Watching Comet Lulin

I love the night sky: the star-pictures of the constellations, the waxing and waning of the moon, the great wash of the galaxies.  This week’s close passage of Comet Lulin, a beautiful and spectacular – and scientifically interesting – bit of celestial wonder simply couldn’t be passed by.  Last Tuesday night, the evening of Lulin’s closest approach, I spent two hours lying in my parking lot with a pair of binoculars, drinking it in.  As it turned out, I didn’t watch alone.  Calliope, my stray Muse-kitty took time from her nightly rounds to keep me company.  The poem is my way of holding on to the experience, even as Lulin streams off into the mysterious reaches of space.


Watching Lulin

Green-eyed and aloof,
you prowl down heaven’s alleys      
and lurk on Saturn’s doorstep with singular elegance,
a celestial stray hungry for attention.
Prone beneath your pathway,
stretched across a concrete bed with curbstone for a pillow
I squint and ponder,
consult the charts
and probe your space through time
until I feel the tug
and hear the tiny, worried voice.
An earthling stray has found her friend,
her food,
her solace
not rising tall against the sky but flattened to the ground,
eyes turned upward,
head bent back as though the victim of a fall.
Green eyes flashing,
she nudges at my pillowed head upon the curb,
pushes back my dismissive hand.
Earthbound, insistent,
she bites and tugs my hair as though to pull me upright,
restore her world’s axis
and right a universe gone mad.
Leaving Lulin to her flight
I reach out to grasp this nearer world passing by.
“Look up,”  I murmur as I run my fingers through her fur
and catch the glint of starlight in her eyes.
“A thousand years.”
“A thousand years.”

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13 thoughts on “Watching Comet Lulin

  1. Wow. I may have to print this one out and hang it on my inspiration wall, Ms. Linda. It’s beautiful. I can “see” you together, partners in a celestial moment. As one who loves all creatures feline and has taken in both the Gypsy and his predecessor, Stimpy, as street boys, I loved how you shared your special companionship.

    And this passage…
    “An earthling stray has found her friend,
    her food,
    her solace
    not rising tall against the sky but flattened to the ground,
    eyes turned upward,
    head bent back as though the victim of a fall.
    Green eyes flashing,
    she nudges at my pillowed head upon the curb,
    pushes back my dismissive hand.”

    Oh, yes. That touches me to the very core. Bravo.


    There ae so many people who think cats are aloof, not given to relationships, uninterested in anything a human can do (other than filling the food bowl)… but how wrong they are. I’ve come to love cats, and surely could end up as one of those crazy “cat ladies” they show on the evening news from time to time.

    Cats take attentiveness and patience, but if you allow them to reveal themselves, there’s no more fascinating creature on earth. I’m so glad the poem reflects some of your experience with yours.


  2. Just wonderful.

    This past September my wife Kate and I said goodbye to a faithful friend of 20 years, our cat Turbo. Your description of Calliope’s “green eyes” flashing brought such a rush memories to my mind.

    Likewise your description of being stretched across concrete with a curbstone for a pillow brought back my memories of many nights as a boy, with his Sears and Roebuck telescope, searching the heavens, wondering who or what might be out there looking back.


    Sometimes I think my entire old age is going to be devoted to claiming experiences I missed as a child. I NEVER would have been allowed to lay out in a parking lot as a child – not that it was so dangerous, it just wasn’t “proper”. But now, I’m free to lay on the concrete whenever I choose – and Comet Lulin was the perfect opportunity.

    If my inside kitty, Dixie Rose, would allow it, Calliope would be indoors, too. But she lives a good life, and has a whole neighborhood watching out for her. I just didn’t realize how deeply attached she is, and despite her obvious survival skills, she’s probably guaranteed she won’t be left behind when the next hurricane comes!


  3. Thanks for the beautiful piece of writing Linda. I find it particularly meaningful that you have ‘friendship’ as a tag. You can grasp how deep my appreciation for your poetics is as I confess that I’m Ailurophobic, ever since childhood.


    And I confess I had to head for the dictionary to find that ailurophobic means fear of cats. Ironically, I suffered from cynophobia – fear of dogs. When I was just a tot our neighbors decided to gift me with a tiny black puppy. I remember it vividly as a beautiful, curly-haired little thing with a glossy black coat. When it came bounding into the dining room, I went straight up onto the dining room table, shrieking my head off. The puppy cowered under the buffet, and adults consulted, and that was the end of me and dogs for a long, long time.

    I admire and respect the doggies now, but I love the cats. It may have taken me over 50 years to get my first pet, but I’m making up for lost time! And yes, there was no question that “friendship” had to be a tag. It’s quite an experience to be friends with such creatures, and it was wonderful to find a way to share the comet-watching moment.


  4. Beautiful, Linda.

    Oh, this made me miss my cats. They were always strays. Gypsy was our last. I still miss her.


    Thanks so much. There’s something about this one I like more every time I read it. Every now and then something comes along that I look at and think, “Did I write that?” The only change I might make is in the title – originally I was going to call it “Green-Eyed Ladies”, and I think if it ever gets another go-around somewhere that’s what I’ll do.

    I read it to my stray, Calliope, last night. She liked it, too.


  5. An earthling stray has found her friend,
    her food,
    her solace

    Love that, although I’m so fond of kittehs I would consider myself the stray.

    Lovely poem. Thanks.


    And there goes yet another road, off toward the horizon – the road marked “We’re all strays, out here in the world.”

    I think there’s no surprise our kitties have been muses and familiars forever – they understand us better than we understand them, that’s for sure!


  6. Exquisite, Linda.

    Like Bella, I miss my cats, too. I know it is still difficult for you to understand Spanish, but, have a look at my two great friends. They still come with me in my heart and mind, though, at the moment, Kika, a little “catish” dog, is the one who makes me feel softer.

    As always, it is a pleasure reading you.


    Ah, such beautiful cats. I laughed at their jealousies, and arrogance – and at you, having to rescue the poor, trembling mice!
    You see, with the help of the translators I can read the stories of Uzzi y Pussi, at least a little. You told it well. Every cat lover would understand your love for them, and how much you miss them.

    And Simon’s cat is world-wide now! I’ve found him in Denmark, England, Canada, Italy and now in Spain. There is a little Simon in my Dixie Rose, but really almost none in Calliope, my comet-watching cat. She is all tenderness and gratitude, and I love her dearly.

    Gracias por compartir tus gatos, y gracias por sus amables palabras.


  7. Stray comet, stray cat, ‘a thousand years.’ Lovely. Cats do have an otherworldly sense about them, don’t they? And even though there are those convinced of feline aloofness, mine are at the window–or the door–whenever I come home (not that they would admit to this in public). Wish your indoor kitty would allow Calliope to come inside. My sis-in-law also feeds a stray on his neighborhood rounds. Her shy and lonely cat sits by the window, waiting to catch a glimpse of him…


    If Dixie were shy and lonely, Calliope would be indoors in a flash. Unfotunately, Dixie is brash and determined to be in control, and I’d fear for Calliope’s safety. Dixie’s a one-woman cat who’s already run off two cat-sitters, which is a pretty neat trick for a creature who weighs only ten pounds!

    And you’re right that the presumed aloofness of cats is mostly myth. They aren’t aloof at all – they’re just subtle in the ways they relate to us. Perhaps that’s why they seem to be other-worldly. I remember a line in Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (though I can’t remember if it was hers or if she was quoting – perhaps Einstein?) The line is, “Nature is subtle, but not malicious”. That’s our kitties.

    Thanks for stopping by!


  8. Oh Linda,

    I love this line –

    “stretched across a concrete bed with curbstone for a pillow”

    – but most of all I love the idea of Calliope bringing you back to earth from your flight through the stars. Thank you for sharing this.


    Hi, Kit,

    When I saw some of the links in your blog and some of your interests, I thought you might like the poem. I’m so glad you stopped by to read it, and thanks much for the kind words!


  9. Hello Linda,
    I enjoyed your poem immensely. I feel I experienced your nightime adventure with you and your cat.

    It might be interesting to note the effect I have on my dog when I lie down on our living room floor. It must seem so odd to him to see me in that position. He just can’t help but pace back and forth, tail tentatively wagging. Every few seconds he will stop to sniff my face and whine plaintively. Funny.

    By the way, I’ve just finished reading a book entitled “Dewey – The Small Town Library Cat that Touched the World”, by Vicki Myron. It’s the true story of a kitten that was found half frozen after being dropped into an after-hours book return slot in the dead of winter. Dewey, the cat, affected not only the librarian and her staff, but the small town in Iowa where the story takes place, people all over the country, and even the world. Great story! I’m more of a dog person, myself, but I certainly enjoyed reading this book.

    As always, thanks for sharing a part of your life with us.


    Someone else who did some comet watching had his dog with him, and reported the same behavior from the dog when he took to the ground. I’d never though much about what it’s like to be seeing the world from their perspective – ground level, mostly – and then have it all shift.

    I looked at the reviews for the book – what a story! I grew up in Iowa and had a college roommate from Spencer for one semester, so I’ve been to the town. In the first place, I can’t imagine who would do such a thing. But, all’s well that ends well, and once again the animals showed up with things to teach us!

    I’m so glad you enjoyed the poem. It was a delight to write, and I’m enjoying the re-reads myself!


  10. Why does that get me, your saying to the kitty, “look up.Look up.” You never know what people will react to in a piece you write, right? And then the “thousand years. Thousand years.”


    Perfect. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a (sigh) is worth a million. I’m a happy poet.


  11. Oh yes, this was beautiful! I was there with you, my head on the curb as well! I would have had my left knee pushed skyward with my right ankle crossed over the top.

    Did you see last week’s meteors? I was in the city but read that some people saw hundreds per hour.

    1. Z,

      I didn’t see a single one. It was cloudy here, and we couldn’t even see the stars. But, a few days before the peak, there was a big one that flashed through the skies just before sunrise. It was seen by commuters – perhaps hundreds – and caused quite a bit of water cooler conversation that morning!


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