Winter is on its way here, which is a good thing, because cereal takes a lot longer to go stale in winter. If you ate Corn Pops for dinner three nights a week like I do, you’d be excited about it, too. And even if you’re not a big fan of winter, at the very least, you can take solace in the fact that you won’t have to hear anybody say, “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity” for the next several months.
One of my favorite things about this time of year is the arrival of the constellation Orion, which I will refer to from here on out as if he were a person, because I think he’d probably want it that way. I saw him for the first time a couple of nights ago as I strolled around the neighborhood, enjoying the quiet of late evening, when I have time to think about important things like, “If I ever get struck by lightning, I’m definitely getting a lightning bolt tattoo, assuming I’m still alive,” and “If the world was a fair place, leftover pizza would be healthier for you because it doesn’t taste as good.” As I turned the corner to head back to the house, I happened to glance up over the horizon, and there he was, Orion the Hunter, clubbing all the other stars over the head and making jerky out of them in his garage.
There’s a song I keep hearing on the radio that goes: “Look at this photograph. Every time I do it makes me laugh.” Whenever I hear those lyrics, I think, “It makes you laugh every time you look at it? I even stopped laughing at the postcard I used to have of a horse getting frisky with a cow. I must see the picture that makes you laugh every single time.” I suppose I can understand the sentiment, though; every time I see Orion for the first time, I just have to smile and say, “Hello, winter,” and then try to remember where the heck I left my gloves last March.
I feel a special connection to Orion, because he’s the only constellation I can identify besides the Big Dipper, although I can usually find three or four Little Dippers. I’m also really good at finding triangles in the sky. Those things are all over the place, if you know where to look. Hint: up. It’s a good thing other people came along and gave the constellations cool names like Cassiopeia, the Seven Sisters and Hydra. If it had been left up to me, the sky would be filled with constellations like Square, Messed-Up Trapezoid and Almost Ice Cream Cone.
If you’ve never seen him before, it’s worth taking the time to introduce yourself to Orion. He doesn’t usually let city lights drown him out; if you can see any stars at all, you can probably see Orion. Like Baby from Dirty Dancing, nobody puts Orion in the corner.
He’s shaped like, well, actually like a big rectangle, but if you use your creativity, you can fill in a big dude wearing a belt and wielding a club. If you flip him upside-down, and imagine his head where his feet are supposed to be, he looks like a really cool archer, bent slightly backwards and launching an arrow into the sky.
If you don’t know where to look for him, the best way to find him is to have someone who recognizes him go outside with you, point upwards and say, “Next to that one star. See it? No, the other star.”
When you do finally see him for the first time, if the first thing you think is, “Good lord, Orion, put some pants on!” then you just failed an astronomical Rorschach test.
You can give Mike Todd some jerky online at firstname.lastname@example.org.