The last time I saw the Milky Way the way the galaxy was meant to be seen, I was about 20 years old and working for the Forest Service on a fire crew near Hell's Canyon on the Oregon-Idaho border. I crawled out of my sleeping bag to pee and when I looked up, it was as if I was walking amongst the stars. I couldn't go back to sleep and was awake for hours, staring into space. I'd never been immersed in such a pristine night sky before.
Almost exactly 22 years later I finally got to see it again -- that thick, creamy mass of sensual light. As BAK so eloquently said, "we're part of that -- isn't that amazing?" This time, I wasn't so much dazzled as humbled. We're part of that. The stars we see as big and bright often aren't stars at all but other galaxies -- other milky ways, teeming with fire and ice. The beautiful, elegant milky way seems so fine and distant, but it is not. It is us. It is chaos. We hurtle through it, earthbound amongst blasting winds. The Milky Way at least one black hole, arms that spin like an enormous pinwheel, and was known by the Romans as Via Glactica -- "road made of milk."
The world is at once so immense and so minute. We have but an ant's tiny view of what's really going on out there. And that is why, lying in the shade of the truck in the heat of the day, naked and covered in aboriginal dust, surrounded by land where ancient tribes once gazed at the same awe-inspiring sky -- I allowed myself to let go and be fully human, to claw at the earth and fuck and play in the mud. To strip off the bullshit and nonsense and rise at dawn to listen to silence and simply walk. Feel the warm air on the body as it moves through time and space.
And then I tipped that whiskey bottle back and giggled and screwed myself (yes, along with my lover) right into a long, delicious, open-mouthed, drooling, snoring nap. It felt so fucking good. And when I awoke with a raging thirst for cold beer and a ravenous appetite for a big bowl of boiled weenies, peas & mac & cheese, we had the best idea ever. Enough of the hippie shit! It's time for a book of Redneck Erotica! (Lips that could suck the brand right off a cow, etc.)
ps -- This is it, you know. One crack at it. That's all we get. I've got a bead on the Milky Way now and I'm not gonna let it go. The road less traveled just might be something completely different than what I've imagined all this time.
A few pics from the Alvord Desert -- our home away from home!