In the Dark Brightly

​When I was a kid, the snowmachines would plow the roads in my neighborhood and leave the snow in a large pile in the middle of a cul-de-sac. The neighborhood boys would go out and mess with it and turn it into half a fortress and half a King of the Hill battleground.
The winters in Alaska are long and deep and often clear, and I was lucky in that my grandmother would often give me a little more time to spend outside after the street lights came on.
I’d find myself out on that snow hill alone a lot. In my snow pants and my snow jacket and my gloves and thick hat, I would lay down on top and stare up at the pearls that sat atop a clean black silk blanket. I must have been ten, twelve years old.
I didn’t think about love then, or at least not in the same way I do now. I didn’t think about death, or success, or what it meant to be happy. I was a troubled kid. I grew up in a healthy household but parental addiction and strife were always in the periphery and I was bullied a lot.  So a lot of who I am now was there then. Maybe even the purest, most enduring part: I just wanted to be. I wanted to… I don’t know, experience. Something. Anything of value. I was a kid staring into the cosmos, for a brief moment away from my loving but sometimes overbearing grandparents, away from my dad smelling like sweat and cheap beer, away from my mom asking me for cab money on my birthday. I didn’t know what happy was supposed to be, or sad, or normal. I was just a kid looking out into a deepness I couldn’t quantify and wanting to step out from where I was into somewhere autumn, somewhere with street musicians, somewhere paupers got to share a short conversation with princesses.
I read a lot then, as I’ve written about, in order to escape. And with a mind full of stories and an open sky above me, a quiet night holding me and with the straw colored glow haunting the snow around me… it was still. It was all so still. My wild mind could find a moment of peace to just hope for something different down the line. I didn’t know what I wanted then, and what I’ve actually wanted has changed over the years, but I knew I wasn’t fulfilled. Something in the night sky, this unfathomable depth beyond the stars, spoke to me of fulfillment. That it would be there somewhere.
I’m much older now. I view the same sky with more critical eyes, and more tired ones, and eyes more prone to tearing up for no reason. But that stillness still steps beside me. That calm still takes the coat from my shoulders and the hat from my head. I see the same stars I ever did, and they still tell me that they’re waiting for me to join them out on the patio with a decent beer, but not a fancy one. That high-end, blue-collar shit.
Nearly two decades later, I’m still that kid on the hill. A little more bruised. A little more scared. As home as ever in the dark brightly.

The Beautiful Last Breath of Day

Dusk. That’s what it’s all about, baby. Any point in the year but especially during autumn, when the dark comes a little earlier, the trees start painting pictures and the little breezes begin to nip at the nape of your neck. That’s the ticket. That’s the stuff.

Up here in the summer it can be light for 15, 20 hours a day. In the winter, it will be black skies on your way to and from work. Right now, though, is that sweet spot where I can walk home from work, and cross the bridge and look over…

Oh, darlin’, the way those colors fall asleep in front of the mirror that is the bay, draping themselves over the shoulders of the mountain just beyond it. Tangerines into citrines, emeralds into aquamarine, oceans into ebony, and there – just beyond that canopy – you can see those starry eyes just opening, just coming awake for the artist’s hours.

Last night I looked down on the stream coursing beneath me. No fishers disturbed its steady path. No fish broker it’s surface. It bubbled and burbled and ran on, serene under the last heavy breaths of day, an excerpt of perfect naturalism away from the noise and metal drudgery of the downtown that existed just a short distance nearby.

On my way home, the port sits to the left of me. At dusk, a handful of solitary cars pull away to head home, their headlights breaking through the pale most of September evening. The shipping containers look lonely out there as the darkness gradually envelops them, and warehouses that look long abandoned sit like haunted sentinels with halogen lights casting sickly glows across the rocks.

I want to break into one so bad, but I never have time except my days off and I’ve got too many things to do, and I’m lazy, and also that’s illegal.

To my right is what appears to be the train repair station. It opens up at night and locomotives and cabooses and whatever those middle parts are called (I think they’re just cars?) chugga-chug lazily along the tracks until they’re between the walls, under the roof and sidled up next to a platform. I can hear the rough but unclear voices of the engineers as they call instructions to each other. Or maybe they’re just shooting the breeze while they work and sparks fly out and skitter across the ground.

I round the bend and enter was stretch of road where there are no steady lamps to guide my journey. Just leaning trees on one side – leaves changing clothes into something more vibrant – and reliable pavement on the other, trembling under the occasional vehicle lumbering past. The breeze was on my back last night, a cool, coaxing push that led me upwards. I relied on familiarity to guide my feet up until I found the pale white light of the gas station parking lot and the final vestiges of sunlight sank down behind the horizon.

Then I was home. Then the euphoria slowly faded.

Dusk, baby. That’s what it’s all about.