Saturday, April 15, 2006

Stars

Several natural phenomena occurred to birth Friday night, April 14, 2006. The day was unusually warm with heat advisories posted early in the afternoon, the wind was wild all day long, ushering in a feeling of living in another dimension. Her hair was in her face all day, the branches of the trees dancing for her entertainment, and the storms tracked north, leaving a washed shimmering atmospheric dark blue to the sky, white clouds skirting the perimeter of her world, leaving an opening of nothing but blue.

The sound of aluminum bats on baseballs at the stadium a few blocks over, was carried like musical notes across the streets and through her open windows, a sure mark of summer fast approaching.

Birdsongs were loud and clear; courting songs that will eventually give way to the deeper, throatier, thirsty chirps of a heat-infested, dry summer.

She worked all day, listening, waiting, hurrying the day, so they could take their McDonald's picnic dinner to the lake, relax there surrounded by water and woods.

They arrived there at about five o'clock that evening, were the only people visiting the beautiful, serene gated members-only environment. April in Indiana is not usually so amenable, and the sudden transition from winter to summer took many people by surprise and they were not yet ready to embrace the season. All the better for the two of them who can sniff out a warm evening coming even in December and have learned to take full advantage of that.

The two of them walked and walked, skipped stones on the water, wiggled their toes in the damp sand at the beach, laughed and occasionally walked in perfect silence, traversing the fallen limbs, picking up interesting rocks or sticks.

Once around the Upper Lake, they ran like kids to the swings at the park. The swings there were the wooden seats, not the plastic slings that someone decided would be better; not the plastic slings that squeeze your thighs together so that you are knock-kneed; not the plastic slings that you cannot jump out of mid-swing; but the nice, wooden, straight seats with real chains that you can twist and twist and twist and then spin madly around in when it is released. They swung, they twisted.

He was ready to leave and she said, "Please? Can we just stay until the stars come out?"

And she pouted just a little until he gave in, and they walked again, around the Lower Lake this time. They played hide-and-seek in the woods, darting in and out behind huge old pines and fallen logs, easily concealed in the quickly coming dusk. She was watching her watch, calculating when the stars would start appearing, anticipating the canopy overhead, so brilliant out here in the darkness of the woods with no houses, no noise, no cars...no light. And as the moment drew closer, her heart began to race.

Back up at the shelter house and park, they positioned themselves on the teeter-totter. He teeter-tottered and she sat on the other end with her feet propped up on the board in front of her, not teetering or tottering, just watching the sky.

He said, "Did you know that it takes so long for the light of the stars to reach the earth so we can see them, that those stars might not even be there anymore? That they might have burned out a thousand years ago but their light is just now visible to us?"

And she said, "Did you know the stars are there all day but we just can't see them because of the brilliance of the light of the sun?"

They teetered and tottered on in silence, then, in awe of the gravity and the enormity of those observations.

She laid down, then, on the ground, the darkness wrapping around her like a quilt, and watched the sky.

Pop. The first star became visible to her and she wondered if it was really the star or if it was just the residual light from a star long gone. Pop. Pop pop pop pop. The stars were popping out and she listened to hear if they sounded like a bag of microwave popcorn heating up, exploding. Suddenly, with him laying beside her, the skyscape offered up its light show, and they held their breaths together when the wind, almost on cue, gusted. From their pine-needle cots they watched the thin, tall pine trees sway like hundreds of couples slow-dancing to a windsong, while the stars popped. They reached over and grasped hands, contemplating their place, their tiny, tiny, very unimportant place, in the Universe.

Then, they quietly stood up and drove home in silence, neither willing to break the magic spell by speaking.

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