As I left my brother's house, around 1AM, I stood in the driveway and gazed skyward-- Maybe a dozen stars and a perfect half-moon. The sky looked like an inkwell with a drop of Elmer's School Glue, or a drain pan full of oil with a glass of milk stirred in... too light to be black, bu no other color.
I drove down the backroad and turned onto the main one, Headed for the stoplight, but decided to take a right instead of going straight. This way leads to a nice rural spot, and I tend to gravitate to those places when I have a lot on my mind.
Green light, Green light, red light, green light. Over the overpass, under the underpass. Now headed for the black expanse to the West. I look out my window and up at the sky again, now the stars have begun to let down their guard, they must just not like City Folk. Warm air, no breeze. the streetlights disappear entirely. Occasionally a pocket of cool air wisps off the water, it's relaxing. I take the last curve and the gates come into view, I could trip the sensor from the other side and sneak out into the marina, but I'm not feeling up to it. And besides, there will be a fog of memories all about the place, and I don't feel like getting lost in it just now. I take a right and head back north, then follow the road to the east. Just as it straightens out there is a gate to a pasture on the left, I notice it almost to late and brake hard to turn off the road. I kill the engine immediately, and the radio with it. Fine Young Cannibals, but that's two nights in a row, so I don't even finish the line in my head. I step out of my 4Runner, the door takes two arms and a little bit of back to get closed these days. You should have seen the cause, if you put a 4runner in one end of a ravine, it comes out on the other converted to a jalopy. I cleaned it recently though, and I'm pleased that my flannel "sleeping bag" is neatly rolled up in the back. I grab it and jump the gate. I was going to venture into the pasture, but I don't even have time to be dissuaded by cow pies and critters, The gravel is good enough for me. I came out here to reminisce, though I dream of moving on. there are a few more memories up the road, and I chose this spot to avoid them, I'm not feeling especially invincible.
I lay down on my bag and try to welcome some peace, but I try to hard and I find myself trying to shake off the feeling of being a phony. I'm honest with myself when no one is around, so I accept the fact that I have been brooding, and now I have come out here expecting to catch a muse, or a vision of the universe in a timeless sense. I wanted to feel like King David, and instead I feel as hopeless as a country singer-- attempting to say something deep, or at least witty, and instead creating a travesty. I decide instead that I will just try to be in the Here and Now. On my right--toward the lake--crickets and bullfrogs are behaving like barnyard animals, trying to talk over everyone else.. maybe that's more like a room full of teenagers.... On my left, The juxtaposing sound of cattle and the rumble of the interstate. The show has started, and I realize that I'm not going to see the full spectacle, not here where the city lights are still putting off a glow. I could have gone up the canyon, but neither my jalopy nor I have what it takes tonight. I'll have to settle. I settle in more and try to guess when the next good shooting star will cross the sky. I'm way off, but at least I have time to turn my head. The city lights really do a number on a good shooting star, whereas up in the mountains, you can see the trenches left behind--a bit after the tail has burned out--a good shooting star, down here in the valley even the big ones look like they'd buff out. There are a couple of the really good ones, the ones that start out orange or red and then burn white, and then back to a red. or the ones that appear to skip across the atmosphere, like a nice flat rock on a calm pond. That's what those "trenches" really look like... like a fisherman's line when he gets a bite. the line rips through the surface as the hook sets, and you see its path in the the water for an instant after.
I really miss the contented feeling of sleeping under the stars, with the uncertain threat of meteors, but also with all those gases between them and us, like a corral fence against a mad bull, or a thick blanket against biting cold, or a mother's embrace against anything.
I really miss sleeping around a fire, watching the embers oscillate slowly with the breeze, as if they were pulsating, breathing. and watching the ashes rise on the heat of the flames, the sparks crackling and darting out against a milky-black sky... kinda like a shooting star.
The Mosquitoes are in full effect, but I'm content to watch a while longer. I decide not to trust myself to remember these sensations and pull out my cellphone to draft some key words, but though I turn out to be better than i thought at typing blind, I am still distracted by the task so I put it away. Most of these shooting stars are just highlights in the glow of the city lights. they hardly stand out as more than ghosts. Sad that I can't find it in me to drive out in the desert, or up in the canyon to really be able to see the show... but I remember that it's the peace I came here for, and I try to get it back again. These celestial nightlights are truely amazing, but I fail to manage to forget myself and be absorbed by them. I'll try again next year. I get to my feet, and watch one last Really Good One before I head back the way I came. The stars begin to disappear as I approach the grid of streetlights, there are 3 or 4 bites on my forehead, and I can feel them ever so slowly swelling, but all in all, I think I'm going home with some lasting peace.