under the brightest stars | western NE at the end of summer

You have to be willing to drive long distances if you live in Nebraska. Arguably all of the best places to be outdoors, and inarguably most of the public land in this state, is west. Getting there can mean 5-8 hours on the road, and rest assured if you go on a long weekend everyone and their dog will be there too, squishing along the shores of the only sand-bottomed lakes and rivers in the state to seek refuge from the heat. I’m not complaining. It’s just how it is. So in proper fashion, on the hottest day of the year, in an attempt to socially distance and seek some relief from the heat, we packed up and headed west with our dog too. The temp spiked at 108 when we stopped to pee along a gravel road somewhere en route. The smell of singed sunflower stems emenated from the undercarriage of the truck, putting an abrupt end to our off-road exploration. We talked about wildfire and open spaces and future dreams and the struggles of the day to day. We swam in cool water after supper. We tossed and turned, uncomfortable in the heat and the wind in our truck bed. Finally I got out and tried to take some photographs of the night sky, a hot breeze wrapping around me in the dark. June woke us from a partial slumber when a coyote meandered through camp in the wee hour. I went for a sunrise walk and basked under the cotton candy morning and talked to the yucca and the sage. Made coffee on the shore and watched a bald eagle devour a fish on the beach. Stopped to move a baby snapping turtle off the road. Picked our way home slowly, ambling along single lane blacktop through the sandhills, stopping often to load film and drink La Croix on the tail gate.

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