A Late Winter Night

A ten percenter with no thoughts of electioneering whatsoever.  The clouds obscure just enough to make the crescent partly a witch’s doing; partly an act of wind, humidity, and ravens.  I shivered.  It is too cold to sit on the steps and attempt to take a picture.  I could go get the tripod for the needed stillness, but one cloud or another works against me and the only bit of sureness comes from the left.  Sirius went away, obscured by clouds, in the few minutes I had stood there.  The next skirmish line of the meteorological oscillation known as El Niño is on the way.

Sirius is that low?  Vernal equinox is next week–next Saturday at about 9:30 p.m. PDT here in the Pacific Northwest.  It doesn’t seem that long ago that the excitement over finding the Pleiades before midnight caused Kathy to come running in to say “they’re back!”  They, in this household, are the Seven Sisters–we once knew all seven names–hot blue bits of brilliance barely a 100 million years old, projected to vanish in another 250 million years.  They, the Seven Sisters of Greek mythology, are Sterope, Merope, Electra, Maia, Taygeta, Celaeno, and Alcyone, along with their parents, Atlas and Pleione form the nine brightest stars of the Pleiades.

A more romantic and imaginative name is Messier 45, or, simply, M45.

Photo: Jimmy Westlake--steamboattoday.com
Photo: Jimmy Westlake–steamboattoday.com

Equinox approaches and The Pleiades, Orion, and Sirius will vanish from our night sky. Other years would have found us going to Oregon’s high desert, to a place with no lights for one last night sky show.  We might have found the same dirt road twice.  We don’t know.  We know that night, ‘long about midnight, one of us would raise the tent flap and check for a clear sky–then wake the other with the whispered, “They’re out.”  Layers would be pulled on.  The tent had been pitched with south in mind.  A blanket, folded and placed near the flap was spread on the cold sand.  Some giggling ensued.  On a cold desert floor with no real need for binoculars but some pointing, as if to assure identification of, and connection to, the ‘Sisters, then to Orion, then to Sirius.

A hundred million years ago.

Only 250 million years to go.

Sterope, Merope, Electra, Maia, Taygeta, Celaeno, Alcyone, Atlas, and Pleione–each pointed to and acknowledged as old bones grow cold on a late winter’s night somewhere southeast of Bend.

———– Run gently out there ———-

One thought on “A Late Winter Night

  1. John,
    I like your story. When I see the Pleiades, I think of another story. What I see in the night sky is Orion and his dog playing. The dog is leaping, and the Pleiades is the stick that Orion has thrown for his dog — the stick is arcing across the sky. A story probably nearly as old as humans and dogs, but not as old as the stars.
    Tom N
    SW Idaho

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