American Heirlooms - October 2019




Sometimes a little spontaneity is worth the work. At least, that’s the lesson my family learned on our August trip to West Virginia. We had heard about this spot in rural West Virginia that is so dark and untouched by light pollution that stargazing is near perfection. I had also heard of a meteor shower scheduled to peak on Aug. 11 and 12, but, when we looked at the calendar, we noticed that it would be a full moon. This can often hinder your ability to see meteors, and, with the light pollution near our home, it would be even more difficult to see the meteors light up the sky. If we had any hope of seeing a spectacular meteor shower, we had to find total darkness, and we are always willing to go the extra mile to see the miraculous events the Creator makes. So, after I finished up with a customer on Saturday, Aug. 10, our entire family loaded up in the van and headed to Seneca Rocks, West Virginia. My wife packed food, and I focused on getting a cabin lined up before we hit the road. Once we were in Washington, D.C., we began to see signs that read: “All lanes closed.” Nervous for what that could mean, we found a spot on the highway where we could hop off and drive north, just as Interstate 495 was turning into a parking lot. But, after avoiding bumper-to-bumper traffic, our GPS began to die. I was able to log onto my work computer to navigate our path, but, as we headed into the mountains, I knew we were going to lose service. Thankfully, I had

written down our route. (Plus, Bethany has a great sense of direction! Her guidance made this navigation much easier.) After almost six hours, we finally reached our cabin. As it was already nearly dark, we quickly unpacked our luggage and food into the cabin, and we made our way to the dark, dark forest for some stargazing. We drove to a location we would later learn was called Spruce Knob, but, before hitting the knob, we had to drive. And drive … and drive … we were up in the mountains where oncoming headlights were rare, and with as much as we could see, we were keeping an eye out for a lookout point where we could view the heavens. It finally got to the point where I said that if we didn’t find a spot within the next five miles, we were going to turn around, cut our losses, and head back to the cabin. Not even a mile or two after this declaration, we found a pull-off where we could see the beauty in the skies. After we hauled the chairs and blankets out of the car, we watched the sky. We all took turns sitting in the car with one of our younger children who was scared to go outside, but in the hour we sat there looking up at the sky, we saw 26 meteors streak across the sky. It was just us and this miraculous event that had been hours of travel and searching in the making. I still can’t believe that moment of spontaneity worked.

The next morning, we drove about 10 minutes down the road to a local Mennonite church. We managed to sneak in right as the first song was ending, and afterward, we stayed for the fellowship meal. While there, we discovered some family ties we didn’t know existed. We visited with our newfound family before heading for home again. Along the way, we stopped so the children could splash in the creek, too.

By the time we reached home after a whirlwind of just 24 hours of packing,

traveling, and exploring, we all headed to bed that night satisfied with our spontaneity. The only question left is when do we go back?

–Ethan Zimmerman

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