Between stars and water

Some nights I can’t get to sleep. I lay waiting for darkness to do the work of calming my mind and spirit – lulling me to sleep – and the stillness instead opens spaces in my mind that I fill and fill and instead of dreaming, find myself wondering what the words to a song are, or planning the next day, or planning days past and wondering about any number of things. So tonight I give in and stand quiet in my kitchen with a cat who is happy I’m here – waiting for the teapot to boil.

Literally, waiting for the water to come to a boil.

I’ve given in because I think maybe writing will help. Because, for nights on end I lay down to sleep and immediately my mind pulls me back to and I remember I want to write. So here I go:

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of camping in the mountains with some lovely people; Mountains, and lakes, and campfires, and stars, and a little bit of too tight strings being loosened – heart strings singing in the freedom of it all. For everyone, this summer has been nothing like our normal summers – nothing like what we’ve come to expect, plan, or hope for – so this trip was a breath taken in the midst of the unknown, and a steady exhale when the rest have been shaky and brief.

I have beautiful pictures of this trip: sunsets on the dardanelles, friends in kayaks and granite rimmed water. My favorite part though, didn’t come with pictures, and I’m not sure my words will do it justice, but everytime I close my eyes, I’m taken back and I’m thankful for the moment and the memory.

My favorite part of that trip was around 10:30 – 11pm one evening – long past my bedtime – before the moon had risen, with the perseids meteor shower putting on a show. A fleet of kayaks, a paddle board, and one sneaky canoe took to a calm lake and became part of the stars.

Have you ever been in the high mountains and experienced the stars? It’s something I absolutely took for granted as a kid – I assumed everyone knew what the milky way looked like – and while I may have wished upon a shooting star, I saw them all of the time. I didn’t know that people spent lifetimes only knowing glimpses of the sparkly things in the sky, that they’ve never experienced the bending of the horizon in the dark.

Out in the middle of that lake, stars in the sky reflecting in the water, and the boundaries of the water and sky not quite clear in the milky way trail, I lay flat on that paddle board and trailed my fingers in the water.

Daily life doesn’t allow for too much reflection – or maybe it does – but without purpose or answer – and normally that bothers me; and honestly, I don’t think I reflected much in that moment. I experienced that moment – and perhaps that’s why it has stuck with me so well.

I spend so much time worrying about doing the right thing, making sure safety is attainable for myself, for my family, for my friends, for the animals, for the people I love, or see, or know about. Daily, there is so much to keep track of and act upon, and change, or do – but on that lake, I was no more or less than one of those stars reflecting off the water. I didn’t worry about falling in, I didn’t worry anyone else would. I didn’t worry about getting back to shore in the dark, or whether there was a curfew for boats on a lake – I just soaked it in. All of it. The water, the stars, the sky, the sneaky canoe giggling as it bumped the other boats, the glowing kayak because someone had to have a light, and the laughter and voices echoing into the darkness – disrupting the silence only to become part of it.

I remember doing this more as a teenager – not worrying. Being with friends and just being. Being at the river or the lake, or hiking, or driving with the music up and my feet out the window – and just being. And now I worry all the time, and while maybe that worrying creates some safe spaces, it is so much less enjoyable than just experiencing the world as it is – the moments that we’re in, the friends that we’re with.

I don’t think there is a moral to that – but I’m thankful for the moment and for the memory. Perhaps putting some of it into words – however lacking – will help me to sleep. Or perhaps I’ll try to just be. Hope your sleep is more fruitful than mine this evening, friends. Dream beautiful dreams of the milky way and floating on stars.

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