trees and a couple of very old pear trees, heavy with fruit. The whole area is surrounded by soybean fields, giving me long vistas to watch the sky.
If only the sky would cooperate. I had high hopes as I watched the sun set behind a neighboring barn.
Saturday night I saw one meteor, just as I stuck my head out of the tent about 11:00 p.m. I set up the camera and messed with the settings for a bit.
Behind me I could hear thunder. Above me the sky was rapidly becoming cloud covered, the weather front directly overhead.
I ducked back into the tent moments before the first rain hit, and then listened as the storm wound up to pouring rain and gusty winds. At one point I considered running for the car, but figured I’d get soaked just getting out of the tent.
The storm pushed away around 1:30 in the morning and I settled in to sleep. No more sky watching for the rest of that night.
Sunday morning was damp with fog. Everything was dripping but the sunrise was pretty.
I spent the day with visiting cousins, catching up, enjoying meals, and the production of West Side Story.
By early evening I was heading back to my camp hoping for a re-do of the night before. It turns out they had rain while I was gone, and steam was rising up from the ground while water dripped from the trees. A little after 9 p.m. I could see ground fog coming my way across the soybean fields. Soon my entire campsite was surrounded in white mist.
Still, the sky seemed clear.
I tried again, but the fog and lights from the city made most of the stars disappear. Mostly what was visible was a planet to the south. So I worked with that for a little bit and then tucked myself into my tent and slept the rest of the night listening to the night noises.
Monday morning arrived dripping wet. I wandered down the lane toward the barns I remember so well. It was early and I didn’t want to disturb the tenants living in the old farmhouse.
I quietly walked through the wet grass remembering playing in the corn crib, remembering the pigs streaming out of the barn doors, remembering where there once was a watering trough, a fence. A gate.
So many memories.
No I didn’t see a lot of meteors shooting across the sky, just three total over the two nights. But that’s alright. As I packed up the soggy tent and headed home, I was grateful for the connection to my mom on her birthday, and grateful for two nights on the farm.
A big thanks to my cousin for graciously allowing me to camp in the old orchard of the farm he now owns. Thanks to him, too, for keeping the farm in the family and preserving so many memories for all of us.
The whole experience was priceless.