The crescent sliver of the moon wanes slowly across the night sky, the brightest stars sprinkled across the darkness. A night sky with blinking lights from airplanes entering the Houston Intercontinental landing pattern string out northward, airplanes dropping through 10,000 feet, slowing to 200 mph, ghosting past the lunar crescent, a string of jewels stretching out to the limits of my eyesight. I’m enjoying a late summer evening with a slight chill in the air, Friday night at the lake. A party is underway across the bay with the mummer of cheery conversation occasionally marked with the easy gay laughter of a young woman. Sounds mixing with sounds all drifting over the water, ducks quaking and the distant bark of a dog. Another dog answers from down bay, I speak fluent dog and know they are just talking, telling each other that “All is well”. Another peaceful night beside the lake, I lay back to look skyward and engage my favorite fantasy, starships and exploration, remote stars with alien planets, mystery waiting for resolution. A most basic human dream, what is over the next hill?
I’ve spent many nights under the open sky, bivouacs in the Rocky Mountains, on coastal barrier islands and out in the open woodlands, rarely sleeping inside the tent. On my small sailboat I preferred sleeping in the open cockpit to the cuddy cabin. When racing catamarans I would sleep on the trampoline at nights with the main sail pulled over the mast for cover. Now I sleep outdoors in my hammock. I wake with the predawn light, sleeping outside after sunrise takes a different mindset. I can nap outdoors in the afternoon, just not very often. I have several hammocks; my favorite is a two person cotton weave that wraps around me cocoon like. Add a light sleeping bag and a deep comfortable night’s sleep is inevitable. Stage 4 REM sleep that doctors and marketers talk about is available via hammock with sleeping bag. No drugs required.
I use a trick to calm my mind for sleep. I imagine corridors in my mind that have a large bank vault door. I can shove thoughts of politics or rumors of war or the fight with a family member into the vault and lock the door. Then I remain in the moment of the night, quite and settled. Thinking of solar collectors in lunar Lagrangian orbits or maybe the momentary gravitational balance of tomorrow’s Autumn Equinox.