Hale-Bopp. So bippity boppity boo! Viewing the stars makes my heart soar and a rarity like Hale-Bopp intensifies the feeling. What the comet inspires is something so fundamental, so intimate, it confounds description.

I wanted to view, to get close to, that cosmic phenomenon. The force was more than a desire, it was a compulsion I could not defy. An unknown source of energy within me burst and I was determined to view Hale-Bopp at two preposterous hours before dawn. Even a proud rooster wouldn't do that.

Ordinarily I am an early riser. When dawn subdues the stars my inner clock nudges me awake. But not soon enough for the comet so I set my trusty travel alarm for 0430. Unlike the bear that went over the mountain, I wasn't going just to see what I could see. I arose from my bed in half-zombie daze and stepped out on the deck to face the appointed direction.

And there it was! A light only slightly larger than the real star close by. I was stirred by something primordial, a primitive feeling I did not understand nor want to. Binoculars verified the comet. The fuzzy point of light was very different from the sharp twinkling stars. There was no mistake.

It was February 10, 1997. I roused my friend and hostess to inspect the same object. She was interested, not as fired with enthusiasm as I.

So I'm a nut case. Every morning thereafter I was out on the second floor deck of the hurricane-proof pole-house on the island of Culebra in the balmy Caribbean to take another look. For several days my bare feet sloshed in puddled-rain fallen earlier, while I muttered and scowled at the clouds obscuring my comet.

A prolonged visit in the tropical clime was not to be. Like a toasted bun flung suddenly into a freezer, I went to northern Minnesota. The bewildering drop in temperature from 80 degrees F to minus 6 F did not freeze my dedication to Hale-Bopp. At 0430 I was again searching the eastern sky - not in my bare feet to be sure - but I was there. And Hale-Bopp was there. Moved more northerly it appeared to be dropping over the round-roofed barn, like a ball thrown in the old game of anny-anny-I- over.

That was February 24. Only once more that week did the snow clouds roll back for another viewing. The tail is longer every time I see it. Now I am at home in south- central Washington state looking at Hale-Bopp, my face pressed to a northern window searching the high northeastern sky.

I spy Hale-Bopp, again in my bare feet, this time my toes cuddle a warm carpet. And my self-centered being cuddles a warm fuzzy feeling immersed in awe for the cosmos from which came the dust to form us all.

Hang in there - it will return in less than 70 years

Consider novels by Naomi Sherer available on Amazon

Sagesong cover Rise to the Occasion cover
Coming Soon: Beyond Namche, The Open Door, Wildly in the Rockies

Naomi Sherer

This story was published in the Tri-City Herald Kennewick, Washington, March 23, 1997

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