Last night, I found myself sitting on a camp chair on a hill. It was a rainy evening; I could hear the rain hitting the canopy overhead.
The whole night was a landscape of sound. From every direction near and far, the roar and rumble of ATV engines called out in the night.
Their headlights rose up over the hill, one and then another and another and then they would drop down into the valleys and disappear.
A few moments later, with an echoing rumble, the white lights would beam out again and they would pass by, or into the woods, or off further into the field.
A golden glow rose up from the horizon and bleached the night sky paler. It was a concert. I could not see the lights, just the glow. I could not hear the music, just the murmur of the amplified voice and the dull back beat.
The buzz of the energized voice, the answering response of the crowd was ominous and vaguely militant. I expected at any moment to see a mob come marching over the hill, intent on some murderous objective.
I sat unnoticed in a moving jumble of sound and lights. Keith was off riding up a creek bed somewhere and I was supposed to be writing, but my net book battery had died before it had even finished booting up. I had forgotten the flashlights and the tent was too dark and close with the rain flaps down.
Instead, I sat on the hill and watched the white headlights flash light all across the otherwise unseen hillsides.
My exhaustion added to the dreamy feel of the night; my head rested peacefully against the back of the canvass chair. I was caught in a strange mix of contentment and displacement.
But it was beautiful and oddly moving, the night. There was this feeling of restless excitement, of possibility. I wondered how many young girls were caught up in heady love, and of them, how many were holding tight to his back, already riding with him.
Surely there were some who were looking, wondering, maybe with the next turn, if they would stumble on the boy. He would be recognizable in a moment, in the glare of the headlights, in the glow of the stage. He could be just around the corner, he could be in the same crowd.
Eventually, I became too exhausted even to sit up, so I crawled into the tend and lay down on the air mattress. It was fast losing air, and I was sunk deeply in the middle. Even with my ear plugs I could hear the deepest rumble of engines and their headlights pierced the thin canvass of the tent, like the eyes of monsters, searching in the night.
I thought drearily how the entire night would pass this way. We were camping in a field with scores of drunk and exuberant campers. With the concert going, I knew this racket was as quiet as it would get. When the concert was over, they would bring the party home, and the party would last all night.
I recognized the sound of Keith's engine immediately, and took my ear plugs out in time to hear him call my name, uncertainly. The tent must have looked forlorn, with no lights and no camp fire, drooping in the rain.
There had been some slight mishap; we were going home. An hour later, I lay in my own bed, in the velvet stillness of our room.
One moment I had been waif, a stranger in a strange land. The next, I was cradled by my own mattress and welcomed by my sheets, cocooned in the peaceful and familiar quiet.
Maybe this is a strange thing to think, but it occurred to me to wonder, lying there, if it's a little like that, to pass from one life to the next. (What does it say about me, that even when I go to a ATV mudding event, I end up wondering about the meaning of life? I did do a lot of riding, too.)
One minute, we are caught up in the dark, confused by all the lights pointing everywhere, passing by, and the sounds, which seems to have fragments of meaning. It is frightening and beautiful at the same time.
Everyone is searching for something, going some where, but where and for what? There is a sense of urgency, but no particular direction. The landscape that contains all this hints at some greater beauty, but it is quiet and still.
And then they wake up, in the comfort and security of home, which they had only momentarily forgotten, and the rest seems like a dream.