I love the month of August. It's hot and sultry, gardens are producing fresh veggies, the nights are cool enough to sleep well and the Perseid meteor shower makes its annual appearance.
Ever since I was little, I have been dragging the people I love outdoors in the middle of the night to view some celestial event. My junior high school science teacher was deeply into astronomy and, although I couldn't do the math it involved, I was hooked on all things in the sky.
I guess misery loves company -- or maybe I'm actually afraid of the dark -- because through the years I've always tried to share these night-time wonders, first making my mom get up with me, then my husband, and then my husband and son. Mom endured lunar eclipses, the first man walking on the moon, satellites streaking by, and just gazing at constellations (she knew more than I did!)
My parents always went to a lake in New Hampshire for the month of August and it was there I became aware of the Perseid shower. I would start lobbying the kids I hung out with a few days in advance to get them to watch with me. Try to get a bunch of teens more interested in cars, movies and music interested in lying on a beach and looking skyward! One or two would usually give in and we would lie on the sand and wish on shooting stars.
I will admit I also had an ulterior motive for wanting company. The White Mountains at the time were an alleged hot bed of UFO activity, including
I went to college, but never took an astronomy class, knowing the math would do me in. For many years, I forgot about the meteor showers in August. I read everything I could in newspapers and magazines about new discoveries on neighboring plants and the moon. I would always gaze at the stars on bright nights and be amazed at the thousands and thousands in the Milky Way. My favorite constellation is Orion the Hunter and I like that he now rises almost over our house in the fall and winter, almost as if he is guarding us. I feel safer with him there.
When our son was little, the closest I came to any heavenly encounters was the almost nightly readings of "Goodnight Moon" and "Giraffe on the Moon" and the occasional box of moon pies for his snacks. I would point out the easily recognized constellations and make sure he saw a lunar eclipse. Then we started going back to the lake and it all came back. Two years in a row I managed to get everyone on our part of the lake down to the shoreline to watch the meteors striping the sky.
I don't think my husband and son will ever forget the night about 10 years ago when Earth passed through a spectacular meteor shower. We all sat in the middle of winter in our winter jackets, hats, mittens and wrapped in blankets as meteor after meteor streaked by in rapid succession. I was there until the sky became too light to see them anymore.
So, it should come as no surprise I was out looking for shooting stars last weekend. Unfortunately, the skies were overcast on the nights the shower was supposed to be the heaviest. I'll be out there again tonight if the sky is clear, there just might be a straggler!
This recipe for Heavenly Cheesecake comes from a former co-worker at the Transcript, who shared it with me over 25 years ago.
Butter a springform cake pan well with 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
and 1/2 tablespoon sugar. Set aside.
5 eggs, separated
1 pound cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
Beat egg yolks until thick and lemony. Gradually beat in sugar. Add cream cheese, beating until smooth. Add sour cream, flour and vanilla, beat until smooth.
With clean beaters, beat egg whites until very stiff. Fold into cheese mixture. Pour into prepared pan.
Bake 70 minutes in 275 degree oven. Turn off heat and leave in oven one hour more. Don't open oven door until time is up. Cool away from drafts. Serve plain or topped with fruit.
Margaret Button is the city editor of the North Adams Transcript. Send recipes for inclusion in future columns to the North Adams Transcript, 85 Main St., Suite 2, North Adams, Mass. 01247, or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.