If someone offers you a ride to the moon — get in.
Saturday, before my adventures as an astronaut, I’d resigned myself to a night alone. Book in hand, cat sprawled on the floor by my side — it had all the makings of a quiet and humble evening. But, as I lay there, turning pages, a rowdy-Saturday-night-crowd walked past my window. All on their way to the pub around the corner, I’m sure. Their voices were pitched high, you could hear their shared excitement. They held back their laughter, only to have it explode on the corner and echo back off the walls of my living room. It made my heart ache.
I miss that. That camaraderie. That feeling of not-knowing where the night is going to go — but, knowing it’s going to be good. I so seldom feel that anymore. It makes me feel old — expired. Sometimes I find myself thinking that sobriety has stolen my flare for living. Muted my spirit. I miss those wild days where I didn’t care about what could happen next, and drunk or not — I felt like I lived in every moment.
As the pub-goer’s voices disappeared around the corner, my phone rang. A friend of mine was headed to the Columbia River Gorge to gaze at the super moon through his fancy telescope. He asked me if I wanted to join his group. My first thought was, of course, to say “No.” I looked down at my legs listlessly — I sported my hot-pink, cat-print pajamas. I asked myself: Is this it? Am I really in for the night?
And, though I could have fallen asleep in the next half hour and told myself on Sunday morning that I hadn’t missed a thing — I heard my old, wild voice say:
Sarah — Get up. Walk out that door. GO TO THE MOON. (And, for fuck’s sake — lose the cat pajamas.)
And so, I went, sans pajamas. My friends and I drove into a rare, hot, Portland night. The car’s AC gave me goosebumps. We didn’t have to worry about a thing — not even each other. Easy. It felt like breathing a sigh I’d been holding onto for years. It felt like — letting go. My insides shook with unexpected happiness I’d forgotten I could feel. My laughter bounced off the glass windows as we flew down Highway 84 — All for the sake of staring out into the dark.
We arrived at the Vista House, which peers into the mouth of the great Columbia River Gorge. As we parked, tourists howled at the moon. In the dark, the red, blinking lights of the Bonneville dam sent me cryptic messages. I felt like Gatsby, untethered. For just a moment, I was free. My bangs — blown loose from their bobby pin.
I lay on the steps of the lookout point, my grey hoodie pressed to the cement. The giant moon peered into the depths of me with his golden eye. And, there, I found myself entirely present. I was a cluster of molecules in a small gust of cool, river air. I was a beat in the rhythm of the dam’s pulsing-red-lights. I was another vibration in the hum of voices behind me — struggling to adjust the telescope.
Under this royal blue blanket of Oregon sky, dotted with stars, I am reminded what it is to be alive. Unplanned and wild. I am as lit up as the moon himself. I am. Here, it is both dark and bright. Empty and full. Like Baba Ram Dass says — to be present is to feel everything and nothing at once — it’s all happening.
This is my trip. Man.
The moon moves across the telescope’s lens. I see him. He sees me.
And, the next moment — He’s gone.