Tonight I stood down by the river (our house is on the Mississippi) for a while, slipped out of the house after dark, clutching a dark green sweater from Northern Ireland. The lights of the house glowed warm behind me, and the strange, thin light of the moon fell cold all over me and the dark trees and grass. The night out here is dark, even on a moonlit night. Darker than the city. (Oh, those urban evenings, standing out on the back deck hiding from the blade of the neighbors' floodlight, stars peeping through faintly and the world breathing soft and close and warm in the sighs of passing cars and chirps of bugs and the crackle of a radio.) Out here my naked feet fear snakes and worms; I go back in for shoes. My heart beating a little harder than it ought to be (where do wild turkeys sleep?), I make my way under the trees and down the ivied path to The Front Stoop (the metal steps that lead down to the water). The steps used to be half submerged, but as the summer's worn on, the rivers slunk down to expose a stepped bank of sand and stones and, to the particular delight of my little sisters, clay.
There I stood, city kid feeling small out here in the wide world. The moon is brilliantly shiny but its light is threadbare. On the smooth but always southward slipping water the moon's image is softly crumbled. The stars are faint in the mists and the nearness of the moon's light, but they are high, high above me: faraway nobles of the night, and I am quieted. In front of me the Island (the Isle of the Goose King, we call it, the little girls and I; on which I set foot for the first time earlier today, after braving with friends the exposed riverbed, a million small stones all coated papery white with sun-crusted river scum) coos with the life of the night, crickets and unnamed hums.
And there, far down to my right, a bridge roars and fills the world with its roaring. I can just see it down there in the midst of all this bluish velvet night, a line smeared with many little worlds of moving light, cones white and sparks red like fire. The freeway groans with the weight of its speed, the smallness of those worlds of light.
And I talked with God.
And then as I bent to draw my hand one more time through that magic moon-touched water, I heard a splash and spooked. I saw a long legged silhouette leap across water. I saw a little, bumpy, rivery lump sitting on a rock. But I didn't see it for long, because I was running toward those metal steps (on which I slammed a shin) with adrenalin in my steps. Back inside, where stars are not, nor frogs.