Saturday, September 26, 2009

carolina night, romanian sky

Last night after large group, I went to see my friend Jamie and we ended up driving around. A couple of times a year I kind of get in these moods where I have to think things out, I have to drive around in the dark and see things the way they look then. I love Wilmington, but it's asphalt and concrete and metal in the daytime. It's stoplights and too much traffic, and everything looks imposed. Sometimes when everything's lit up, I don't know. I don't know, I'm forever talking about cool air and lights at night, but there's just something about it. Maybe it's just that it's quieter at night and I can think.

When I was in Romania, there was this one night after our first big hike and I was so exhausted and furstrated with being tired and not having enough God time and I ended up going out on this porch swing and just lying there in the cold, watching the lights off the other cabins, listening to two men talk in a language I don't know, some other group of students somewhere down the hill singing songs in the dark. I can't think about Romania without the singing, without lying there in the dark, too tired to even pray, just lying there and knowing my God is a God of comfort and of strength, and how the wind felt, that I was shivering and I didn't care.

Jamie and I drove north last night--my grandparents used to live about twenty minutes north of here, and I haven't been back in years. It was so dark out there, the kind where the rearview mirror is completely dark and you want to turn around to make sure of what's still behind you. I was looking for the dock access, this place up the street from my grandparents' old house that we use to play at. I remember once my cousin Chris tried to build a raft out of hurricane debris and raft us across the waterway to Figure Eight Island. We ended up passing the entrance three times before we finally saw it, and when we got out of the car we couldn't see anything. Not the water, and barely the path, just holding hands in the dark because we were scared but we wanted to see. So then when our eyes adjusted we walked out on the dock and I realized how much smaller everything looked. I don't know if it's the dark or if it's the time, but every time I see a place I haven't seen in years, it looks smaller. Even the island looked closer. And we stood on the dock and it wasn't really moving because the water wasn't really moving, and we could hear the fish swimming around, splashing. We both got scared because suddenly the fish were making a lot of noise, like someone was swimming toward us in the dark and we couldn't see them.

When I walked home from class Wednesday, I could smell the sound, the waterway. It rained and churned it all up and five miles inland, you can smell it. And I thought about that last night, how I sat on the dock when I was a kid, trying to fish because my grandfather was a fisherman, the one time my cousin pushed me in the water in February and I nearly got hypothermia. I was watching the lights across the waterway when we got too scared and finally left, holding hands again because she saw something and in the dark you can never tell what you're looking at.

Last April I drove with another friend of mine an hour and a half north to see the town I'd grown up in, one I hadn't seen in six years and it was the same thing. It was 11:00 at night and we couldn't see anything but it all looked smaller. And the lights. I'm thinking about the dark and the way the lights look and how that's how I remember what growing up was like now: running in the dark, and the lights that led us wherever we were running, whether it was home or otherwise. It's something I don't understand about God--I don't know if, when the Bible talks about there not being any darkness in heaven and light and everything, if it means that there literally will be no darkness. Because my favorite place in the world to be is somewhere at night when it's cool and quiet and there are little lights I can watch, and even looking at the stars is something you can't do unless it's dark enough. Surely the heavens--the heavens, right?--aren't a bad thing. I don't know, I'm just thinking.

I remember walking back to our cabin in Romania the first week of camp, how we walked through this one stretch of trees where you couldn't even see the person next to you, but above you, oh man. Above you the sky like a turned over bowl and the way the mountains reached up and stars so thick that maybe if it were dark enough, if you waited long enough, all those lightyears, the whole sky would be light. But mostly I remember walking under that, linked arms with Shannon, three or four people ahead of us singing out and catching words like aleluia and Dumnezeu, my hand and Jamie's hand and the way the air feels only at night.

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