I have been awoken by lightning. Great, powerful flashes of it, flickering in an asynchronous beat all around me, in every imaginable rhythm, in every possible direction. It is as if the heavens have decided to let down their giant disco ball and are twirling it around the gods’ roller rink in celebration of summer.
I am sleeping in
the parking lot of a casino just over the border of South Dakota.
Technically I am on Sioux land; the flag flying in the wind by the
casino door tells me so.
The sky was threatening to storm, all
day, it seemed, not because of storm clouds gathering, or because of
darkness overhead, but because of the heaviness in the air. You can feel
a thunderstorm brewing long before you can see it. It assails the
subconscious long before the senses.
The rain washes in torrents
down my truck window. I have to go to the bathroom, but I'll wait. That
is the beauty of thunderstorms; what seems to differentiate them from
ordinary rainstorms, which can last all day; the way they release their
tension, and then travel down the road, to threaten some other town, or
some other open prairie. They are like motorists, in that way; you
rarely have to wait long for them to pass.
It has been about ten
minutes now, and the rain has settled into a drizzle. The lightning
flashes have grown fainter, and farther away; the party has moved on to
another scene, another venue.
I climb out of the truck and walk
down the road a ways to the nearby truck stop. It's warm outside, very
warm. It smells wonderful, like fresh rain on fresh grass. It smells
like New England. It feels like New England, too; that heat of summer
that never seems to let go, even in the night. It clings to your body,
your bed, your home. To the earth itself.
It's one of the aspects
of the Bay Area to which I’ve never grown accustomed. How cold it is at
night, even in summer. It never feels natural to me, the chill that
descends in the evening, making you question whether it's really July or
August or September. How I’ve missed those warm, sometimes even
scorching summer nights. How, even all these years later, I still long
This heat, this midnight warmth speaks to me. The rain
speaks to me. The lightning, yes, even the thunder and the lightning
speak to me. They speak to me of home, of security, of comfort. My heart
– in spite of itself – speaks back.
I am walking back across the
parking lot to my truck. I feel as wonderful as the air smells. It is
one-thirty in the morning, local time. I have slept for about three
hours. I am almost tempted to move on, I feel so awake, so alive now.
I won’t. I feel at home here, in the back of my truck, in the parking
lot of an American Indian casino, in a largely uninhabited portion of
South Dakota. It feels natural to me, being here, cuddling up in my
little bed and sleeping here. This is where I wanted to be all along. I
knew it, without knowing why. I still don’t know why. I only know that
it suits my mood. It suits me.
I almost wish I could stay here for
a while. I wouldn't mind finding a little place to hole up in, and
enjoying the rest of a truly rural, truly traditional – to my mind –
summer, while it lasts. There would be plenty for me to do, plenty for
me to enjoy. I could sit and watch the rain, then watch the sun dry it
up. Sit and smell the grass; smell the rain feeding it, the sun feeding
it, too. Let them feed my soul and feed my spirit, the sun and the rain.
Let them fill me up, too; let them warm and wet me, watch me revive
under their nourishment, watch me grow.
But I know I can't. I shouldn't. I've got to be moving on. While there’s still time.
Here there doesn’t seem to be any time. Only the sun, and the rain, and the never-ending growth of new grass.