It only takes about ten minutes to get to the top from the parking lot. The climb is steep and dark. My feet send small landslides of pebbles tumbling a few feet down the mountain. The path levels and after scrambling over a large, jagged boulder, I can see the entire Salt Lake City valley. The edges of the scene are hidden by the night, but the center is illuminated by millions of lights. You can’t distinguish individual buildings, or people, or cars–all you can see is the glow. If you position yourself right, you can look straight down Main Street and watch the streetlights change from red to green. The rock I’m sitting on is rough, and I shift under the uneven granite, but my eyes stay locked on the blaze of yellow before me. If you lay upside down, then the lights look like stars and the sky looks like a dark, blue ocean. This is how locals started calling it “Ocean Rock”. I gaze out at the landscape and at the lights disguising themselves as stars.
Just as every star in the galaxy has its own solar system, its own self-contained world, each of the millions of lights belongs to someone. Every glimmer in every building in the city represents a life, with its own troubles and triumphs. And I can see them all. I can see downtown Salt Lake City where we’d walked earlier that day. When I was amidst the bustle of University Boulevard, the rest of the city hadn’t existed to me. All I had thought about were the signs, buildings, and people that I could see. In that moment it had all seemed so significant. But from this vantage point, the street is only a speck among thousands. I feel absolutely, unimportantly small, but in this sense of wonder I am utterly at home. It’s easy to forget that we are all people living together, social by nature. Humans have gone to such great lengths just to surround themselves with interactions. From “Ocean Rock” I can see that the whole city is connected. And even when you can’t see or feel it, so are the people.
My friends start their descent back to the parking lot, but I can’t leave yet. I gaze up at the silky blue darkness that stretches to each horizon. I follow the slopes of the moonlight-soaked mountains down to the flashing city nestled tenderly between high summits. I try to look at a single light, but it’s impossible to focus on just one since their glows overlap. Seeing the whole city, each light, each story, I am reminded that all the dots connect. This moment is mine, mine too is this fleeting understanding of the sky and mountains and city and the distance between them. Before turning to leave, I look back at the valley one last time, and it all seems so vividly important. The blue-black sky, and the trembling stars and the twinkling city lights, and me. I am alone, but so much a part of the night.