Poetry: Summer Twilight in France; Eating Al Fresco, Lights, Sounds, Birds, Stars and Info on Satellites
Al Fresco life in France
Eating out in France is wonderful but the best eating out for me is not in restaurants but under the huge lime tree in our garden. The tree is the hub of our outdoor life there.
The best time is in the evening; it's shady under the tree, sheltered from insects by the gazebos and when we have family and friends around we spend the evening hours chatting, eating, drinking wine, often until the small hours. The balmy air doesn't chill and the time passes swiftly in the midst of such conviviality.
I love it and I hope this poem gives you an idea of what it's like.
Under the Moon and Stars
A French Summer Twilight
Eating al fresco, company convivial,
delicious wine, discussion genial,
electric-blue sky lights the end of day,
cicadas tune up their orchestral fray.
They thrum a rhythm, their vocals loud,
a vast commune, a chatty crowd.
As they converse, the swallows swirl,
acrobats a-wing, a scene unfurls
Of silhouettes against near-dark,
replaced then by the outline stark
of radar bats, the family three
twist, turn, catch prey, their nightly spree
Of flitting, swooping, hair a-parting.
Our guests converse, the darkness starting,
as daylight dims, the stars flick on -
and shooting down - quick, there! ..aah... gone.
More silhouettes against the sky,
the peacocks roost, a final cry
of Léon! Léon! as if to say
this is our tree, we rule the day!
Our final search in the vast expanse,
for satellites, an odds-on chance;
they fly high, probing for information,
sending signals to nosy nations.
Owl prompted silence, dark as dark,
the air is fresher, we shiver, we hark
as distant train or barking canine
chase us in to sleepy bed time.
What does 'Al Fresco' mean?
I thought I knew but was surprised to discover that, as is often the case, it is a phrased adopted by English to mean something different!
'The phrase al fresco is borrowed from Italian for "in the cool [air]", although it is not in current use in that language to refer to dining outside. Instead, Italians use the phrases fuori or all'aperto. In Italian, the expression al fresco usually refers to spending time in jail.'
Now I'll think twice!
If you avoid light pollution, you can easily spot satellites travelling way up high in the night sky. Don’t confuse them with moving objects which have flashing lights; those are aeroplanes! You can distinguish them from a meteor entering the atmosphere as the latter bursts down for a fraction of a second and fizzles out, like a firework.
Satellites follow a prescribed orbit so you can follow them in whichever direction they are travelling across your clear night sky, amongst the stars.
It’s probably easier to find a dry, flat surface to lie on as gazing upwards for longer than a minute or so can give you a cricked neck. Dry grass is ideal as it’s more comfortable than most surfaces.
Once your eyes adjust to the vastness of our universe, a moving speck of light isn’t difficult to spot. Once latched on to, you can follow its arc of progression. Some are faster than others. It’s amazing how many you can see within about half an hour.
Russian Satellite: Sputnik 1
How many Satellites, what Size are they and What do they Do?
There are roughly 1100 active satellites, both government and private; also about 2,600 ones that no longer work. Russia launched the first satellite, Sputnik 1, in 1957. The oldest one still in orbit, though no longer functioning, was launched in 1958.
The size of them varies. Communication satellites can be as big as a small school bus and weigh up to 6 tons. Most of them weigh a few tons or less. Interestingly, some are only used briefly and are 4 inch cubes which weigh about 2 pounds.
GPS satellites aid navigation, others relay telephone or television signals. Some aid in weather forecasting, national defence, science and agriculture, such as monitoring crops and areas of drought.
The Union of Concerned Scientists, a private organisation that maintains a database of satellites, says about 60 percent are used for communications.
© 2012 Ann Carr