OPINION: Cow Catcher Collection
Tuesday, August 21, 2012 4:44 AM
At 2:30 a.m. my alarm went off, and not even blinking an eye, I leaped out of bed, boots on the ground.
By 3 a.m. I was at the drive-up window at Jack in the Box, grabbing two large coffees to go.
At 3:20 I picked up Sherry in San Jose, tossed her the keys, and we were on our way to the mountaintop.
Before 4 a.m. we craned our necks up to the dark sky on the other side of the mountains and saw more stars than you can shake a stick at.
The Lick Observatory on Mt. Hamilton was only a couple peaks away, but we trusted God and the naked eye to deliver the spectacular show. And we were not disappointed.
Venus rested just over the mountain peak behind us, lined up just below a slice of crescent moon. We connected the dots of stars up and eastward and suddenly were rewarded with flash of light hurtling across the sky. And then another dropped from a slightly different direction. The Perseid meteors put on a fantastic show.
The hood of my car felt so hot it almost burned a whole in my jeans, and I was all bundled up with my Spring Grove Soda Pop green hoodie inside my black leather jacket.
Suddenly, we heard footsteps in the brush along the road's fence line. We dug in our pockets and whipped out small flashlights, shining them into the brush only to see a pair of eyes gleaming at us.
Our first thought was mountain lion. Alum Rock County Park lies below this range of peaks and mountain lion warnings had been posted last Friday, the sighting reported and displayed on a placard at the creek-side bridge.
We have these ambivalent feelings about mountain lions. We'd love to see one, as long as it's far across some valley, but our early morning and late evening hikes are probably at the very worst times for their prowls.
I count on my leather jacket making me less edible and more willing to fight back like a pit bull if ever attacked.
The ranger postings tell us to stand erect as possible, never turn heel and run, and fight back. The eyes were two close together to be a large mammal, so we reasoned it was only a skunk or raccoon.
We returned our gaze to the heavens. In the vicinity of Jupiter we saw another plunging meteor. I quickly considered the distance that we were observing and the time it took for the traces of light to reach us, grateful that I am not a math major or astronomer.
I see nature through a different paradigm than science, anyway, and what I observed was the majesty and grandeur of God's creation.
We should have caught the show the night before, but we saw at least seven meteors before the universe shifted again.
We started the car and drove down the road a spell, along the vast canyons of the open range.
Higher and higher we climbed until we had a spectacular view of Calaveras Reservoir far below.
We parked the car and trespassed out on the mountainside to watch the sunrise over the eastern range.
A hawk perched in a tree nearby. A hummingbird woke up and puzzled at his unfamiliar companions. A ground squirrel scurried around a fence post. And a falcon dived into the thick range grass in pursuit of prey.
By the time our morning adventure was over, I gladly paid the opportunistic cost of driving in thick six-lane rush-hour traffic north back home to Mountain View with snarled traffic jams of techies pulling off on Shoreline Boulevard going to work at Google headquarters.
And somehow all my cares seemed so insignificant and small, and my heart overflowed with gratitude for the mystery of life.