Ah. Tonight, I burst with pleasure to be an American. Ours is a strong way, a proud way. There’s an attitude–a relaxed, informality–to being an American that, I have good reason to believe, makes life uniquely enjoyable. Enjoyable to walk around this rural-suburban sprawl that I call my neighborhood, my home, in the darkening twilight. To laugh at Chester when I nearly topple, loose my footing on gravel road when he pulls so hard, chasing a rabbit, an imagined bird, an intriguing smell. To watch the stars appear in the infinite sky above– first Orion, his belt, his legs. It darkens, we walk, Chester calms. I look up again, and it’s not just Orion, but Orion and his accompanying host of stars–a jeweled crown. Geese fly above, calling back and forth: a flying–invisible–cacophony overhead. I hear them pass overhead, and stare into the sky, hoping to catch a glimpse–a sudden blackening of a star, perhaps, to mark the winged migration overhead. Glancing toward the horizon’s last and fading light of the night sky: a half-dozen silhouettes of geese in flight appears, a handful of what-must-be the hundreds calling, invisible in the night sky.
We walk on. Chester is calm, now, trotting by my side, or, at leash’s end. A gentle wind blows, carrying with it wafts of barking dogs, of a lone car traveling down the not-too-distant highway. And beneath that, a silence: utter, deep, and still. I realize, suddenly, that there is no place in the world like my home– no other geography of barren, brown plains, migrating geese, silhouetted rocky mountains. No other place that people live in such quiet seclusion, protruding like jutting mushrooms out on the prairie. Live with that calm reassurance that ours is a strong way of life, a big way of life, comfortable and easy.
I’m reminded that so little would be required for ours to be a perfect way of life, too. I think we’re close. Imagine: we with draw from Iraq. We reinvest those billions into socialized health care, day care. We revise our patterns of living to be more sustainable, more generous. Rampant consumption becomes moderate consumption. Families turn off their televisions, and adjourn to the lawn outside, the back porch, the mountains. Conversation becomes less boisterous and more reflective, whispered meditations on self, happiness, contentment.
Mars shines brilliantly in the western sky. Too bright to be a star, too red. Mars aside, the sky is empty– ha! –save for a billion shining stars!
I muse at the beauty of all this, quiet and meditative, on my back porch. My fingers grow still (stiff) with cold, pleasantly so. It’s seemingly incongruous for me to sit with a laptop on lap and enjoy this, but somehow fitting and perfect. Technology should enhance. Enrich. Simplify. Our advancing technology, our endless pace of development need not disturb the beauty of the night.
A jet flies overhead (some thirty minutes ago). I can see the two glowing dots of what must be its engines, the streak across the sky it leaves behind. The sun, sunk below the mountains, somehow shines its light on the streak above, illuminating, making it shine bright in the dark, blue night sky. Picture this: a jet plane as a cosmic, glow-in-the-dark highlighter, it’s trail streaking across the night sky. Somewhere in the cosmos, a breeze blows, and the line looses form, bends, fades– gradually. Gradually.
I’m not bothered that a jet has crossed and disturbed the serenity of the night sky. No. I enjoy its trail and train, highlighted by the setting sun. It floats across the sky, silent.
In the distance, a train, and an increasing chorus of dogs. Their voices echo and boom across the prairies.
And somehow, all is right. This is serenity. This is happiness. This windswept prairie, overlooking Cheyenne. This darkening sky. This unhurried spring evening. I’m home, and the house has nothing to do with it.