Smoke rises into the night, plumes of flame in the barrel. Stars scattered across the sky; Milky Way bow tie stretched against the black. My friend Jordan and his pipe, sweet scent of tobacco. We scan the dark, silent water, which stretches on and on, shrouded in the back of his family’s home on Washington Island, a treasure at the tip of Door County, Wisconsin. I tuck my legs tighter under my blanket and lean into the cool air, hidden from me for so long. I am continually in awe that I am in this moment, this breath, atoms of afterlife colliding with the now. How his family so graciously lets me into their lives, gives me space to stake my soul about the water.
He takes another puff of his pipe, expelling smoke to mingle with the ashes rising from the fire. I’ve waited a full year for this, to say goodbye to my unfamiliar, wavering life and head north of the tension line, to a palpable quiet on Washington Island, a forgotten existence. To rest in slowness, nowhere to go, no thoughts to think that raise my pulse.
Stars splitting open wide the night. He teaches me to spot Polaris. The North Star. Guiding light. I count out the spaces and marvel at how ordinary it looks, same size as its brothers in the sky.
How is God no beginning? he asks. I nod my head languid, drowsy with the freshness of island, saturation of my soul. Without knowing, I am lifted to the place I crave, where my heart rests, refuels, simply is.
How is there infinity beyond us? I counter. Or within us, for that matter? Flutter of bats silhouette across the bay. Deep glow of liner headlights crossing their nocturnal course. Rhythm of life silken and subdued. Right as it should be. My neck strains to the cosmos, eyes drinking in stars that burn in flashes, leave streaks among God’s windowpanes. In this vast canvas, constellations come to life, bold and more beautiful than fables explain. Celestial beings bend close, caress our conversation and hearts eager to solve the mysteries of the universe. We dissect philosophy, the unfathomable things of life, endless realm of infinity, the wonderings of God.
My limbs slip further into the fabric of chair. I pull my arms in the pockets of my sweatshirt, which burrows around me in comfort cocoon. The yard, damp with dew. Another whiff of tobacco, cherry, and bark. Breaks in the quiet, questions asked which will get no answers. That is the way of this world; still, we examine and toss the deep ends of our minds into the night.
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