The Wizard of Menlo Park


Every now and then, in the midst of the daily grind, you look up and notice just how beautiful the world can be. When I stepped outside at 6:30 this morning, the sky was a deep indigo blue, with stars like diamonds twinkling in the heavens, and for a moment everything else seemed insignificant. Nothing in the world can make you feel more trivial than gazing at the night sky.

Last night was 20 Prospect Jr.’s first hockey game of the season. We traveled an hour north of the Cities to the little town of Lindström. You know you’re in the Scandinavian heartland when the town has umlauts in its name.

It’s been a while since I’ve driven out in the country after dark. Growing up in Genesee County we couldn’t drive more than 2 miles from 20 Prospect in any direction before we were out in the country. Here in the cities though I can go for months at a time living beneath the glow of streetlights.

Being out in the country after dark was a good reminder that the light we have is of our own making. Whether it’s the glow of fluorescent light from a 7-Eleven, or the flicker of a campfire, we huddle close to each other when the darkness comes. It is light that protects us, and light that saves us from the wolves of doubt.

Live too long without darkness, and you can begin to feel invincible. Stand alone in an open space beneath the stars and you are quickly reminded just how unsuited we are to natural world. If not for above average brain sizes, and opposable thumbs, evolution would have done away with us long ago.

Someday I hope to leave this urban sprawl behind, and move back to a place where our home will be an island of light in an ink dark sea. It will not be easy after 20 years of city living, to sit in the dark of the porch and listen to the sounds of nature advancing slowly from the woods. Fear and doubt will prowl the perimeter of our fort, and it will be much more difficult to hold them at bay without the constant buzz and distraction of “civilization”. And yet, I think struggling with the dark is what I need to keep me sane. Only by standing on the edge of this circle of light can I see the world in all dimensions.

Until that day I will continue to sleep through the drone, and hum of this never ending stream of Edison’s electric light. Another prisoner of Prometheus.

9 thoughts on “The Wizard of Menlo Park

  1. “a good reminder that the light we have is of our own making”- genius. I grew up in the country. I remember the first time I traveled to a big city. I cried and cried and cried. All the noise and the people and the movement. I was expecting to feel comforted and surrounded by all of it. It was too much and not enough. I like the peace in the country, any day.

    • I can remember the first night I spent in the country, when we moved into an apartment in an old farmhouse outside of town for our Senior year of college. The silence was unnerving. It took some getting used to after 20 years of being a townie.

  2. Before computers, Lorna kept a card file of real food cafes and ethnic bakeries. Filed first under “L” was the Lindestrom Bakery.

  3. Dude, you need a refresher course on some of the crazy shit that lives in the woods and why ALL of it is trying to kill you.
    Nevermind the bears, wolves, strange creeping fungi, stinging insects and baby eating spiders now you also have aliens, mean ghosts, fish with human teeth and the entire casts of Deliverance and The Hills Have Eyes to contend with. As a cautionary tale I would warn against watching Lars Von Trier’s Antichrist before ever going out into the country.

  4. And yes, this would be from a girl who grew up on an isolated 14 acre farm in the middle of no man’s land. On a more positive note I’d like to also mention that if the opportunity presents itself I too would buy a farmhouse with acreage again. I just like for all of us to be prepared!

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