Tuesday, November 9, 2010

falling, but not stars

I wrote this mini essay today for my creative nonfiction class. que lo disfruten!

Shooting stars are not really stars at all. That’s probably pretty close to common knowledge, but it’s still a bit disillusioning to me. I mean, when you see a shooting star, it’s rather romantic to think that you’re actually witnessing the death of a star, whose last dying breath left a fiery flash on your corneas. A falling star is just a meteor, and a meteor is just a flash of light visible against the dark canvas of night when a meteoroid enters Earth’s atmosphere. Meteoroids in space aren’t nearly as exciting; they are simply floating rocks kicking around, idly orbiting the sun. We only become interested in them when they cross into our realm—and because they usually create an opportunity to make a wish, we delight in them and check the internet to see when the next meteor shower will occur. Well, at least I do. When meteoroids cross the threshold into our atmosphere, frictional heat causes the visible trail of fire, and the meteoroid is usually burned up on the way down. Sometimes meteoroids survive the trip, and the ones that actually hit the ground are called meteorites, which are rare enough to be something of a phenomenon when they occur.

I’m pretty sure I saw a meteorite survivor once. A few years back, my friend Allison and I were lying on the trampoline in my parents’ backyard, watching a meteor shower. My two younger sisters, who were also with us, had fallen asleep awhile ago, and Allison and I were chatting and watching the sky, our conversation interrupted occasionally with an exclamation of look!! There’s one! Or wow! Did you see that one? We didn’t often see the same falling meteoroids, because we were typically looking at opposite sides of the sky. The meteor shower eventually died down and we began to drift off, still talking, until a bright falling star—the brightest one I’ve ever seen—shot across the sky close to the western horizon. We both saw that one and it killed our conversation midsentence as we both exclaimed WHOOOAAAA!!!! Usually falling stars burn out in less than a second, but this one seemed to linger for several seconds, and it left us speechless and wondering if somewhere a large chunk of rock was hurled like a curveball into the waiting ground. It’s like God was playing baseball, and this was the foul ball, the one that got away.

Humans are so small. I close my eyes and think of everything outside Earth’s atmosphere, how Earth is like a tiny speck of sand in the Sahara, how God directs the planets and solar systems and galaxies together like one unfathomably gigantic orchestra. We barely notice the things that go on outside our own little allotment of space, and it takes something falling to earth, a bright flash and a fiery tale, to capture our attention. Still, these bright flashes spark curiosity, and humans send up satellites and space stations and try to photograph and record and find out something about what lies beyond. But how little we know.

Yes, it makes me feel small, but there’s a small part of me that still feels important. God cared enough about us, tiny atoms inside the speck of sand in the Sahara, to create this world for us. He allows us to experience the births and marriages and deaths, events so monumental to us and yet microscopic to him. We sit and watch falling stars, that are not really stars at all, and every once in a while, something hits home. And we wonder how our lives can be both microscopic and paramount, if and how God really knows us, and how we fit into the vast multitude of organized space. And the meteors fall.


jessica renae said...

i lauve this one. quite a lot :)
mini essays are my favorite... when's the next falling star shower?? ;)

Allison said...

L O V E D T H I S !

Curt and Ronda said...

I LOVE this essay! Especially the very last line.

Lori said...

Great essay, I loved it!!

Gaviota said...

WOW! Mis dos frases favoritas: "whose last dying breath left a fiery flash on your corneas" y "It’s like God was playing baseball" Excelentes imágenes!