(unaltered, from my iphone)
Tonight we took a well-deserved drive out to our super-secret stargazing spot. While I was weather-watching a storm predicted to come through tomorrow, I saw from the weather website that there would be no moon tonight - perfect for seeing the stars. With gas being so expensive, we haven't taken the 20+ mile (one way) drive out there all summer. We've stargazed from other spots, but they all have some degree of light pollution. Once I decided we would go, I was so happy I could have cried.
Sunset is around 8 pm right now, so we waited anxiously to leave. We didn't make it out until 8:30 because of the relentless phone, but once we got away from the city lights, we rolled down the windows and enjoyed the warm breeze.
My favorite part of the drive is when we enter the canyon at Hellgate. There are no streetlights, very few homes, and the road is only lightly traveled at night. The air starts to smell slightly of the river, a mossy, green smell. The closer we get to the river, the cooler the air gets.
The next landmark is the Hellgate bridge, where the river switches from the driver side to the passenger side. The bridge glows eerily under headlights, with indigo twilight in the distance. I can already see a few stars by this point, and I'm anxious to get to our destination.
Next we pass through Indian Mary campground, which is full on a warm August night. The glow of the campfires is comforting, as is the sweet, spicy smell of the campfires. We slow down to enjoy it as long as we can.
Beyond there, we wind through forests and more canyon, the river smell punctuated by roadside blackberries that ripened in the warm sun of daytime. The river undulates in a beautiful dance with the road....sidling closer until she's nearly touching, then sashaying out of reach.
After miles of one-laned road, we pass over our final landmark....Graves Creek bridge. A little known road takes us high above the river, until she's barely a glossy ribbon twinkling in the starlight. Our secret spot slides into view, and we excitedly jump out of the car to claim our spots. We always sit the same way, Faith facing east, me facing west. I lie back and allow the peace to wash over me. It's like a powerful tranquilizer, with peace and quiet and tranquility rolled into one. The only sounds are made by nature - no engines, no talking, no music. It's so amazing to realize the world can actually be silent.
We spend at least an hour pointing out stars to each other....laughing at those cheeky enough to flash us, making wishes on the falling stars we're lucky enough to find. Sometimes we talk about life in a way that we seem to be unable to accomplish otherwise. Other times we waste far too much time locating skittery noises with our cell phones (who needs flashlights these days?). On the best nights, we just lie in silence and revel in wonder.
One of my favorite childhood memories is right after I got glasses. Before my eyesight problem was discovered, the night sky was a blur of black covered in fuzzy white spots (only the brightest stars were visible to my unfocused eyes). One night, when the sky was really clear and it was super-warm outside, I crept outside with my glasses and laid in the backyard. We lived far out in the country, so there was no light pollution. I was so astonished that the stars were actually sharp pinpoints that I spend too much time looking at the sky, and fell asleep. Thankfully I woke before (a) something could eat me and (b) my mom found me. I tried lying outside many times after that, but it was never again so wonderful as that night. Now, as an adult, the closest I come to that joy is the nights we drive to our super-secret spot and share the sky.
Driving home is bittersweet. I'm so relaxed that I'm sleepy, but still feel euphoric. I want to stay out all night and absorb the universe, but reality awaits back home. At least, until I can run away again.