by Allison Curth
It was the summer between my sixth and seventh grade years a little over halfway through our family road trip out West. I had insisted on making a stop at Mesa Verde to see the ruins of the cliff-dwelling Anasazi. We stayed in a lodge on the grounds of the National Park in a room with a balcony overlooking a field of shrubs and a mountain not too far off in the distance. When we weren’t out exploring the Native American ruins, that balcony was my favorite place to be. Up in the mountains of Colorado, even in the summer, there was a constant crispness in the air, unlike the muggy sauna of Louisiana.
During the day, my brother and I would test out our hand-carved souvenir slingshots from the balcony, cheering on our rocks in friendly competition to see whose would fly the farthest. But at night, I had the balcony to myself. At night, the air turned cold and the darkness gave the Park a renewed beauty. I strained to see the field of shrubs in the darkness, but the mountain glittered with city lights. The stars themselves seemed to dance just for me, yet they did not disturb the sacred stillness of the mountain. Seemingly to make the night more magical, a shooting star soared above me. But something about it made me gasp as my stomach twisted into a knot. I knew shooting stars to last a second or so then disappear, but this one did not. In the following seconds, it continued to get bigger and bigger to the point where I could tell it had already entered the atmosphere and was heading straight for the field of shrubs. I stared wide-eyed at the fireball as it sped toward me. Like nature’s own firework, the blazing rock smoldered as it disintegrated into nothing. It never even got a chance to hit the ground.
I had just witnessed the end of the life of a rock from space. It could have been part of a comet bigger than the entire earth. It could have been the remnant from a collision of rocks, billions of years old. But now, I was the sole witness to its demise. It had become nothing but dust and a few glowing embers that were soon extinguished as they floated towards the shrubs. The stillness resumed, but my adrenaline was rushing. I ran inside to tell everyone about what I had just witnessed. “That fireball in the sky! Did you see it? It was amazing!”
“No. What are you talking about?” Dad asked as he put down his reading.
“That thing that just burned up! I think it was some sort of rock from space.”
“Well, we must not have been able to see it from in here.”
And as quickly as they had looked up to greet me, they returned to their mundane activities, oblivious to the magnitude of the moment I experienced seconds earlier on the other side of the sliding door. They didn’t understand. They hadn’t felt the stillness of the mountain or the calm crispness of the cold air. They weren’t there when the stars danced their routine just for me. They weren’t frightened by the broken silence of the dramatic fireball as it raced toward the field of shrubs. They hadn’t experienced the meteor meeting its end. But I had. On the balcony at Mesa Verde.