When I first came to Philmont back in 2007, I arrived in Raton at 2:00 in the morning. The rest of the trip to Cimarron was spent in a Philmont suburban with one of Philmont’s permanent employees and another summer staffer who had come in on the same Greyhound. As we drove, the driver pointed out invisible landmarks in the darkness along the road, but his voice was little more than noise in the back of my mind. I noticed little flashes of light as “minibears” (ground squirrels and prairie dogs) dashed across the road, reflecting our headlights, but there was little else to see or to remember.
We finally arrived at base camp at 2:45 am, and Mr. Driver brought me to PTC. He didn’t know which tent was mine, so he picked an empty one and left me alone with my things and my thoughts.
The lights hadn’t been strung up in the tents yet, and I was the naive little girl who had ignorantly packed her flashlight in the middle of her suitcase. It was windy–the first of what would be many windy nights–and the shadows inside my tent were misshapen as the wind twisted the canvas walls into pieces of modern art. I felt my way through the darkness to my cot, sat on the edge, and cried. I had never been so terrified in my life–here I was, literally alone, a thousand miles from home in a place I couldn’t even find on a map if you offered me a million dollers, sitting on a two-inch thick foam mattress in a tent that was threatening to fall on my head and smother me to death in my sleep if the monsters hiding in the shadows didn’t get me first. What was I thinking?
After about twenty minutes of trying to force myself to move, I managed to find my flashlight and toiletries bag, and ran to the bathroom. At least there were lights in there. I took my sweet time getting ready for bed, and then it took another long pep talk to convince myself to brave the darkness and head back to my tent.
I walked cautiosly this time, jumping at every blowing leaf. But through my fear, something prompted me to look up.
I did, and that was the first time I saw the stars of New Mexico, undimmed by light pollution and twinkling in all their glory above me. Words such as brilliant, beautiful, stunning, pale in comparison to the truth of what I saw. The human tongue truly has no word to describe such beauty.
And in that moment, a calm assurance of peace dispelled all my doubts and fears as a quiet voice seemed to whisper to my heart, a place that has stars like this can’t be that bad.
I returned to my tent, calm at last, and offered a prayer of gratitude. And if you wouldn’t mind, I added with a smile, I know you’ve calmed storms before… Within minutes, the wind subsided, and I was able to sleep through the night.
It has been a rough week here at PTC. Don’t worry, it isn’t job related–well, besides the part where I failed to save 2 1/2 hours of work–it’s just… I’ve been feeling down on myself for the past couple of days, and there have been nights where I have sat on the edge of my bed in the darkness and cried.
Charlotte came by tonight to invite me to look at the moon, an awe inspiring orange ball on the horizon. As it rose, I snapped a few pictures, playing with the settings on my camera and hoping to capture as much detail as I can with my little lens. On an impulse, I turned the camera upward and shot the starry sky. I didn’t really expect the picture to turn out with the current settings, but the result surprised me. My wonderful camera was able to record more stars than I could actually see, and in full color, too!
And once again, the stars were a turning point. Like holes in the blanket of the sky that let God’s love shine through, these twinkling beauties brought peace to my heart and filled me with gratitude for the opportunity I have to work in such an incredible place with such incredible people. The storm in my heart has been calmed, and I will sleep peacefully tonight.
Originally published on the first iteration of this blog, jestkeptsecret.blogspot.com. To read more old posts, visit the JKS Archives.
 This was probably my first attempt at capturing the stars. It’s not much to look at now that I’ve had more practice, but I was pretty proud of it at the time.