Every November, when Earth is hurled through a section of space that has an especially high volume of debris, the Leonid meteor shower occurs. The debris slams into our atmosphere and creates shooting stars as it burns. A meteor shower can feel like a sporting event if you’re with the right people — only you’re rooting for natural phenomena, and no one loses. With so many exciting explosions and the ability to bring people together, I wonder why meteor showers aren’t more widely celebrated.
I propose we reschedule school and work calendars to include holidays for this sort of natural event. In many ways, these days are better than celebrating people who may or may not have killed other people or holy days that not all of us partake in. There are no exclusions and no bad feelings associated with a natural phenomenon. There is no glorified violence. Isn’t this what indigenous people the world over did before we stole their holidays and relabeled them with religious names they had never heard of?
What if the university gave out free coffee because they knew everyone had been up late the night before, like they do during finals week? What if it were an official holiday every time it snowed for the first time, or every time a solstice rolled around?
I invited friends, but only one was willing to give up sleep. Another friend said he’d wake up at 2 a.m. and look out the window. I told him it doesn’t quite work like that. For a meteor shower, you have to be committed. You have to be prepared to see the best show of your life or just a few shooting stars here and there. It takes patience.
If I had been impatient or had valued sleep over experiencing natural phenomena in 2001, I would have missed one of the most amazing experiences of my entire life: sky-length meteors, sometimes two or three at a time, fireballs that exploded and left lasting colored streaks in the sky. I don’t remember what classes I was too tired for in the morning or what homework I was avoiding. You don’t remember the little things when a major event like that happens.
I am not a sports person, but when the 76ers made it to the NBA finals, I walked my dog in the evening and could hear shouts erupt from each house every time our team scored a goal. People invited each other over to watch the game, rooted for their team and cheered at every shot. Even I was excited, and I knew nothing about basketball. They say shared events are what make a community strong. I think Mother Nature could use a few more fans cheering for her.
There was a bit of a sporting event feel early Tuesday morning. From the field where we were watching the sky, my friend and I could hear people in the parking lot, exclaiming when they had seen one or cursing at what they had missed. I immediately felt a bond to them. We had something in common: We were rooting for the same team. Later, when I walked down the street alone, looking to the sky for a few extra sightings, I ran into two other people who were doing the same thing. We chatted. We stood in silence. We ooh-ed and ah-ed together. With such a great excuse to build community, we only wished more people could have been outside with us.
I wanted to be able to tell all my sleeping friends how many meteors they had missed, but I lost count the second I decided to keep track. We must have seen a good 50 or so in two hours. One even lit up the sky and left a trail, like Mother Nature’s homemade fireworks. People shouldn’t miss events like this. If enough of us get out there next year, we can show the university the day after the Leonids meteor shower should be declared an official holiday. I’d be all for exchanging it for Columbus Day, if that’s what it came to.
Anya Rose is a graduate ecology and environmental student.