Heaven (from the banks of Dirty Creek)
. ' . .
.I head out on a moonless night to a lonely spot on the prairie to take pictures of the Milky Way, a thing of wonder I’ve been wanting to capture for a very long time. A focus on wellness has afforded me this gift as in the past I would generally be too tired to venture outside after supper, preferring to crawl in to bed and try again the next day.
I set up my tripod with the bright lights of the utility vehicle illuminating the tree that frames the bottom of the galaxy I am after. I set the camera up, ensuring the vision is what I want, the self timer on, the bulb setting will capture the stars for a minute or more, and the world beyond the light I have is dark and unrevealing. I hit the shutter release and hurry back to the vehicle to turn the lights off, pressing the flashlight on my phone under my sweater and against the skin of my stomach at the last second in an effort preserve the unpolluted darkness I am suddenly swallowed up by.
The shutter release goes off after the self-timer expires and even the neon purple of the digital frame disappears.
“One-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand,” I begin to count to myself, stopping around 14, distracted by the thoughts of the predators that I know might surround me and trying to reassure myself of the unlikeliness that they would come near. My childhood imagination never ceased working.
“Twenty-one thousand,” I begin again, knowing that I am no where near where the accurate count is.
A satellite begins jetting across the sky, a distant plane, too. I wonder how they will impact my photograph. I wonder also at why I wouldn’t want them. It is technology that allows this moment to be possible and to eschew it seems rather banal.
“Fifty-four-one thousand,” I begin to think myself, wondering how long this minute could possibly last. A shooting star fills the western sky with a trail like a comet arcing out behind it. The trail slowly dissipates and my awe at the wonder of the world has reached a new and thrilling high point.
A minute is the longest time and normally passes so quickly when you are enjoying something. Tonight, though, I am the recipient of both worlds. A minute where the world and time stopped and miraculousness filled it all.
The shutter clicks off to end the sensor’s capture and I wait another full minute for the technology to process what it has just captured. I repeat the process eight times, marveling during each one how lucky I was that something didn’t come out of the dark to kill me and also how magical the night sky was.
I return home to my office, processing the pictures on my computer. A few slider bars to the left and a few to the right. Heaven appears. I straighten the image. I note how if I crank the exposure up the camera somehow captured the same colors that my eyes would see during the daytime. Magic happens when I dehaze the image. I am enamored that human beings have developed technology to allow us a glimpse into the world beyond what the human eye can capture.
The Milky Way is wondrous on a cloudless evening in an unpolluted world of darkness. It is even more so when you can capture it and adjust it to beyond more than I can comprehend in one moment. I saw Heaven tonight. I was sitting on the banks of Dirty Creek and I saw Heaven. I saw a snapshot in time where people who have left this world just might have reached and added a spark of light or a mystical swirl in the way that God intended. They have left me, perhaps timely in the scheme of things, but cruelly nonetheless. I feel at peace tonight with their departures, the stardust and the wonder all surrounding me and saving me.