Awkward social situations are my modus operandi.
After a long day of laughter and reminiscences with a childhood friend, I anticipated tumbling into never-never-land in the embrace of fluffy hotel pillows. Fate had different plans.
I slid the hotel key card in and out of the lock, heard a solid click, and opened the door to a pile of wildland firefighter clothes: green pants, white helmet, unmistakable yellow shirt. Not too far from the pile of discarded clothing was the firefighter himself amidst all those fluffy hotel pillows. He was very friendly — jovial, even — despite the rude interruption of a stranger bursting into his room.
This is not the first time this has happened. Several years ago in another hotel I opened up my room to find it filled with other people’s luggage. If memory serves, there was a fairy convention happening at the hotel and I thanked my lucky stars I did not walk in on dancing wood nymphs and a flute-playing satyr.
Unless you enjoy meeting perfect strangers, always deadbolt your hotel room door.
In other exciting August night news, Jupiter and Saturn have traveled their orbits to share the same side of the solar system as Earth, directly opposite from the sun. To see these giant gas planets, look towards the full moon 45 minutes after sunset. Jupiter is above the moon to the left, and Saturn can be seen to the upper right of the moon.
The annual Perseids meteor peaked last week, but there is still a chance to wish upon a shooting star this week. With your toes pointing north, lean back and enjoy the night sky in the early morning hours before dawn, 3:30 to 4:30 a.m. The Perseids meteors are grains of dust up to the size of a pea, in the debris trail of comet Swift-Tuttle. Forget the princess and the pea, re-write the story to celebrate pea-sized pebbles burning bright in Earth’s atmosphere.
While you are enjoying the view of planets and meteor showers in a dark sky, listen for the sound of feathered wings. August-October is peak bird migration for annual north-south flights to warmer climates. Early morning is the best time to view migrating song birds as they settle down to rest after their overnight flight.
Birds navigate by star patterns and the rotation of the night sky. Night lighting disorientates birds during their migration, causing the birds to circle endlessly. Exhaustion leaves them vulnerable and can cause death. During peak bird migration months, people can assist the migration by turning off or reducing exterior lights from dark until dawn. Install light covers to eliminate excess glare, use motion sensors and timers, and pull-down window shades or turn off interior lights on upper stories.
These simple actions help birds safely navigate the night sky. As a financial perk, these practices also reduce energy consumption and related costs.
To protect migrating birds this season, turn to the International Dark Sky Association (IDA) recommendations for outdoor lighting:
• only be on when needed.
• only light the area needed.
• be no brighter than necessary.
• minimize blue light emissions.
• be fully shielded.
To learn more about the National Audubon Society’s Lights Out Project, visit https://www.audubon.org/lights-out-program.