When I sent a text to my friend that the Lyrids were peaking above us at 4am this morning, I did not expect him to offer to watch them. But he did. At 2am, I heard a knock on my door. He had walked the better part of a mile in the cold to meet me at my place. We looked up city pollution maps and decided to take his hatchback and my zero-degree sleeping bag to Case Western’s Valleevue farms in Gates Mills/Hunting Valley, Ohio. I used to work for the farm and this wasn’t the first time I went star gazing there.
We drove 30 minutes and pulled into a dark lot on the edge of a dark, empty field near the Manor House at the farm. My friend had never been to the farm before, but I knew it down to the very trails from all my miles spent there running cross country for Case. We opened the hatchback, laid out my sleeping bag, and stretched out on our backs to get a full view of the sky.
Not much went on. We kept thinking we saw a meteor, but sometimes it was a plane and sometimes it was our imaginations. The peepers were singing in a nearby pond and we listened to branches snap in the dark trees all around us. We fearlessly talked aloud about human inferiority in the dark and how vulnerable sleeping makes us.
Suddenly, it hit 4am. “Is that one!?” my friend shouted, pointing right where my eyes had drawn me as well. I was impressed that he was still awake. We watched as a small orange orb trickled across the sky, painfully slow. Another followed within seconds. Then we waited and waited and counted planes and saw nothing more until we suddenly found ourselves waking up to a soft morning glow and realized it was 6am and the sunrise had begun. We packed up our stuff and headed back to campus.
We didn’t see anything incredible, but there was something completely magical about last night. There wasn’t anything I had to do or anything I had to say, I just had to be, to sit there and marvel at the sky, and my friend was not bored for a minute. I’ve been spending so much time with people who I think are interesting but who would never lay there, staring at a blank sky in the cold with me, fighting sleep. Not only did my friend do that, but he drove me, he made the suggestion to go. It takes a certain kind of friend – of person – to go to those measures.
So what did the Lyrids teach me? First of all, Cleveland is a terrible place to watch meteor showers. But secondly, real friendship and real connections can be had without the parties, the entertainment, and the splitting of a dinner bill. We didn’t need to be drinking or socializing or talking at all. We were in the simplicity of our element, gazing at the stars and absorbing ourselves in our world. It made me realize the kind of person I am and the kind of people I need to seek. Birds of a feather flock together, and children like we watch nature’s TV for free. That is who we are, no bells and whistles, and I love the simple honesty of our existence.