It was late and still warm outside, but what I remember most was the overwhelming darkness that hovered the air. It was its own entity – not a frightening one, just a knowledgeable one – and it comforted me.
I felt small standing there. I was small in comparison to the hugeness that held me tightly. And the car I was leaning against gave me no concept of scale for what was around me. I was in a snow globe of desert stars, head raised up with eyes closed, feeling the desert’s fullness in the warm silence.
I opened my eyes seeking something that I didn’t know at the time. I wanted to know something. Anything. It wasn’t a crisis of faith; I have that. It wasn’t necessarily a need to know who I was in relationship to the universe; I know that. Yet, my eyes opened wide and desperately sought out the stars for something that I couldn’t understand and wasn’t able to articulate.
Have you been there before? There, under the stars in the desert? That place where the only sound you hear is the moment when your breath changes from in to out? If you have then you know where I was – it was the place where the night’s darkness seeks you out, crawls into your empty spots and fills you. It’s where you want to fall to your knees, weeping, for no other reason than to know you can feel.
I saw it at that moment, right when the emptiness was filled, when my eyes focused in the night. It was the Milky Way stretching across the whole of the sky. The stars were so comfortable there inside its custody, lazily arranging themselves where they belong. There is no pretense to the stars. The light we see from them radiates from millions of years ago. There is nothing more genuine than stars; we would not be here to see their artificiality and so there is no reason to try.
This moment here with the stars and the Milky Way and the desert’s darkness whispered away some, if not all, of the strain of the past years’ struggles. My trials were real and significant and so were the effects on me and my family. And yet, now it seems so long ago.
So, so long ago.
The reflection of time that appears now from then is as if it is the same as the stars’. Millions of years shine upon us. And this is how it often is with such things. We merely feel what was and we will send off into the night what will be.
The night around me grew darker still as I gazed up, wondering at all the stars that night had first seen that were now reflecting on me, The Milky Way tucking them in close so they didn’t get lost in their storytelling. Their whispers calmed me. These ancestors knew me, and I was humbled.
For all the times I wondered, “Why?” at what I had experienced in the past, crying and questioning the purpose of my trials, I knew, then, what my choice could be – and it always is a choice. I could continue to always question and anguish, or I could be a part of this moment and become a reflection of time.
There is a certain peace in reflecting time – a certain anchoring in space while dancing in the ambiguity. Time becomes real and unforgotten. It becomes part of that desert silence and welcomed into that ancestral light.
I stepped into the car as a star fell and watched the desert catch it.
Photograph by Jeremy Stanley, used under a Creative Commons license.
“Let it always be known that I chose joy over despair, family over the world, and to fight when it mattered. Welcome to me. I give a damn.”