Dropping down out of the high desert it’s no longer brutally cold at night, low 40s, warm enough to sleep with the fly off. I pushed about 80-85 miles from Marathon, leveraging the downhill, mostly, and the tailwind, mostly, all the way to a hidden caliche gulch off the highway.
I lay for a few hours with the flap open, my head facing upward as first Mars appeared and then slowly the stars rose in the east. Star rise is extraordinary when you lie there and watch it happen. In the desert when the sun sets, that is actually when the lights go on, a massive bucket of dumped diamonds spread on a pale, satin white blanket across the sky.
The stillness is broken, jaggedly, every few seconds by the rush of 18-wheeled commerce, with the frequency of their intrusions diminishing until even they have gone to bed. The hum of insects remains, warm and alive, against the hard glitter of the stars. A coyote calls.
It is funny to think that all we know comes from the night sky, when the black African astronomers unraveled the mystery of planetary movements, passing on the foundations of all science to the Egyptians and later the Greeks. It is stranger still to look at the chaotic heavens and think of the centuries’ worth of nights that those astronomers gazed, remembered, compared, analyzed, putting together the grains of sand that formed the building bricks of all knowledge.
What serene confidence that tonight’s grain of knowledge would build tomorrow’s and so forth long after the night watchman of this day had died!
It seems like a long way to pedal until I reach my destination, with a lot of unknown ahead. Like star rise, it’s all complex and disordered at first, second, and third glance. But a bit of patience mixed with a large dose of confidence, and perhaps all will be revealed.
At the tail end of night a sharp crescent moon hovers on the eastern horizon, rising briefly before being pushed aside by the shoulders of the sun.
As the song says, we have all been here before.