Perseids Meteor Showers: ‘I’ve seen it rainin’ fire in the sky’

In the words of John Denver … far out! It was “rainin’ fire in the sky” over the Shenandoah Valley tonight as I watched the Perseids meteor showers. We had gone outside around 10pm to look at the night sky but a bright sixty percent moon highlighted the heavens and dimmed the stars.

I waited until after the moon set at 1:00am, then went out on the deck for about 20 minutes and saw half a dozen brightly burning falling stars with long tails of fire — it was amazing! Mr. Mitchell crashed hours ago so I didn’t stay out long because it was a bit creepy thinking about the black bear under the deck a couple of weeks ago. It wasn’t quite the show I had hoped for but the meteors I saw were beautiful, not to mention the brightness of the stars in the dark night sky as I looked at the various constellations.

At 3:00am I decided to try again just in case I was missing the prolific showers that were written about. In about 15 minutes I saw another half dozen — beautiful displays but still not in the amounts mentioned in astrology articles. In the middle of the night it was still a comfortable 74 degrees with a slight breeze as the loud sounds of tree frogs and crickets filled the night air.

It is said John Denver and his friends were camped out in the Rocky Mountains when they saw the Perseids meteor showers and he wrote it into the song, Rocky Mountain High. In his autobiography Back Home Again, he wrote:

“I remember, almost to the moment, when [Rocky Mountain High] started to take shape in my head. We were working on the next album and it was to be called Mother Nature’s Son, after the Beatles song, which I’d included. It was set for release in September.

In mid August, Annie and I and some friends went up to Williams Lake to watch the first Perseids meteor showers. Imagine a moonless night in the Rockies in the dead of summer and you have it. I had insisted to everybody that it was going to be a glorious display. Spectacular, in fact.

“The air was kind of hazy when we started out, but by ten p.m. it had grown clear. I had my guitar with me and a fishing rod. At some point, I went off in a raft to the middle of the lake, singing my heart out. It wasn’t so much that I was singing to entertain anyone back on shore, but rather I was singing for the mountains and for the sky. Either my voice gave out or I got cold, but at any rate, I came in and found that everybody had kind of drifted off to their individual campsites to catnap.

“We were right below the tree line, just about ten thousand feet, and we hadn’t seen too much activity in the sky yet. There was a stand of trees over by the lake, and about a dozen aspens scattered around. Around midnight, I had to get up to pee and stepped out into this open spot. It was dark over by those trees, darker than in the clearing. I looked over there and could see the shadow from the starlight. There was so much light from the stars in the sky that there was a noticeable difference between the clearing and everywhere else. The shadow of the starlight blew me away. Maybe it was the state I was in.

“I went back and lay down next to Annie in front of our tent, thinking everybody had gone to sleep, and thinking about how in nature all things, large and small, were interwoven, when swoosh, a meteor went smoking by. And from all over the campground came the awed responses, ‘Do you see that?’ It got bigger and bigger until the tail stretched out all the way across the sky and burned itself out. Everybody was awake, and it was raining fire in the sky.

“I worked on the song – and the song worked on me – for a good couple of weeks. I was working one day with Mike Taylor, an acoustic guitarist who had performed with me at the Cellar Door and had moved out to Aspen. Mike sat down and showed me this guitar lick and suddenly the whole thing came together. It was just what the piece needed. When I realized what I had – another anthem, maybe; a true expression of one’s self, maybe – we changed the sequencing of the album we’d just completed, and then we changed the album title.”

Tonight I had a Blue Ridge Mountain high. Far out!

But the Colorado Rocky Mountain high
I’ve seen it rainin’ fire in the sky
The shadow from the starlight is softer than a lullaby
Rocky mountain high (Colorado).

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