My wife, Lynn, and I were able to see the Comet Neowise this past Monday and Tuesday nights after total darkness fell about 10 p.m. The comet appeared as a white haze to the naked eye below the Big Dipper. With the aid of binoculars, we could see the comet pretty well and we noted its trailing tail. Wednesday night, we were rained out and Thursday night’s clouds prevented us from seeing the comet at its closest point to earth. When the fleeting comet has disappeared from view, it will not return for some 6,800 years. We wonder if humans will be extinct at that time either by some virus or their own hand.
During our walk this morning, I thought about disappearance and loss. The comet will be gone and so will its light. Contrast that with the loss this year of our beloved Friday writers group member, Betty Gaechter, almost five months ago. I will easily forget the comet but not Betty. We shared three worlds with her, including our writers group, the Killington Music Festival of which she was a trustee, board member and dependable attendee, and the Vermont Humanities Conference where we shared two days with her each November on the University of Vermont campus. There is a reflection in a familiar liturgy that we all see stars in the sky that became extinct a very long time ago but their light will continue to shine on us as it makes its way to earth.
We last saw Betty immediately after a writers group meeting when we stopped at the Meadows to visit with her. She left us on March 3, but her light, like the light of the distant stars, will continue to shine on us. So it’s easy to say goodbye to the Comet Neowise, but not to Betty Gaechter to whom we say, “so long.”
Paul Chernoff is a part-time resident of Chittenden.