Staring up at the black sky, I wondered. How did he always manage to find the perfect spot?
Tall, dark, pines all around us – I could smell the broken needles – the swiftly flowing river a few hundred feet behind our tent. I could hear the cold water rushing over the polished boulders – a silent sky sprinkled with hundreds and hundreds of stars – so many you couldn’t possibly count them all. If you watched close enough, every now and then, one would rebel and fall from its place on the map, shooting across the sky until it seemed to vanish into thin air.
There was something about this night. This trip. This moment. It was something I knew I couldn’t forget.
Five years older, he was always prepared and the best teacher for these types of adventures. He thought of every detail ahead of time, was amazingly organized and completely aware of his surroundings in every situation imaginable. “Murphy’s Law,” he always said. Yes, I was sure to learn a lot from him this week.
The campfire crackled. He stirred the coals and gently blew on them. They glowed, bright orange, the flames grew, then settled. He added more wood. He had developed a rhythm to the process. Some of it came from technique, though most of it was simply him. It was as if he could sense what the fire needed to grow.
As a kid, he always seemed connected to the wilderness. Now at eighteen, he spent every moment he could outside.
White-orange flames delivered warmth to our circle. It was just what was needed to balance the cool breeze at our backs. The campfire was the only light to be seen in every direction – aside from those stars – white-orange flames miles and miles away. So many miles it was hard for me to imagine so many of those white-orange flames burning in that empty black sky – miles and miles away.
We both kept quiet, my brother and I. We didn’t need to talk. I knew he was remembering the mountain range just north of camp. Steadily studying each peak in his head. I was memorizing the sounds of the rushing river and the silence in the sky.