by Laurie Hess
I was reading in our local newspaper about the Perseid meteor shower, which will be visible to us this month as the Earth passes through the tail of the Comet Swift-Tuttle. The peak night for viewing the meteor shower was the night of August 12. Unfortunately, it was cloudy at our house that night, so our view was blocked. We will try again this week if the weather cooperates, but the forecast is for thunderstorms.
My best memory of the Perseids was when we saw them at the beach in North Carolina’s Outer Banks one year. We were there with our kids, my parents, and my mother-in-law. It was an outburst year with more meteors flashing through the dark sky than normal, and there was very little light pollution at our remote location. We all sat on the deck of our rented house and watched the spectacular show. My kids probably stayed for at least five minutes. They watched grudgingly, expressed perfunctory awe, then went back to playing video games.
It was the last vacation I ever took with my father, who passed away shortly after that trip.
I have always been fascinated by the night sky. Some of my favorite running memories are the “Full Moon Runs” we used to do with a group of friends. On the night of the full moon, we would gather our flashlights and headlamps and gather at someone’s house after dark.
For some reason, most of these runs occurred in the wintertime. I can remember our feet crunching on the snow as we ran on lightly-traveled country roads through the rolling farm country of Lancaster County, PA. We would gather back at our host’s house for home-made soup and fresh, hot bread after the run, and warm up by filling our bellies with the delicious offerings.
One time, we traveled to a nearby town to attend a Full Moon Run hosted by a local race director. This race director organizes a very popular half marathon held each year in Amish country, which draws many out-of-towners to the area with hot air balloon races, bike rides, kids runs and many other events associated with the race. His Full Moon Run was by invitation for local folks only and was his way of thanking us for supporting the race.
The run began at a church and was advertised as a six-miler, run at about a 10-minute per mile pace. I had a half marathon coming up in two days in State College, PA, and would not typically run that far so close to a race, but wanted to see what the Full Moon Run was all about.
The run was led by a young Amish couple (yes, there are Amish runners), down farm lanes and gravel roads. I thought the pace was somewhat faster than advertised but said nothing (except maybe a grumble to my hubby). The run was really fun. I got to explore a new route, always a joy for me, and meet new people. We chatted with other runners and laughed as our guide got lost, which resulted in us having to traverse a horse pasture along a fence line in the dark.
I have a fairly good sense of direction and could tell that when as we neared what I estimated to be six miles, we were nowhere close to the church we started from. The run turned out to be a nine-mile run at a nine-minute per mile pace. Two days before a half. It was worth it. We gathered afterward at the church for fellowship, snacks and home-made ice cream, which was delicious.
Full Moon Runs aside, most of my night-sky watching has been done in silence and in awe. One of my favorite quotes on the topic is by Mother Theresa. “God is the friend of silence. We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. See how nature — trees, flowers, grass — grows in silence; see the stars, the moon, and the sun, how they move in silence.”
If I think about how much of my life is “noise and restlessness“, I am somewhat abashed. I am a talker, much to my hubby’s chagrin. If you run with me, there are very few silent moments. When I drive in the car, the radio is on; when I am at home, I check social media. I am restless, in constant motion, ready for adventure, especially if that adventure involves movement.
How much better to be silent and waiting, open to hearing God’s voice in the grass, the trees and the stars like Holy Mother Theresa. God can only make his voice heard if I can quiet the world around me and my own restless spirit.
All of my best writing ideas come to me from silence. I do my best thinking there. Oh, I may find inspiration anywhere, even in the midst of a race or through conversation, but to fully explore that idea, to look in all of its corners and peek under its rugs, to find the full truth of the concept requires silence.
I have begun the practice of sitting quietly and reflecting for 10 minutes each day. It is a Herculean task, harder for me than running a marathon. I have promised myself that I will not fidget; I will not squirm. For 10 minutes each day, I sit quietly and invite God into my heart. Ten loooong minutes.
So far, there have been no big revelations, no magic, but I have had 10 minutes of peace each day. I have learned to be comfortable with silence, at least 10 minutes worth, less than 1% of the time in a day. Maybe if I keep practicing, God will gradually reveal Himself to me, like he did to Elijah on Mount Horeb in that “small, still voice“. Maybe the 10 minutes of tranquility each day ismy epiphany. God knows what He is doing; I am in the dark.
I get the feeling that night sky moments may be my best opportunity to find silence. Autumn is coming. Bundling up in a jacket, stepping out on the deck and quietly contemplating the heavens is appealing. Ten minutes. The quote from Donald Miller says it best – “There is something beautiful about a billion stars held steady by a God who knows what He is doing.”
Laurie Hess is a mother of three adult sons and grandmother of three grandsons who has been married to a kind and supportive husband for over 40 years. A former chemistry teacher, Laurie now spends much of her time training for and running marathons and trail races, which gives her ample opportunity to ponder the wonders of the universe. She blogs at Meditations in Motion. You can connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.
This piece first ran here.
This post first ran here.