Every night we observe the sunset, and every night we witness the stars emerge over our camp just outside Sedona. We're camped on BLM land which costs us nothing to stay on, just a few miles down route 525. Seeing the stars at night is wonderful not only because they are beautiful in themselves, but also because they do actually remind you of your place in the universe. They remind you that we are all very small, and also that we belong, we are part of something gargantuan and beautifully complex. They remind you that we are only here for a very short time, that we are just passing through. When you live in a city, or anywhere with light pollution (most of North America according to a recent study by the Society for Dark Skies) you are robbed of this perspective. A few months ago I heard an interview with an astronaut who said she was inspired to go to space by marveling at the stars as a little girl in the country, and who is concerned about the impact on people of being disconnected from such natural wonders.
So we watch the stars and try to stay awake, but one thing that also happens when you are outside much of the time is that your body's circadian rhythm starts to more closely match natural rhythms. So when it gets dark, we get sleepy, and we sleep deep and long and good most nights. All the exercise and fresh air helps. And the absence of artificial lights, especially screens, seems to make a huge difference. I rarely feel tired during the day, and I don't think I have slept so well since I was a kid.
Sometimes we wake up when the coyotes serenade each other and us as well. At such times I like to peek outside and see how the stars have moved, or notice where the moon is on her slow mystic glide across the sky. I listen to the breeze or the soothing silence.
As I mentioned we are camped outside Sedona, under a tree in a meadow. The tree is home to at least 3 large black widow spiders, but since we don't bother them. Last night we were invited over for drinks by our neighbors down the way, so to speak, 2 older American couples who were super friendly and full of life. They told us a number of interesting stories... e.g., what it was like to travel through Morocco in the 1970s when they were in their early 20s. One of the men, an old surfer, told us about the time he drove to Mexico in his van to surf with his friends, only to have it break down on the side of a road so he'd had to leave it there and hitch home. He kept visiting its progressively decaying skeleton year after year after that, watching it slowly disappear. The other man told us of the time he'd been stung by an electric eel or ray while scuba diving, and survived. His wife corroborated all his stories. These people were in their 60s and hilarious, had lived a lot and were still adventuring. They were inspiring and fun. When we told them about our trip they congratulated and encouraged us, and coming from folks like that it meant a little bit more than usual.
The second man told us how he'd been raised by his grandmother, who had inculcated in him this idea: try not to do things which might later bother or haunt you - that way you won't have to carry their weight around for years afterward. I reflected on that for a while after, wise words and kindly put.