In Carolina the spring equinox is not a promise deferred, it is an explosion of blossoms. When Ryan and I arrived on the twenty-first the trees held miserly, budded fists. Two weeks later they are mostly in leaf. The moonlight filters through the leaves helping us navigate the rough terrain. I wish more of her illuminating power reached us down on ground level. Wishes.
Four more days and she will be full. One more week and Easter will be here, the date our Great Leader declared would be a fine time for Murica to return to work. Ha. He makes so many promises with no meaning.
All three of us have both headlights on. The lights are at full power, one pointed six feet ahead, the other farther up the trail. We proceed slowly.
“These are outlaw trails,” Haran says. “Trails made on private property and not by the owners. Quarry’s been closed a long time but they were trying to reopen it before COVID hit. We’ll see. I’ve never been on them before.”
We travel slowly through the trees, the sound of animals rustling through the underbrush, our tires rolling through the dirt and Haran’s breathing fills the night air. Despite our slow speed his breathing is labored. We have been cycling a long time.
“Wow!” he says softly and I soon see why.
The woods have made way for the quarry which is bathed in the loveliest of moonlight. “Wow indeed,” I agree as we pull to a stop and look over the expanse of open pit mining. “Reminds me of our trip out west.”
“Yeah,” Haran agrees, “let’s just not get lost. You guys need food?”
“No,” Ryan says. “I’m good. How much further?”
“Farther,” Haran whispers, adding more loudly, “not far. Just not sure which way to go. Hang on,” he adds, dismounting and removing one of his headlights. “Turn your lights off, won’t you?”
We do. Haran turns his light to strongest flash and sweeps it across the man-made canyon, once, twice, three times. Then he shuts the light off. We all peer into the moonlit expanse.
“There!” Ryan says, pointing to our right. “Wasn’t that a flash of light?”
We peer to the right, eyes straining. Haran turns the light back on to its highest solid setting, shining it in the direction indicated and placing his palm in front of it to create three short, three long and then three short flashes. We stare into the void.
“You see anything?” he asks.
“No,” I say.
“Uh-uh,” Ryan replies, shaking his head.
Haran repeats his flashing pattern. A light sweeps towards us from the bottom of the quarry. “Looks like that’s them,” he says, adding, “I hope. Guess we go down.”
“Guess so,” Ryan says as we mount up, turn our lights on and navigate the wide expanse of clear cut stone, descending to what we hope will be sanctuary rather than a return to the Red Zone and the rule of death and fear.