Several weeks later, after traveling around central Texas, we made the long trek to Big Bend National Park. This Texas treasure was a complete mystery to me and I had no idea what to expect. We arrived at dusk and as we were setting up camp, two girls came by our site, inviting us to a concert that was to take place at 8:00 P.M. They were laughing and lovely as they spoke with an accent that I would later learn was Dutch. As we established our new residence, the light disappeared and what was left was total darkness, save for the light of more stars than I had ever seen in my life up to that point. During that first night, I learned very quickly that Big Bend attracts a particular flavor of mystic, one who esteems its unadulterated beauty and who values the experience of solitude in nature. This distinct quality was apparent because even in a crowded campground, the artificial light was minimal and the quiet murmur of humans was, for the most part, negligible.
With our eyes adjusting to the dearth of light, we carefully made our way toward the public toilets. While this probably doesn’t sound like a glamourous locale for an open air concert, this was the chosen place to gather because it was the easiest to find in darkness. And it was perfect. With blankets and chairs, wines and beers, we joined a neighborhood of travelers from all over the country (and the world) to experience Tangarine. They were a pair of twin brothers from The Netherlands, Sander and Arnout, whose significant others we had met earlier. They liked the sound, but not the spelling of the word tangerine. They were tall, slight and spoke with a soft charm that made everyone feel instantly at ease. They shared bits and pieces of themselves, explaining how they had traveled from the Netherlands to New York City where they rented a camper van. They were now on their way to Tucson to record an album. It was an unexpected surprise to hear what came out when they performed, their music was a skillful hybrid of folk Americana with an articulated edge. They told stories between songs and seemed nervous in an ultra-hip and humble way. They indulged the curious questions of the audience and we were amused to learn that they spoke to each other in Dutch, but they wrote music in English. It was a wintry cold evening so we were all grateful when, seemingly out of nowhere, a divine warm breeze arrived and hovered over our outdoor lavatory amphitheater until the concert was over.
Please excuse me as I get distracted by the small, but sacred details. What I really want to write about is the darkness of Big Bend. The concert is important though, because if it hadn’t been for the Dutch duo, we likely wouldn’t have been outside for that long in the evening chill, facing that particular direction. It was shortly before they wrapped up their spontaneous set that the light began to change. My eyes readily adjusted to newly revealed shapes and outlines, just like they had done in my bedroom back home. The sky gradually lightened as if the sun were about to rise, a subtle a change that would have been imperceptible without the extreme blackness of the Big Bend sky. And just as the crowd collectively became aware of this shift, one boisterous man exclaimed loudly as he pointed in the direction of a massive mountain with a glowing light behind it, “Hey everybody! Look over there!” His volume was disruptive and unnecessary, but he had the excitement of a child in his voice and was silently pardoned by the group. We shared in his wonder as we all became mesmerized by the full moon rising. Having never witnessed this lunar complement to the rising sun, I began to laugh with delight in the darkness. And just like that, it was night.