December always makes me nostalgic, and last night I pulled an old journal off my shelf. In it are the annals of my freshman year of college, and I have decided to post an entry from that journal--an account of a trip some friends and I took after our first Honors party. It was the sort of journey that might not seem important to an observer, but it radically changed my understanding of life and community. Ten years later, the prose seems a little too precious and poetical, but I can't fault my 19-year-old too self too much for affected language: every flute and flourish was a sign of how deeply I was falling in love with new friends and with the idea that home could be a place where adventures happen.
December 8, 2002
How wonderfully blessed I am! Last night as Keith, Mark, Rachel, Emily and I left the Honors House (it was about 11:30, after the Christmas party), I sat in the street to better see the stars, which were glinting as though polished by the chilling air. Someone said, "We should go to the mountains and see the stars there." Rachel, always eager to make dreams reality, asked, "Whose car are we taking?" "We can take mine," Keith offered.
And then, unbelievably, beautifully, we were on our way. No one wanted to hesitate or discuss, lest some sober voice kill our momentum. At first, Emily was reluctant, heeding her keen concern for being prepared, but we prevailed, and she joined us.
Even before we came to the mountains we were giddy, heddy [sic] with one another's company. Sevierville, Gatlinburg were dreaming in electric color -- when the road rose along a ridge and we stopped to look down into its valley, it looked like a field sown with seeds of light, or a shimmering lode in the dark wall of a mine. There too I saw a tree spangled with stars instead of leaves, just the image I think Wordsworth must have known when he wrote, "Shine, poet, in thy place, and be content."
Driving on, we entered the parkway through the Great Smoky Mountain National Forest, our headlights following the road like two needles embroidering a dark cloth with bright, serpentine stitches. High enough now for snow--the child's joy in seeing a season's first snow never diminishes. Hands numb from icy caresses, eyes wide in the clean darkness, ears turned to a hidden river, shouting for joy in its coursing, completely unselfconscious. Even the pain of warming as we drove onward was rich to me.
The final lookout on the parkway was most amazing. It hinted of large beauty to be shown in daytime, but in the darkness the magnificence of the earth was draped, serving only as our foundation for turning to the sky. So much was visible, so many stars who are not preeminent, but vital. Andromeda, the Ursae, and the Pleiades were revealed, and we even saw the soft ribbon of our galaxy....There were shooting stars as well, some briefly precious, and one like a long drop of melted silver.
By this time Emily was glad she had sacrificed scruples for spontaneity. [...] All night I was so full of love and thankfulness to God. We returned at five this morning, but none of us were sleepy in church, even with only three hours of sleep. I think we were still too thrilled by our adventure. Thank you, God, for laughter, and hugs, [...] for cappuccino at four am and safety home. For shooting stars and silent nights....holy nights.