Last night I was out with some friends of mine at three in the morning in anticipation of the annual Orionid meteor shower that takes place during the fall. I read about this celestial event on CBC’s internet news website at I discovered that the best time to view the meteor shower was at three o’clock in the morning on Sunday, October 21. This annual meteor shower is caused by the famed Halley’s Comet. At this time of year our planet runs into a stream of debris, left behind by the comet.

This debris enters the earth’s atmosphere and becomes what are known as shooting stars. The name of the meteor shower, Orionid, comes from the fact that this comet debris radiates from the constellation Orion.

I had anticipated this event for about a week and I was excited to head out under the stars to watch the meteors streak across the sky. I have always enjoyed looking up at the stars and learning about the different constellations and all the strange and wonderful things and events that make up our universe.

We sat out in the dark on lawn chairs in the back yard, bundled up in layers of warm clothes. We also had a pot of hot tea and cookies to snack on as we waited. We talked about the coming event and enjoyed the cold night air as we gazed at the starry sky waiting for the light show to begin. The cold, the outdoors at night and the company of friends reminded me of similar times I had spent with my family up north on the James Bay coast under the stars.

Out on the land and away from our home community of Attawapiskat, the night sky on a clear night can be spectacular. It is a more special sight on a moonless night when the stars are more visible. There are no lights to obscure the starry sky on the remote James Bay coast. There are also no buildings or houses to obscure a person’s view out on the tundra and the flat landscape of the James Bay coast. Out on the land you can see for miles. On a perfect night when the stars are shining their brightest, I have felt as though I was hanging on to the edge of the earth as the planet hurtled through space.

It always felt good after a day of hunting out in my goose blind to be able to sit back in the wilderness and enjoy the sight of a brilliant night sky. I have also enjoyed the fantastic northern starry sky when I traveled with my dad and my brothers at night in the summer by freighter canoe and by snowmachine in the winter. It was rewarding to take a break out on the land when we were traveling in the freighter canoe on the great James Bay or riding along on a snowmobile over the frozen tundra. As we sipped our tea and ate mom’s bannock we gazed naturally up at the diamond studded night sky.

The use of the stars for guidance has been practiced by most cultures around the world. My people the Cree of the James Bay coast have also turned to the sky for direction. In the past when my ancestors traveled the land in their nomadic way of life, the stars acted as a guide to direct them while they were on the move. Today the hunters and gatherers of my community still use the stars to guide them home when they are traveling at night. The night sky was also looked upon as a way of foretelling the future. Strange sights or lights that flashed across the sky were interpreted as signs or omens of significant events or occurrences that would take place in the future.

I don’t do enough looking up at the night sky. To tell you the truth my friends and I almost canceled our trip out into the back yard to watch the Orionid meteor shower because we thought that neighbors might think we were a little weird. Thankfully, we decided that making an effort to witness this wonderful event was worth the risk of being considered a little eccentric.

Sadly, just as three o’clock was nearing, a cloudbank rolled in and nature decided to drop the curtain on our light show. It was just as well I guess, as several dogs on the block had sensed our presence in the night and had erupted into an aggravating chorus of barking. Well, there is always next year.