She’d inhaled the crisp night air as she stepped from the A frame log retreat, her breath a small puff that quickly disbursed. From behind her came the quiet gurgle of the stream they’d played in earlier. Her white shorts had stained so badly green from falling on her arse repeatedly she’d never get them clean again. But no matter, it had been well worth it. She’d squinted into the dark, the silhouette of Massanutten rising from the earth, powerful and majestic. They’d hiked that just this morning and was another memory she’d carry. That of a canteen of bracingly cold water, of eating tuna fish sandwiches with a slice of cheese on them. She loved cheese but this was a first for being paired with tuna. The occasional craving remains.
A sound in the distance. A baleful howl of an animal but she felt safe, her friends asleep behind an easily accessible door should she simply turn around and take a step back. But she didn’t want safe, not tonight. Another breath, a moment to be vaguely curious as to the source. Settled, solemn and at that precise second, at peace, not an easy frame of mind for her, especially at the turbulent age of sixteen , but then she lifted her eyes skyward.
Awestruck. For that moment in time, she took it all in. The Milky Way splayed across the sky, the night air wrapping around her, not knowing her place in the cosmos but open to learning. Her heart sped up, breathing increased. An nemophilist suddenly realizing the occhiolist beauty of the Universe. A hundred million and more twinkling lights in the dazzling panoramic sky and why was she here? Only the passage of time would tell. But she’s typing this now and remembering. And maybe that’s a small part of the puzzle. ~Tamara McLanahan