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Monday, February 19, 2018

Sleeping Under the Stars


Photo: John Remus III (Public Domain, via Flickr)

Last night, for the first time in my life, I slept under the stars.

Now, I've been camping before—but the tent provided too much of a barrier between me and the sky.

Same goes for the teepees I've stayed in.

I tried to sleep under the stars at an Airbnb in Joshua Tree two years ago, but I failed miserably when I had to spend pretty much the entire night hiding my head under the covers to escape the rain that would otherwise be falling on my face.

And I didn't do a whole lot of sleeping that night, either.

This all goes back to that first month I spent in Joshua Tree back in 2009, when I'd been so tempted to camp out in the hammock outside so I could gaze up at the night sky while I fell asleep—but back then, I was too scared of scorpions and coyotes to actually do it.

When I returned for an extended stay in 2012, I hadn't gotten over my fears yet. I thought about it. I walked outside in my bare feet and stood under the moon, pondering what might crawl upon me while I slept out there.

But I just couldn't do it.

Last night in Borrego Springs, though, my hosts invited me to stay on the cot on their patio and assured me that all coyotes, scorpions, and other desert creatures of the night would stay away from me as long as I stayed close to the house.

The only obstacle to my al fresco sleepover?

The wind.

Boy, was it windy in the desert yesterday.

I'm used to the gusts in, say, Palm Springs, but this was unusual for Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

"Maybe it's too windy to sleep outdoors tonight..." my friend Susan and her husband said.

"Yeah, maybe you're right."

But as the day wore on, I was becoming more and more determined to have a go at it—and not just if the wind died down (which, I hear, it sometimes does after sunset).

I was going to try to sleep in the wind—under the stars—and not be blown away.

So I had my cot and my super-cozy sleeping bag, the pillow from my trunk crammed into a borrowed pillowcase, my phone and my glasses, and I hunkered down to see how long I could last.

It was true, the scorpions left me alone. If they were out there, I didn't see them (or feel them).

I heard the coyotes—I think, though they didn't sound like Joshua Tree coyotes. In my sleepy state, they sounded more like hyenas.

But the one thing I ultimately couldn't get over was the wind. It was blowing so hard that it was rattling my cot—and I'm a whole lot of woman, enough to hold a cot down in any normal wind.

I wasn't cold per se—the sleeping bag was plenty warm—but my hair was blowing into my slightly open mouth, stifling the snores that were trying to escape (and kept waking me up in the process).

Every time I opened my eyes, though, I saw those stars hanging so low in the black sky. When my eyes were closed, I dreamed that they were swirling above me—or maybe they actually were swirling, in a spectacular display of the Milky Way that one can only witness while camped out directly underneath.

Every time I woke up facing the exterior wall of the house, I'd turn over to face the desert. I slept on my back and on my stomach—which I never do—just so I could keep the constellations in view.

And as the night sky began to lighten—not quite morning, but fading from the saturation of the blackest of night—I packed up my bedding and headed inside to the couch.

The stars weren't so visible anymore, so I figured I wouldn't be missing out on that much.

But the plan had been to stay out there till morning, till the sunrise woke me up and the roadrunners came to check on me.

Still, I feel a sense of victory after finally sleeping under the stars. It doesn't matter that I didn't make it all night. I made it most of the night.

And to be honest, I would've felt victorious even if I'd only made it an hour or two out there—as long as I'd slept, and as long as I'd done it under the stars.

Related Posts:
A Little Fall of Rain
Chasing the Moon