All I can do is close my eyes and smile softly at the absurd incomprehensibility of it all. And then I try to write about it.
In Austin, I was hurting, aching for the endangered remnants of the night sky, yearning for a special kind of beauty that still exists only in those corners of the world we have left untouched; I yearned to find healing within the earth.
I fled north through the empty plains of Texas until the landscape began to shift. After I passed through Lubbock, rather than follow the interstates through Texas and up towards Colorado, I took the long lonely way through northeastern New Mexico. Nine months of following these roads back and forth across this vast country, and this single stretch of highway cut across what was unquestionably the most insanely beautiful landscape I have yet passed through. One lane on either side of the yellow dashes, nothing but earth and scrub, here and there a lone tree or a dilapidated farmhouse, huge squares of barren, tilled land: the burning sun collapses towards the plains. The world is empty and the sun falls below the visor and streams through the windshield, a fierce and retina-blinding orange. Bushes cast long slanting shadows the size of trees. In the east, the gray sky darkens above the ethereally illuminated landscape, nothing but golden grasses billowing in the plains wind, everything flat. Ahead an outcropping of rocks that grows and grows as I approach, and then the highway crunches into folds and winds up into the cliffs. When the road delivers me from the cliffs, I swear I have ascended into the Promised Land.
In my mirrors, the golden gray green patchwork far below stretches a thousand miles to the edge of the earth. And then: the reddening sun pulses on the horizon, and there is nothing but flat. Not a farmhouse or cow or tree, nothing but golden grasses and speckled shrubbery casting their tree shadows, there is no dip in the road, no hills, the straight highway zooms directly ahead and vanishes into a point at the horizon. As I drive through this empty illuminated curve-less world, I never pass another car. I let the windows down and the sunset wind crashes in and slams against my face, my dreads bathed in the red, I can hear nothing but the wind and see nothing but the earth and feel nothing but the sun. Finally the land tumbles slightly, and the road flies ahead like a seam running through a piece of slightly ruffled fabric. A pair of antelope race through the grasses. There must have been a river somewhere, I never got close enough to see the gorge, but a line of sunken treetops protruded from somewhere deep and trailed across the landscape.
Time escapes me, the fields swallow the sun, and I am finally prodded from my solitude by a sign announcing a highway junction. I take my foot off the gas and cruise towards the intersection, then pull off into an expanse of dirt at the corner of the lonely crossroads. I sit motionless for a few minutes, my ears ringing, before I can climb out of the car into the soft twilight.
I stand in the silence, breathing with the universe as sunset residue drains from the western sky. Dusk falls as I begin to boil water for pasta, and the silence is profound. Crickets echo into the night, and the warm wind flaps my t-shirt softly against my skin. A car will pass every thirty minutes or so; I can see the twinkling headlights coming across the landscape five minutes before the sound of the engine momentarily disrupts the stillness. In the beautiful lonely solitude of this spot, the twinkling reminds me that I am not truly alone.
I eat slowly and then wash my dishes. The stillness of this place is complete, and I sit in the dust letting darkness fall around me. And then: a huge bubble of deep color peeks up from the eastern horizon. At first I do not comprehend what I am seeing. And then, as it grows, I realize with a start that this is the moon, the blood orange moon, the full moon, coming up over the empty plain. There is no way to explain this moon. I do not understand what I am supposed to say about this gigantic fire-colored moon. How can I possibly explain this moon to you? I’m beside myself as I unzip my guitar from its case and begin to play. I stroke the instrument so gently, I begin to sing softly, and I play a lullaby for the rising moon. I swear I have never coaxed such tender and beautiful sounds from these strings. As the moon comes up, I get goose bumps from my own music. And then I look upwards for the first time: a thousand flecks of light ripple through the blackness.