I won’t go into details, but suffice it to say that over the past weekend, something came up and I became extremely upset. It was Friday night, well okay Saturday morning, at around 2 o’clock…and I needed to get some air. Usually when I’m upset I pick up my guitar and just play, or listen to some music, or write…but this time it was different. I had already tried writing and listening to music…I needed to get outside. For a few seconds I imagined myself hopping into the car and just driving somewhere, anywhere, with the windows down and the wind against my face. This wasn’t something I ever did to remedy negative feelings, though, plus it’s not exactly a safe idea, and I didn’t want to wake up anyone. But I had to get outside. So I resorted to doing something else.
For the past couple of years in late fall/early winter, I’ve set up a tripod and folding chair in the backyard, taking a camera and trying to capture some Leonids on film. This time, I grabbed a pair of binoculars instead of the camera, and sat outside, leaning back in the chair and occasionally looking through the lenses into the night sky. It was pretty bright out, thanks to the moon, and the brighter stars were still very visible. Though there was cloud cover, it moved fairly quickly, passing over my head and heading south/southeast.
I tried to identify the stars and the planets, but couldn’t be sure of most of them. After a few minutes I even spotted a falling meteor — no matter how many times I see one, I’m always awestruck. I sat there for half an hour, listening to the faint sounds of the city: of the whoosh of passing cars on the nearby streets, of the fallen leaves wrestling gently against the breeze…and feeling the briskness of the air in my lungs. For those of you in “real” winter climates, you might wonder “sitting outside in January? Are you nuts?” — but remember, this is in Southern California, where the low for that night did not dip below 45 degrees F.
Just sitting there calmed me down considerably, and it probably was more effective than a drive would have been. Watching the large fields of cumulus clouds hovering by, obscuring my view of the stars every so often, helped put my own mind clouds in perspective. I was just a person, one of countless others, underneath passing cloud formations, sitting still on a rotating planet, gliding around the sun, through space, one planet in a neighborhood of many, a few of which I could see. “God,” I thought in a sort of opening prayer, “I am glad to be a part of this.”
So after a half hour or so, I gathered everything and went back inside. And I picked up my guitar, and very quietly, began playing — mostly Richard Buckner songs — and felt my tension ease away even more with every note.