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I don't recommend looking for a comet while driving

Lately, I’ve suffered from the dreaded mopes. Symptoms include roving from room to room, fiddling with Facebook, followed by playing solitaire on the phone far too long.

Guilt descends for not having cleaned out the burgeoning garage, when there’s been ample time to make neat work of it. But moping is virulent, and may be contagious. Heck, I could be checking out interstellar objects instead.

The heavens and all that rotate, gyrate and mutate within have long captivated the human soul. We’ve been hearing a lot about a comet called NEOWISE — how it’s traveling within our sight, and won’t show its stuff again for 6,800 years or some ridiculous number. But the stuff of Earth, the gravity of problems distract, and I keep forgetting to look up. Another day and night pass without catching sight of the passing fancy.

I’m sure it’s not accidental that a ball of heated gas and rock is currently hurtling through our neighborhood. I believe it’s there by design to help us look beyond ourselves, our temporary problems, and our earthbound balls of heated gas who are in no way as rare (visualize gas ball of choice here).

Outer space phenomena have a way of capturing my imagination and making me feel small, in a good way. Plans were made to try to witness said comet. Feeble past experiences with meteor showers notwithstanding, I determined to see the spectacle zipping around out there, unaware of its own celebrity.

Last night on a whim, Lane and I made dinner reservations at the Prospect Historic Hotel. I was in the mood to get out of Dodge, but since we can’t run too far these days, we’re fortunate to have ample local escapes.

It was a glorious evening for a drive to Prospect. We’d asked for an outdoor table and arrived as the hot evening sun was losing its grip. Sitting under a canopy of neighborly trees, all felt peaceful. We planned to go comet hunting after our meal. Prospect Historic Hotel dinner house reopened July 1 and is open through October. Reservations are available seven days a week from 5 to 8 p.m. Owners Fred and Karen Wickman welcome you with virtual hugs and make you feel glad you came. They love what they do, and it shows. The salmon dinners were delicious, and after enjoying our patio meal, we asked about a potential place to spot the comet. Fred recommended some fields up Red Blanket Road, and the timing would be about right.

I was reasonably certain Red Blanket Road, running alongside the hotel, would eventually deposit us into Butte Falls, and Giovanni the Honda had a full tank. It’s a good road but a dark one through woods, with only a sliver of moon and no cars at that time of night. I found it fairly easy to both drive and hunt for a comet in the sky. I drove slowly, craning my neck. This is not recommended. Rare astrological sightings don’t happen this way. Maybe if we missed the comet, we’d see Bigfoot. The atmosphere seemed legit for his habitat.

Suddenly a large, black shape, with eyes lit by our headlights, appeared amid the brush and Lane ominously said, “Slow down.” I hit the brakes. We discovered we were in open range, as two humongous Angus beef broke from the darkness and sauntered across our lane and over to greener grass.

A smidgeon of twilight remained as the crescent moon burned low and amber-colored through the fir tips. We saw an appropriate stopping place to snap a picture and avoid becoming dinner for a bear or cougar. I knew Lane was a faster runner, so I would be the entrée in that scenario.

We did come upon sleepy Butte Falls and made our way down to the valley floor. I’m still on the hunt for NEOWISE, and have a few days left. It burns between the big dipper and the moon in the northwest part of the sky, I’m told. Look for it about an hour after sunset, and make a wish.

Peggy Dover is a freelance writer. Reach her at pcdover@hotmail.com.