I spent most of the later day schwitzing over the prospect of going out, as I had resolved to do, round about eleven to tuck a couple of hand-warmer packets into the insulated sock around my hose bib. You know the things, full of something vaguely like iron filings which starts to generate a heat-dumping chemical reaction as soon as oxygen hits it. You stick them in your shoe toes or pockets or little nooks in gloves made to hold them, not right up to your skin since they can peak at an uncomfortably high temperature. Long ago in the morning of the world, when  I was a renter, I zip-tied a couple of them to water pipes in the basement of the townhouse after my pathologically frugal landlady took a low bid from a shyster furnace contractor. We had to threaten them with the county business licensing office and journalistic exposure (I wrote for the local paper at the time, which was handy) before she got a refund for an alleged repair that left the place barely skimming 55 degrees.

I remembered this when the single digit predictions started coming in and I reflected ruefully that my east wall hose bib is so old and corroded that it won’t quite shut off. I have this sock gizmo on the thing but I really do not trust it down to seven degrees. The wind was sharp earlier and I expected to feel like Commodore Perry before I got the heat packets into it but no, my hands didn’t even have a chance to get cold when I doffed my gloves to tie everything back up tight.

I looked up through air as clear and hard as the lens of a magnifying glass, stars I never usually see sifted over a deep firmament. Orion was right over the tomato garden.


Lifted from an astronomy site. But about how the sky looked tonight

Well, jeepers, how soft have I gotten? Back in Annandale on Hudson, when I was a precocious college freshman, we would linger necking in the dormitory archway in weather this cold. And back then we had only that awful bulky waffle underwear and, in my case, a full outfit made of flannel lined (by my own hands) with Milium, a metal-insulated textile that has gone the way of the clepsydra and the gasogene.

I stood in the garden for a while before going in. It’s only fifteen degrees. It wasn’t really cold, not in layers of Space Age fleece and microfiber.

I think I’ll go back out before I turn in. I don’t want to be afraid of nights like this when I’m eighty.


14 thoughts on “Orion

    • Not the color. 🙂 But the sky, for once, was so clear, compared to what it is usually like in this area, that the salting of stars all round was visible, instead of the muddy half-dark I usually see. My guess is that the intense cold precipitated out every drop of moisture that normally amplifies the light pollution. And the stars of Orion were visibly stronger and more intense than those i could see surrounding it. Really remarkable.

    • And again tonight. But then I was accompanied by my redoubtable client the pole-dancing seminarian, who held the light for me so I could put in one more night’s pair of hand warmers, and there was less time for stargazing.

      • Ah, Tom, a whiff of unconscious sexism? I suppose men can be pole dancers, but women can be seminarians, and she offsets the stress of divinity classes by pole dancing at an exercise studio which features this as a fitness routine. We do joke about what collection’s going to be like when she has her own congregation.

        She once preached a guest sermon that started something like “Anyone who’s been looking around to see who they can disapprove of for wearing short skirts or whatever can leave now, God doesn’t need your support.”

  1. For sure, the image you posted cannot mean the same thing that it means to me. This one image (no idea where it’s from) circulated a lot this holiday season. I saw it many times, never twice with the same labels. I haven’t seen it with these labels actually. Have you read my post Christmas and Egypt? (you are in no way forced to read it… but it actually explains what this image means to me)

    I’m not sure in what context this instance of the image was used, but it was obviously used in the wrong context (to me). First, Sirius is cut out of the picture (it was very visible on other version of this same picture that I saw). Then, the labels show the actual star names with no relation to the constellations. The three stars in the middle, diagonally lined up, labeled with apparent Native American names, are collectively called either the Three Kings or the Orion’s Belt, depending of their meaning on the person speaking. I normally use the former, but I normally mention the later too if I’m explaining them to someone.

    Astronomers, no matter their interest in myths, will often get interested in these particular stars because they are only visible for a short period, close to the holiday season. I am no astronomer, and I don’t believe in myths. But every year, I try my best to see them, at least one night (we don’t usually have much clear skies around here in that period of the year). The reason I am interested in them is because, to the Ancient Egyptians, the Three Kings aligning with Sirius meant that they had reached the winter solstice, and that the days would get warmer soon. They lived out of agriculture, the sky was their calendar.

    I’m sorry my comment is totally unrelated to your text, and totally about one random image you picked out that doesn’t have much meaning to you 🙂

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