These are busy days, these last ones of the year. I know I'm not the only one who wishes December lasted, oh, eight weeks instead of four - or that we could at least have a few extra hours to ensure we can fit in both the everyday and the joyous.
Moments of solitude, of quiet and serenity, are few and far between at this season. But there's one such time that I will always grab, if the sky and the hour cooperate. I slip out of the house in the dark, often with a shawl thrown over my jammies, and zip past the houses of my neighborhood to reach the open area of the school playground. I stand there, looking from an email on my phone to the sky above, scanning the darkness and peering among the stars –
And then I see it. The International Space Station, soaring above me.
If you have never seen the ISS fly overhead, it's truly worth trying to make it happen. You can find the times when it's visible from your area here. (If you're like me, you can sign up to receive emails every time it's visible from your location. Way cool.)
Spotting the station is pretty easy. The website (or email) tells you in which direction the ISS will appear, where it will disappear, how high it will be in the sky, and how long it's visible. This is all very useful on paper. In reality, I usually look up and scan the sky until I see a very bright light the size of a big star traversing the heavens. Unlike a plane, it doesn’t blink. It's one solid light of awesome, approximately 215 miles above us, carrying folks like you and me around the world sixteen times each day.
For the two or four or five minutes it's visible, I stand, usually in the cold, staring up and marveling at the knowledge and dedication that has made it all possible. I usually find myself singing a few bars of one of my favorite songs, recorded by Commander Chris Hadfield when he was up there (see below). For a few moments, my usually crazy day is silent. And watchful.
And filled with awe at what's happening somewhere up there.