Waiting for Perseus | Celebrate What's Right With the World
Waiting for Perseus
by Eric Alan
September 1, 2018 - 11:13am

Perseus is my personal Godot. Like Samuel Beckett’s famously absent play character, the Greek hero Perseus—slayer of dragons—has never shown up despite my waiting. Annually I look to the August sky, anticipating the meteor shower named after the constellation that bears his name. Always, the meteor shower peaks in the middle of the night. Always, my good intentions need sleep by then.

Same thoughts every August. Maybe this year, I’ll stay awake! Maybe insomnia will finally pay off! Or maybe 3 a.m. dreams will peacefully pause, just then. Maybe, just maybe is my hope. 

Nope. 

Wait ‘til next year! My rallying cry becomes that of the Chicago Cubs fans, who waited 108 years for their team to win the World Series. Fine. It was so much sweeter when it finally happened. Same with watching meteor showers as with baseball, I presume.

After turning off all house lights, I settle into my reclining, declining deck lounger. (Really going to have to get a new one one of these days. Wait ’til next year!) 

I’m blessed to have a deep moonless sky for the night, with the recent pall of wildfire smoke blown clear by a conveniently timed sea breeze. The smoke may be back tomorrow, but for tonight my lungs, mind and sky are free to breathe.

I settle into the waiting. It’s only ten o’clock, but perhaps a few early meteors will chalk their streaks across my sky. 

Nope. 

I wait and watch for an hour and see no meteors between the Douglas firs that dominate the forest sky here. I see the incredible patterns of constellations, though. What other art is fourteen billion light years across? What a vast masterpiece! I recognize constellations no one else knows: little groupings of stars I’ve given private names, which have deep associations with times in my life, sweet memories all. One particular pair of stars reminds me of one of my dearest friends, back when she was still alive. We named that constellation together under the midnight, in the healing waters of Wilbur Hot Springs, alone with each other and the valley. Every time I see it, I send my love to her across the galaxy, where she rests after cancer visited her for the third or fourth time. 

The crickets also sing. Summer meteor showers not only come from within infinite art—they have a live symphony for accompaniment. It’s never out of tune, and the tune never grows old. They will play it all night, as I wait. They will keep playing it even if I don’t wait. Like the best human musicians, they play what they feel, and not because they need anyone listening.

Weightless remembrance hangs in the air. I recall where I am. The constellations remind me how small all of our troubles are. I remember how many other worlds of possibility exist beyond imagination. I remember how beautiful this world still is. It’s a reminder as constant and beautiful as cricket song. I constantly need it. I’m truly grateful.

I stay awake for a good long while, with the crickets, firs and stars. I write by flashlight, as ideas instead of meteors flash by. There’s one! There’s another! And finally a meteor in the southern sky, briefly visible behind the greatest fir in front of me. Then more ideas. Finally a second meteor, brighter, higher—and closer to the edges of my sleep. Two meteors is all I see, before I find myself waking in my tattered deck chair, knowing I was not able to resist the call of sleep. 

I rise and fall into bed, completely enriched by the waiting and watching. Maybe I’ll finally sleep in. Maybe Sunday morning will be deliciously late in arrival as well. Even sleep is a simple outcome worth celebration—a humble gift from Perseus, who has shown up to slay my dragons after all.

(Thanks to Dewitt for letting me run his wonderful shot of the Meteor Shower!)

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