Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Prime Passage: Blue Highways

From William Least-Heat Moon's Blue Highways, a description of the land and sky outside Pioche, Nevada:

Calm lay over the uncluttered openness, and a damp wind blew everything clean. I saw no one. I let my speed build to sixty, cut the ignition, shifted to neutral. Although Ghost Dancing [the author's car] had the aerodynamics of an orange crate, it coasted for more than a mile across the flats. When it came to a standstill, I put it back in gear and left it at roadside. There was no one. Listening, I walked into the scrub. The desert does its best talking at night, but on that spring evening it kept God's whopping silence; and that too is a desert voice.

I've read that a naked eye can see six thousand stars in the hundred billion galaxies, but I couldn't believe it, what with the sky white with starlight. I saw a million stars with one eye and two million with both. Galileo proved that the rotation and revolution of the earth give stars their apparent movements. But on that night his evidence wouldn't hold. Any sensible man, lying on his back among new leaves of sage, in the warm sand that had already dried, even he could see Arcturus and Vega and Betelgeuse just above, not far at all, wheeling about the earth. Their paths cut arcs, and there was no doubt about it.

The immensity of sky and desert, their vast absences, reduced me. It was as if I were evaporating, and it was calming and cleansing to be absorbed by that vacancy.

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