Craig Childs - House of Rain
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Field Notebook

September 06, 2012
The Compass in the Middle of the World

(photo CC, September 5, 2012)
(photo CC, September 5, 2012)
Orion is beginning show. The clock is turning, autumn on the approach. I live near a rock that stands a few hundred feet tall. In the moonlight, it is brilliant, rising like a block of frozen milk. When there is no moon, the ink-black rock splits the stars.

From where I stand, where I frequently stand, the north star sits just left of this igneous monolith. The star never moves, maybe the one thing in this entire world that stays still. Even the rock crumbles, its face changing slightly year by year as pieces fall into dust and cacophony. Still, the star never moves. The rest of the sky wheels around it, turning this landmark into a fin that rises into the center of the world.

In the center of my back I have a tattoo made into a compass. It is in the shape of a turtle marking cardinal directions, like something on the corner of an ancient map. This way, when the notion strikes, I can stop and align myself, finding the way the earth spins beneath me.

This is why I stand below the black rock at night. I am for that moment aligned. This is why I watch for Orion, and the head or Taurus leading the way out of the mountains and into the dawn sky, hauling the rest of time behind it. I know where I am.

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