Comet II

Well, this was sort of what it was like . . .

The first time we heard of the Hale-Bopp comet, it flashed at us from the cover of an international edition of Time Magazine in Cairo. George bought it and devoured the details of this newest miracle in our Spring skies. "Easy to see," they said, and the time to see it was now. We spent hours peering through the velvety Egyptian night, the thought of actually experiencing the comet in this ancient place keeping us on task. Alas, it was not to be.

But the night we left Spain for Geneva the moon was just a thin sliver (God’s toe nail, I used to tell the girls). As we moved through the dark Spanish and French countryside I remembered Hale-Bopp and began searching. It didn’t take long to find my reward.

From my journal: All around its main body were little dancing stars. Its tail was most visible when glanced sideways. It seemed to glow with a pulse, like the end of a cigarette getting a deep drag. As we twisted and turned through the mountains I’d lose it and the find it again. For over two hours I watched through the darkened bus, the darkened countryside. I woke Cassidy to show her and she alerted George and Sam. The rest of the bus was oblivious. I almost hated them for it.

A year ago, back in Alaska I had searched the skies for the Hyakutake Comet, appearing near my 48th birthday and guiding my annual contemplation of life to mystic and daring climes. That one was hard to find without a good telescope, but still impressive for its rarity.

But Hale - Bopp, like so much else in our lives now, was clear and beautiful and simple–but ignored by so many. Things that are truly important come easier now. We have disconnected from our fears, and connected with each other and the people we meet.

An odd symmetry, these two comets punctuating our lives. Or do we always have Spring comets and I just haven’t noticed? No matter. There is more to come I’m sure. Hale-Bopp’s journey is not over, and neither is ours.

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