We are stargazers.
At night on the mountainside, the trees are black ghosts and pine needles crunch like shards of glass. The air is moist, cold, scented of the naked earth. Above us the stars are scattered crystals in lavender dust we can sift through our fingers.
Three of us sit on the edge of an old mine shaft with our legs dangling over nothing. Far away we can hear the noises of our friends around the fire. We can’t see the orange glow or smell the smoke, and they can’t see us. We have disappeared.
We kick our legs over the chasm and then lie back on the damp ground. All of the universe is up there. How could we have ever thought our small circles and cruel jokes and tired crosses were the center of it. We can’t bear what we now know. Someone starts talking; someone else chimes in. Our conversation turns infinite and wise; words pour out of us that we don’t understand, and we laugh and laugh and laugh. We know it’ll fade tomorrow when the beer wears off and life becomes urgent again. Our ideas tonight are as fleeting as the minutes, as driving as a comet’s tail, and we don’t yet have a way to contain them. So we sit up and brush the needles from our hair.
We feel the cold now and wipe our eyes.
The night creatures have stayed away in their holes and their lairs, their breathing still. And we make our way safely through the trees.
Back at our tent, we climb into sleeping bags and hold onto each for warmth. We are giggling and bleary-eyed at this unknown hour deep in the night or early in the morning, depending which way you face. Everyone is drunk on something; some of us, simply freedom. One by one our friends drift off to their tents or pass out by the fire or climb into the cars parked along the forest road, curling up on a backseat under a coat, forgetting the thrill of the exodus and the rocks and the ruts and the rules.
In our tent the cold slowly seeps toward warmth. Outside twigs snap and the fire pops. The night creatures still stay away. No one is sleeping and everyone is quiet.
As we brush the lavender dust from our skin.
For Mary, who is up there somewhere…