"How to avoid Pleurisy: Never make love to a girl named Candy on the tailgate of a half-ton Ford pickup during a chill rain in April out on Grandview Point in San Juan County, Utah!"
- Edward Abbey
I'm not saying that the night sky as viewed from the northeast Heber foothills is as luminous as the ones that hang out above Chaco Canyon in northern New Mexico or the Sonoran Desert between Santa Ana and Hermosillo, but there are those nights when it seems like you can see deep enough back into space-time to the exact moment when Helium first joined Hydrogen on the periodic table.
Of course, a shot or two of Evan Williams, Ed Abbey's longtime bourbon of choice, beforehand, does seem to clarify matters. Putting on one's game-face is quite important when dipping one's toe into the pool of astronomical reflection and there's not much out there that can surpass the instant enlightenment brought on by the chemical reaction of a good cheap whiskey upon the tongue.
Before this gibberish folds in upon itself due to gravitational collapse, hopefully these initial digressions will bond into a whole. As I recall, gibberish in motion does tend to remain in motion. We'll just have to wait and see how that plays out.
Not quite a month back, there appeared, from who-knows-where, a heads-up that an asteroid going by the moniker "Erigone" (eh-RIG-uh-nee) would pass between the star "Regulus" and Earth, thereby totally blotting out the light emanating from the brightest star in the constellation Leo for up to two minutes.
Well, since over here in Heber we try our best to panic at such events, see them as omens of impending doom, further incursions by that antichrist Obama, as it were, I thought it would be prudent to set up on the deck somewhere around midnight and invite Evan Williams himself, and the aura of Abbey, as backup.
Did I mention that these three amigos, noted cosmologist Cactus Ed Abbey, noted cheap bourbon Evan Williams, and noted night-sky prominence Regulus, had a history? The mythology has it that, during many a long desert night, the three of them sat up 'til dawn contemplating the void -- and each other. If the star "Spica" was found to be in evidence on such an evening, Evan's twin brother might also receive an invite.
So there we sat, Ed, Evan, and your humble scribe, deck-bound, full of anticipation, and, drat, under a thick, overcast sky. Ed and I decided that, maybe, if we were to have "just the one more," Evan might cause the clouds to part as Moses had the Red Sea. No soap! The best-laid plans of mice and men oft go astray. (Who invited Robert Burns? We weren't drinking Single Malt!)
Fortunately for us, we wouldn't learn until days later that the quite rare "occultation" of Erigone and Regulus was only visible along a thin strip of the East Coast. Imagine if we had been aware of that piece of information going in and had decided to not invite Evan at all. A quite unbearable thought!
So Evan sat alone in the shadows behind the other holy offerings in the somewhat purgatorial state of a mostly ignored liquor cabinet until just the other day when a similar notification alerted the faithful to yet another impending Regulus sighting -- this one high up in the southern sky adjacent to a waxing moon.
The upshot, the reason for me and my nighttime pals, Ed and Evan, to gather once again upon the deck, being that Regulus would be the only star in the neighborhood bright enough not to be washed out by the luminosity of the moon. Leo the Lion would be reduced to a claw, as it were. Worked for us!
Ed's aura, as always, was up for it. And Evan, after a month in solitary, would do just about anything to get out of the house. Plus, with clear skies, channeling Moses would not come into play. Other than performing an inverted aerial every few minutes, Evan would be chore poor.
Well, suffice to say, for the first few hours, Regulus was, once again, a no-show! Ed swore he saw it before we called it quits for the night but Evan and I just rolled our eyes. Before we could grab his keys, however, he and his pickup were off to Island in the Sky country near Moab. No doubt he stopped and snatched Evan's brother before taking the shortcut through Indian Canyon.
Moseying around to the front deck, it didn't take Evan and I long to locate Arcturus and Spica. A serious astronomer's work is never done.
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social scenes for more than 40 years.