“There! Did you see it?” Janine points, tracing the arc of the shooting star already disappeared from the brilliant canopy above our hillside. The stars are so bright tonight, the hills glow, though the moon will not rise for another hour, well after midnight.
I inhale deeply, taking in the scents of lilac, jasmine, and cottonwood. A breeze whips strands of hair around my face, stinging my eyes. I shiver with the unexpected sensation, for I am warm in my sleeping bag, tucked next to Cheyenne’s.
“There’s another!” Sena’s alto tones carry the excitement of a child as she cranes her long, graceful neck upward. The silhouette of her face, dark against the starlit grasses, is classical beauty–well-rounded cheekbones, straight nose, high forehead.
We are miles from the Village–Janine, Sena, Cheyenne, Ruby, Merilee, Betty, and I–on our first campout of the season. Minimalists, we sleep on bare ground, our bags zippered close for warmth, thick trampled grasses beneath for cushion.
Our bellies are full of stone soup and pan-baked cornbread hot from the coals.
Earlier this afternoon, dusty and soaked with perspiration after our long morning’s trek, we slaked our thirst and cooled our aching muscles in the crystal waters of the stream, rushing full, swift, and cold from the High Sierras.
We rinsed our dusty clothing in the stream, too, and laid it to dry on shrubberies while we baked naked in the late afternoon sun. By the time we donned our garments, the sun was lowering in the sky, and its stored warmth through the cotton and flax was delicious on our skin.
The scent of sun-dried textiles and dyes is almost intoxicating. I wasn’t the only one hugging my sleeve to my nose, and taking whiffs of my collar as we bustled to set up camp and light the fire.
Cheyenne yawns and twists in her bag. One arm under her head, she reaches the other across, searching for my hand. Our fingers twine, warm.
“I don’t know if I can stay awake till the moon comes up,” she says. “I keep drifting away.”
“Go to sleep, Darling,” I tell her. “I’ll wake you if it’s extra special.”
“Don’t you dare,” she laughs, and rolls over. “G’night everyone,” she calls.
“G’night, Cheyenne.” “Good night!” “Sleep tight!” “Don’t let the bed bugs bite!”
Giggling, and chortling at the childish treacle, the one or two still up settle into their sacks. I listen for awhile to the quiet voices as here and there someone calls out another shooting star, or tells a tale of childhood camping trips. Wildlife skitter under the brush. A coyote barks in the distance.
And there, just as I can hold my eyes open no longer, the waning moon slips above the crest of the hill, casting light so bright, I can almost count the hairs splayed across Cheyenne’s shoulders.
Tears well in my eyes. My heart is full.
May all who lie under this moon this night be blessed as I.
May all beings feel this peace, this comfort.