Saturday, January 17, 2009

No Moon

The kids and I like to go out on hikes at night during the full moon when the blue halfdark is a magic light over the trail and the moon is a glowing bone. This time I decide to take Captain on a night hike without the moon and we go up our usual Cowles Mountain. He starts off on the trail loud singing gibberish and yelling as usual but suddenly he goes quiet and he wont speak aloud. He gets this look on his face, scared and wonderous, not terrorized, but hyperalert and curious, open to danger. Away enough from the parking lot lights the darkness becoes bigger than him and his ears pickup every noise that comes out of the bush and he starts to curl into a sort of defensive crouch, he hears a couple of crickets and he freezes in anticipation but I explain to him they're only singing lovesongs to eachother.
I turn on the flashlight for a while and Captain shines it into the bushes, his eyes wideopen as a lemur and I tell him that with the light on the trail looks like Mars. He moves slower with the flashlight. Light feels more penetrating, too revealing, when you're bringing it into a deep darkness. Captain goes on walking like someone walking cautiously out to sea, halting, instead of giving his usual driven steps. Then we hit two of his favorite boulders and scramble up them with familiarity. It makes him a little more comfortable with the dark.
On a short lookout, Captain asks me to pick him up and show him the lights below the mountain and our car. He's fine by now and he starts hopping from one side of the trail to the other, he's running up steep ends and putting some more distance between me and him. He goes strong for the rest of our hike until the last quarter of the climb when he turns zombie and seems to sleepwalk his way over the trail weaving drunkenly over dips and rocks but always forwards and he never once takes a spill. I carry him for a while and whisper in his ear how proud I am of him and that he's the strongest boy on earth. He licks the side of my face and meows like a cat then collapses asleep.
The very last bit before the top I mention out loud that we were almost there and Captain springs awake, he jumps out of my arms and we race to the top and he wins of course.
We step onto a boulder at the summit to look out over the lights and I show him where his house is. Its time for our traditional ceremonial Peter Pan cockcrow but Captain'll only give a soft, wary, "cacaw...", he is still too shy about breaking the giant silence and calling into the darkness, afraid to hear something from the darkness answer him back.
I carry him the rest of the way down like I promised him I would. He wants me to jump over every boulder and I do as many as I can and I hear him his little teeth clack every time and he gives a little grunt of satisfaction and commands "again....again" quieter and quieter each time as he falls bak asleep. He goes in and out of sleep, spilling gibberish and drooling the same way I do in when I sleep and he's out cold all the way home into his bed.