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June 17, 2008 Pre-dawn perspectives

3:45am New Time, 2:45am according to the sun. Which is nowhere in the sky, not surprisingly. I see a faint glow off to the west. West?? And then I grin with recognition: it’s the setting moon. Dgholi ayur.

With the nearly full moon down behind the mountains, and the sun not even a glimmer behind the eastern hills, the sky is a crystalline black velvet. The crisp air holds no haze, and makes me snuggle down into my big fleece. (Unlike yesterday, I’m wearing my big jacket. And socks.) The stars shine brightly enough to pick a path through town. I see a pale streak across the sky, running northeast – southwest. At first I dismiss it as a cloud, but then I realize that it’s the Milky Way, as clear as I’ve ever seen it. I stare across the disk of our galaxy, wondering how many worlds are staring back at me.

I pick out a few constellations – the dippers, Draco, Casseopeia. There’s a six-star V near Cassie that might be Taurus, but then, I can never think where Taurus belongs. Off to the west is a spiral of stars that I don’t remember seeing before. The Great Mollusc, I name it, and grin whenever it catches my eye.

This morning, there are other people waiting for the tranzit as well. That should have been my first clue that I’d missed it yesterday, I realize. Yesterday afternoon I checked in with my buHanoot friend; turns out that since his shop doesn’t open until 6am, he really has no idea when the dawn tranzit leaves. But he did know who was driving, so I was able to send him a message, asking when he’d be rolling. His response was in Darija, so I couldn’t read anything except the number: 3am. The full message is “Ghadi f 3h.” Could mean “After 3”, “Before 3”, “Around 3”, “Ask me again at 3”… I don’t know. I decide to hope it’s not too much before 3, but that’s why I’m out by 2:45. (I later learn that it means “We’ll leave at 3,” but it’s probably for the best that I didn’t know that, because then I would have gotten impatient when we didn’t leave until almost 4. As it was, as the minutes ticked away, I figured it must have meant “Well after 3,” so I just continued to enjoy my stargazing.)

I’d originally stationed myself where I’d waited yesterday, but an older gentleman (later addressed as Hajj, which means that he’s been on pilgrimage to Mecca) invited me to sit with him and his grandchildren. They wait quietly enough that I can watch the sky undisturbed. Later, the Hajj moseys across the square to chat with another passenger. The air is quiet enough that their words float over to me, but I ignore them easily.

Around 3:30, I hear an American accent shouting a hearty, “Labas!” (How are you!) around the corner. I consider walking over and introducing myself, but choose not to. I could pretend that I decided not to identify myself as an American-clinger, or that I felt so accepted by the Hajj and his grandchildren that I didn’t want to walk away from their hospitality…but really, I was just enjoying the calm of the pre-dawn morning, and didn’t want to clutter it with the banal smalltalk of strangers.

Just a few minutes after that, the tranzit pulls up, driven by my friend H**. He smiles his enormous grin, ushers me into the first row, window seat (the best seat in the tranzit after the passenger bench, which was already spoken for), and I do my best to go back to sleep.

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