the stars at night

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(are big and bright *clap clap clap* deep in the heart of texas)

sorry, i just had to get that out of my system.

a story.

two summers ago, almost to the day, i accepted an invitation to go camping in joshua tree. it was slightly out of my comfort zone, (okay, more like VERY outside of my comfort zone), but i was willing to make the trip if it meant celebrating my then-boyfriend’s 30th birthday. thankfully i survived. though, at moments, it was a close call. and i even made some friendships that weekend that have outlasted the original romantic relationship. but regardless of my realization that perhaps camping and i have more of a love/hate kind of thing going on, there is one particular aspect of the trip that will always stick out as a fond memory.

well besides the part when we loaded up the car and started our drive back to san diego. because that meant the trip from h-e-double hockey stick was at long last over. besides that.

my ex and i had embarked on our journey eastward a little past seven p.m. in an attempt at bypassing a bulk of the friday night traffic. we made fairly good time and arrived at the front gates of joshua tree state park a little after 10:30.

now let me stop here and say that there’s a city version of “dark” and then there’s the desert version. in the city, or suburbia even, nightfall isn’t true nightfall on account of all of the glow of street lights and neon signs from restaurants nearby. the constellations in the sky become eclipsed by the man-made versions of light that surround them, or worse yet, by the brown cloud of smog and pollution.

but in the desert, you’re removed from urban life. the sky steps out from behind her metropolitan veil. back to her raw beauty. and it’s beneath the desert sky that you experience what “pitch black” truly feels like. it is there that you can truly appreciate one of God’s most beautiful creations -the stars.

as we drove slowly down the semi-paved gravel road toward our campsite, my ex motioned me to pull over on the side of the road. with the midnight hour inching dangerously closer and barely any reception to navigate the humble roads by google maps, i questioned the credibility of his request. i shot him a look, but he asked me to trust him. so i did. i veered the car off the paved portion and idled it beside a dirt ravine. he undid his seatbelt and stepped outside of the car, i begrudgingly followed suit, still concerned that it’d be only a matter of time before we were eaten by some rogue wild animal or worse, wild bush man (i think i’ve watched one too many episodes of law & order: SVU). 

he stood there in silence. i did my best to do the same (silence is hard for me, you guys). he put his arm around me and motioned me to look up. it was then that i realized why he had insisted that we take the slight detour. what i saw when i looked up into that dark sky was a scene that defies description. i have never seen a more clear and crisp night sky in my entire life. i’m fairly certain that it was that night that i also saw my very first shooting star. multiple shooting stars, in fact. and of course i made a wish. or five.

there’s a friends episode where ross takes rachel on their very first “official” date to a planetarium. despite a few awkward moments (“that’s just the juice box”), it’s terribly romantic when he turns on the star machine and the dome lights up with faint glow of the constellations. standing there in joshua tree made me feel like we were having a little friends episode of our own (though our episode ended very differently thankyouverymuch). it was pretty much perfect.

anyway, while someone would probably have to pay me a very large sum of money to get me to go to joshua tree again any time soon, i will choose to look back on that trip with fond eyes.

if only for the fact that i learned that you don’t have to go to the deep heart of texas to experience the bigness and brightness of stars at night.

image via the glitter guide

1 Comment
  • Teresa
    May 22, 2014

    I completely relate to part of your story. (I’m sorry your Joshua Tree experience was less than perfect.) When we moved to the desert, I permanently moved while Alan lived in both worlds for six years. I remember vividly a particular night when I was feeling lonely and abandoned. I went outside an looked up. I’ll be honest. It took my breath away… the absolute vastness of the universe. I felt physically crushed by its magnitude to my minuscule (and petty) life. I was humbled to my knees and I thanked my God for the splendor of His creation. I’ll never forget that experience.
    BTW – next time go ‘camping’ in the desert stay at a 4- or 5-star hotel. It’ll leave you with a more pleasant experience.

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