First sighting, first sighing.

Nothing foretold that tonight's walk home would feel something like sanctified.

I am clearing out the last of the major writing projects I have to complete this week, and so I was out late for my walk home to where I am now still up, late. I have been listening to Deb Talan today and was tempted to slip my earphones back on for my walk through the night, but I have enough nightfear left in me to have decided to forego her for a few minutes. And lucky I did: otherwise, how would I know the slowing and slurring of the crickets still singing in the cold? In August, the insects struck at our ears all day and night with their shrilling. Tonight, I realized how much their sounds have softened, how tender they're getting, how mournfully sweet.

My boots are loud if I'm not careful, so I started thinking out my steps just a bit, trying to keep from crunching and cracking the whole way home. The near-quiet settled me down and back into a conversation I've been trying to have for weeks. In this conversation, there are only two moves: the question "now what?" and the answer "what will be." I have it with myself and with what is not-myself, and somehow it proves calming every time. It was while I was cycling through the conversation, and while I was realizing that the night had grown cool enough to chatter my jaw in the dark, that I heard the first insects trilling and burbling, saw the last light on in a student room, sensed the nearest thing to frost I've felt yet this fall.

And then, just beyond the dormitories at the side of the road, off my right shoulder, there he was: Orion, lying long and low across my eastern sky, walking me home for the first time this year. For this greeting alone, I am grateful to have been up this late. He filled the whole night-blue space between buildings, and then some.

Partway down the block from my house, I realized that a deer had stopped stock-still on the lamplit lawn across from my yard. I stopped, too, and we watched each other for a moment, and then I started forward again, walking even more carefully and quietly than before. I murmured to the deer as I murmured to Orion as I murmured to myself as I murmur to you now: good morning, and don't worry: the last thing I would do is get in your way. I only want to whisper good morning and welcome back, night sky and night self. I've missed you so. I'm so happy you're here.

source for tonight's image of the Orion Nebula: NASA.