Rain. Solid. Steadier on the canvas than on the sidewalk. The wind rustling, the trees swaying. "The breeze is picking up," says Ty. "And it smells like pine." He's chain-smoking and we've got the journal, the postcards, and the six pack before us. Sharing the zebra pen, sharing the beer. Smoke twists carefully into the night sky, a sky large with stars hidden by the growing clouds. Embers burning, wood cracking in the stove in the tent/cabin. We're camping ... but not really. We're cheating. But here and now--happy with the scent of pine, the sound of rain, the fire, the beer, the laughs and nostalgia over the picnic table--it doesn't matter.

Before Zoë went to bed, she called us up to the car. "You need to be here now," she said with urgency. And so Ty and I wandered up the embankment, stood next to her and, from earth to air, looked up. We turned our heads to the pin-pricked sky. And the stars were glorious and heavenly and twinkling and teasing, some bright, others white and hot, some yellow with distance. Illuminating and humbling. And with necks craned and jaws dropped, it was Ty who spoke first.

"Sure makes you feel futile, doesn't it?" He paused, turned, kicked the ground and added, "It does me, anyway."

The passenger door of the car was still open, and Zoë still had camping gear in hand. I was swaying a bit, dizzy in mind and body from the wheat beer, but I still eked out, "Some of those stars don't even exist anymore. We're just seeing the light now."

"We're looking into the past," Ty said.

And for a small moment, I almost let myself believe it. That we were there and now, watching and living, being a part--the one given to us--and playing a part--the one we made made for ourselves. I looked and looked, and my neck cramped. Those stars, those millions and millions of miles away twisted amoebas of gas and chemicals, were beautiful. And if I was looking into the past, I was going to look at the things I wanted to remember. Like the sprig of sage brush on the dashboard. Like the birds fighting over their early reapings. How the sunlight hit each hill. Singing "Call Me Maybe" with Zoë. And thinking and knowing and wondering, when I heard Zoë's scoffing amusement and Ty's deep chuckles, how I got so lucky.

Catch up with the rest of the trip: 
Part 1: Henry Doorly Zoo
Part 2: The Badlands, Feat. Kitschy South Dakota
Part 3: On the Way to Billings


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