One summer night years ago, I lounged in my parents' backyard with my then-boyfriend. I was 20, he was 21. We were having trouble at the time -- he was thinking we'd marry soon after my college graduation, but when I seriously considered that future, I felt physically ill. That night, we put aside talk of the future and relaxed on our respective patio chairs.
When a shooting star streaked across the night sky right in front of us, our mouths dropped open; we stared at each other in awe. Moments later, another. Certainly, this was a sign from above that we were meant to be together, that we would overcome our troubles in the long run.
A year later, I sat alone in the same yard. I had just returned from a summer in New York City for a magazine internship. In the past months, I'd made great career strides, but my relationship had collapsed spectacularly. I pondered my future.
Suddenly, a meteor blinked into view, and was gone as soon as I saw it. I waited a few minutes, and another appeared, this one much brighter.
I broke into a smile. I had taken an astronomy course that spring, and now knew that the Perseid meteor shower came every August. There was no higher meaning in it. It meant only that the earth was crossing the path of an ancient comet. And it represented a fresh start for me.
Tonight, the Perseid meteor shower will reach its peak. It's easy to watch -- just look at the eastern sky -- but for more information, visit the Bad Astronomy Web site's "12 Things You Need to Watch the Perseid Meteor Shower."