Lately I’ve been going on evening (or rather midnight) walks to clear my head. Night seems like the opportune time to find peace in the world, and it’s no secret that it has a tendency to bring out the introspection in people.
I once read a quote by Elie Wiesel that, to me, described the allure of night perfectly:
“Night is purer than day; it is better for thinking and loving and dreaming. At night, everything is more intense, more true. The echo of words that have been spoken during the day takes on a new and deeper meaning.”
Mind you, I found that quote online, so I’m not entirely sure what the original context was. Still, though, I think it’s true. Night begs to unearth the ideas and memories and emotions buried under the weight of the past.
Thus, with this in mind, I walk out into the brisk (61 degree) air and make my way down the sidewalk, journal, pen, and mind ready to work through the day’s struggles. Miracles are bound to surface.
Immediately I am hit with the reality that I go to a college in the least romantic city known to human kind. I’m looking at you, Azusa, California.
While my wistful imagination has no trouble whatsoever daydreaming about European countrysides and cobble stone roads and ancient, stately castles, my current reality is much less grand.
I am instead met by the stale glow of street lights reflecting up at me from oily asphalt. Overhead, I can hear the monotonous drone of helicopter propellers as they dice the night sky into minute pieces; it pairs oh so beautifully with the bright search lights shining down on the neighborhoods of the city. Police sirens fill the air, but play much softer than the propellers and from a further distance. They have mastered the delicate balance of getting louder just when you almost forget that they’re there. What a lovely constant to have in my life at 1am.
Two guys sit on a nearby curb smoking a vast array of colorfully scented herbs. I pass by as quickly and quietly as possible. One is animatedly telling the other about the last time he was arrested and I can’t help but imagine them as two little boys comparing scrapes on the playground.
After all this, I look up at the sky, at the large moon hanging in space, at the few stars I can see sprinkled around it, and although the street lights and traffic lights and air pollution make the sight infinitely less magnificent than I’m sure it could be, I’m still amazed.
I am one person, standing in one parking lot, in one city, in one state, in one country, on one continent, in one hemisphere, on one planet, in one solar system, in one universe, and it’s so amazing that I, as a human, can even comprehend it. I can hardly believe it’s real sometimes.
One of my favorite modern poets, Ellen Bass, describes this sensation beautifully in her poem aptly titled “The Moon.”
Driving south on highway one, along the crumbling
edge of the continent, I see it, the moon,
framed in the windshield like a small white shell
glued to the blue silk of the afternoon. Except it isn’t.
It’s the moon. All 1.62 x 10^23 pounds of it, suspended,
with its mountains and maria, its craters, ridges and rilles.
“Isn’t that amazing,” I say to my lover and my son,
“to think the moon is really there and we can see it?”
She shrugs, cracking a salted sunflower seed.
Wires from a portable CD player pour Third Eye Blind
into my son’s perfectly shaped ears. So I am alone
with my epiphany and the moon,
that I have come, just now, to realize is truly out there-
not a silver coin, a saucer of milk,
a creamy mound rising over the horizon of a tight bodice,
not an onion in the martini sky, not the surprised
mouth of heaven, or the whole round face of God,
this moon is the moon,
circling in its own private orbit of slight eccentricity,
so close I can make out the smooth shadow of the Sea of Rains
and trace the rough, bright peaks of the ranges.
So I will continue to walk through this city at night, past the rambling smokers and the murky lights, despite the whirring of the helicopters and the shrill song of the sirens, and I will choose to see the wonder above it all.
One day, I’m sure I will make it Paris or Oxford or any other number of “romantic” cities away from everything here, and I’m sure that when I’m there, I won’t be missing this at all. But for now, I’ll try to accept this town for what it is. Despite my location on this planet, I’m here.
And there is undeniable beauty in that fact.
From a reflective college student up way too late for her own good,