Pleiades

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There’s a thin haze on the sky tonight, so I can only see the Pleiades through my peripheral vision.

The fall constellations are parading again. The Pleiades rise in the east, and then an hour or so later the head and horns of Taurus, and Orion after another hour, and Orion’s dog after that.

When I first started spending nights in the Mojave Desert, 20 years ago almost, I used those four constellations as a clock. Well, three if you’re a traditionalist who counts the Pleiades as part of Taurus. I would have the fire started and the first beer cracked as the Pleiades rose over the ridge of Kessler Peak on an October evening, and me and my fourth beer would cozy in my sleeping bag as Canis Major bounded up over that same ridge three hours later, as the embers of my little fire crackled and hissed.

I used to sit by those fires and feel as though I had just awakened from an improbable dream, unrealistic adventures of riding trains underwater and spending whole meetings talking about spreadsheets, and waking only at long intervals to find myself at fireside in the Mojave, watching the ice crystals grow in my water bottle.

I used to wonder what it would be like not to descend back into that sleepwalking through cities.

On Monday mornings these days I haul myself out of bed at 4:00 am, and Sirius shines directly overhead as I load the dog in the car. I drop her off at a friend’s house and drive westward toward where Orion sets behind Black Lava Butte. It has taken some doing, but I no longer sleepwalk.