“Listen: there’s a hell of a good universe next door; let’s go.” — e.e. cummings.
For most people, the good universe next door isn’t worth the trouble. Drowned by everyday business at hand, they lose sight of the beauty in nature. For a long time in my life, I, too, was one of those people. However, that one night alone in the wilderness changed everything.
I opened my eyes, and peered at the static image above me through half-closed lids, feeling my brain defogging itself from drowsiness.
“Where am I?”
I opened my eyes wider. Above me was not the monotonous tan-colored ceiling of my bedroom, but rather a clear night sky dotted with tens of thousands of stars. To my right weren’t the usual window and the cool streetlight that poured in through the shutter cracks, but instead a clearing with bundles of grass and trees marking its parameters.
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. It didn’t smell like my bedroom, nor did it sound like it. Instead of the low hum of passing traffic, I heard the hooting of owls and whooshing of a nearby stream; rather than the musty smell of piles of books and old papers, the chilly night breeze carried over fresh smells of grass and damp earth.
It was late April of 2012, and I was on my solo night during the Deschutes River Rafting outdoor trip. Before the trip, I had been knee-deep in preparing for the AP exams scheduled to begin the week after we got back, and I had wanted nothing more than to get through with this trip so I could resume studying. Actually, this mentality had haunted me up until my solo night, three days into the trip. I had written a short journal entry, unpacked my sleeping gear, climbed in at 10pm and called it a night in the hope that sleep would make the night go by faster.
When was the last time I’ve seen something like this? I asked myself, as I continued to marvel at the night sky. Everywhere my gaze landed on, myriads of luminous dots winked back at me, sprinkled across the black canvas.
On countless nights before this trip, I sat at my desk in front of my bedroom window. As soon as night fell, I would reach forward to close the shutters, all the while with my gaze still glued to the computer screen, or the reading I had to finish. I had been oblivious before. Caught up in work, I had turned a blind eye to the beauty all around me.
I couldn’t go back to sleep that night. As the hours went by, I lay quietly in my sleeping bag and watched a pale yellow glow gently push the stars off the sky, hungrily taking in what had been missing in my life for so long.
As the first rays of sunlight emerged, I sat up and stretched, the crisp morning air filling my lungs.
“Let’s go.” I told myself.