moments – wild California skies

December 28, 2016 

Highway 101, on the drive home from Pinnacles National Park

John Denver, “Wild Montana Skies”


John Denver’s Rocky Mountain Collection twangs from the stereo of our Vovlo cross-country wagon, the car that always came with us no matter where we went. My six-foot-two brother is squeezed next to me in the backseat, going on about “family time” as we annoy my sister with our loud camp songs and attempt to beat our father at a car game we never won as kids. Small-town signs and palm trees silhouetted through the windows against the clear California sky.

The orange of the sunset fades to pink, then blue, then black. The stars are indistinguishable from the headlights on the highway the closer we get to home. The music gets louder and the conversation quiets, until it’s just me, thinking, watching my inky country fly by. John Denver sings softly about the American Dream, the world I grew up idealizing: hard work, family, the wild West. It makes me so hopeful for my future, grateful for my freedom.

My whole world is open roads & endless possibilities

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the sky is the softest of twilit blues, the air heavy with humidity, sweet as the honeysuckle vines that line maryland avenue. the south river shimmers on the horizon, a cerulean expanse of warm water where we would go skinny dipping every fourth of july. summer; home.

Scrambling up our wooden playground just to slide back down, grabbing the colored ribbons of the eight roly-poly puppies our dog had brought into the world a mere six weeks ago

That blue summer night, I felt so free. No math or gymnastics, no place I had to be. So warm, seated shoulder-to-shoulder and in laps on the grass. blanketed beneath the fading sky: my two sisters, my mom, and I.

We were together, as a family. Or as much of a family as we could be. That night was enough to forget we were missing my dad, fighting an undeclared war in Iraq.

fireflies flicker way up high, like magic – on again, off again. the darker it gets, the more of them I see, lighting up the old oak trees.

there were nights when we would catch them, my little sister and I. hold them covered in our hands, peeking in with one eye. sometimes, Mom would let us move them to glass jars, permeated with just enough holes so they could breathe

we’d watch them flicker by our bedsides, like nightlights.
until the morning came and they were just black-and-orange bugs again; crawling, encaged.
we, too, knew how it felt to be caught by life involuntarily
so we unscrewed the tops, and let the fireflies fly free