Thursday, July 13, 2006

Thankful for a Memory, Waiting on the Sky

Tonight, I went to the softball field, to pick up Heather (12) from practice. Tomorrow is her first inter-league All-Star softball game tomorrow night. Lately, Kelly (15) always asks to come along for the ride to the field. For this simply mercy of time together, I am thankful. As we drove across town, an old memory suddenly bubbled up to the surface of my brain.

On July 23, 1995, an unusually bright comet outside of Jupiter's orbit was discovered independently by Alan Hale, New Mexico and Thomas Bopp, Arizona. The new comet, designated C/1995 O1, is the farthest comet ever discovered by amateurs, and appeared 1000 times brighter than Comet Halley did at the same distance. I was fascinated by this, and remember reading about it, and finding out exactly when it would be visible from our town. To me, there is something amazing about comets.

In the car on the way to the ballfield, I turned to Kelly and said, "Do you remember, a long time ago, when you and I climbed to up to the water tower, and waited for the comet to appear in the night sky?" Kelly did remember. We both smiled; Kelly, thinking of her impossibly dorky father, and me, giving quiet thanks for a small moments like these of shared memories, and for the simple grace of the memory itself.

Kelly was about six, as I recall, when we climbed up to the top of the hill with the water tower in our town. It was a fall night, and we waited for dusk to come and kept gazing to the northwest, where the comet would be visible. We waited, and waited. This was in the time when Kelly was far more patient with her science-fan Dad. Sure enough, as the sun went down, we saw the comet in the northwestern sky, low over the hills that border Pasadena.

A comet, possibly formed near Neptune, possibly 4.5 billion years ago. A father and his daughter, standing on a hill in a big city, straining to see the light produced by this comet 4.5 billion years later. I remember talking about how long it took the light from the comet to reach earth.

My heart is strangely warmed with this memory. How is it that I have been so blessed to wait on a hill with a lovely view of Pasadena, with a wonderful six year old, waiting for a comet? All those years ago.

It is all a wonderful mystery to me.

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