Monday, December 21, 2015

A not so quiet night

There really is nothing like having a car full of excited Cubans while you drive late at night down the switchbacks of the German / Austrian Alps in the frost and snow. The sheer joy and nervousness was palpable.

As we crested the mountain road and came to a beautiful meadow with an ice-covered turn-off I made a snap decision. Slowing down, I turned onto the dark road. With no electric lights anywhere around, my headlights pierced the darkness as they swept across the frost kissed grass all the way to the base of the foothills. As the car slowed down, my loud and loving Cubans became very confused and even a bit concerned. I stopped and turned off the engine, got out of the car, and then urged them to follow me. This request was met by a chorus of groans and anxious questions about what could be wrong.

At my insistent requests, they finally acquiesced, still confused they looked at me and at each other in the near darkness of the frozen night. I simply pointed up towards the sky, looking up, the only sound my cold Cubans and I could hear was our own breathing and our feet crunching on the frozen blades of grass.

It finally hit them.

The awe and amazement on their faces was easy to see in the starlight as our eyes adjusted to the darkness. There were so many stars! More than I had ever seen with exception to similar dark and cold nights on my grandfather’s farm in Wyoming. The entire Milky Way glowed across the sky, Orion’s Belt, the Seven Sisters, Mars, Venus, and so many other constellations and planets were visible. It was no longer quiet in the cold night, now the expressions of joy and happiness filled the quiet air. Their shivering and cold was momentarily forgotten as their eyes grew wide and their smiles were lit up on their faces by the twinkling distant stars.
This is one of those moments I will treasure and never forget. The night I spent gazing at the stars on a lonely road through Germany in the heart of the Alps with my wife and her parents. It was an extraordinary moment that I was able to share with those I love.