Smoke rising into the night, plumes of flame in the barrel. Stars scattered across the sky, Milky Way bow tie stretched against the black. My friend Jordan and his pipe, sweet scent of tobacco. Looking out at the dark, silent water, which stretches on and on, shrouded in the back of his family’s home. I tuck my legs tighter under my blanket and lean into the cool air, hidden from me for so long. I am continually in awe that I am in this moment, this breath, atoms of afterlife colliding with the now. How his family so graciously lets me into their lives, gives me space to stake my soul about the water.
He takes another puff of his pipe, expelling smoke to mingle with the ashes rising from the fire. I’ve waited a full year for this, to say goodbye to my unfamiliar, wavering life and head north of the tension line, to a palpable quiet, a forgotten existence. To rest in slowness, nowhere to go, no thoughts to think that raise my pulse.
So many stars splitting open wide the night. He teaches me to spot Polaris. The North Star. Guiding light. I count out the spaces and marvel at how ordinary it looks, same size as its brothers in the sky.
How is God no beginning? he asks. I nod my head languid, drowsy with the freshness of island, saturation of my soul. Without knowing, I am lifted to the place I crave, where my heart rests, refuels, simply is.
How is there infinity beyond us? I counter. Or within us, for that matter? Flutter of bats silhouette across the bay. Deep glow of liner headlights crossing their nocturnal course. Rhythm of life silken and subdued. Right as it should be. My neck strains to the cosmos, eyes drinking in stars that burn in flashes, leave streaks among God’s windowpane. In this vast canvas, constellations come to life, bold and more beautiful than fables explain. Celestial beings bend close, caress our conversation and hearts eager to solve the mysteries of the universe. We dissect philosophy, the unfathomable things of life, endless realm of infinity, the wonderings of God.
My limbs slip further into the fabric of chair. I pull my arms in the pockets of my sweatshirt, which burrows around me in comfort cocoon. The yard, damp with dew. Another whiff of tobacco, cherry and bark. Breaks in the quiet, questions asked which will get no answers. That is the way of this world; still we examine and toss the deep ends of our minds into the night.
How in this expanse are we significant?
Such a canopy before us, such delicate design. Jordan dumps the remains of his finished pipe into the fire but holds onto the handle, transferring warmth from the bowl to his hands.
Sleep comes for me with friendly fetching, hand on my shoulder, stirring me to bed. Stars still slash across the sky, dilate my pupils with their escalating light before dissipating behind the curtain of the supernatural other side. Clues to my faith I thought I wanted to find sit undiscovered in the unexplainable tonight.
Again, my eyes stray to Polaris. Guiding light. Looking identical to the other dots glimmering above except for the truth of its location. Eyes fall back to the fire. One last lick of flame before it’s doused, fogging up the airwaves. My skin shivers in this new coolness, bumps curve my flesh, hover the hairs on my arms. Ink still drying the dark pool of ether. Heart drinks it in, wrapping within my undisturbed spaces. With slow consent, I rise and fold my blanket, inhale the deepness of grass, charcoal log, lake reeds. Pulse of embers rife with awareness. Ring of light marshalling the new moon. Smile stretches my lips in nature’s rouse to dream, high above and close within.
I do not want to lose this part of me—the still soul, the lover of life, the dreamer. I cannot waste away the wonder. Cannot squelch the significance rumbling deep beneath my breast, beneath the exquisite arc of proof that I am so much smaller than I hope, brighter than I imagine. The significance of my infinity among the earthbound swells, expands.