Imprudence Let the Dogs Out (Woof Woof Woof Woof)

Everybody should try to be prudent. Mostly. Prudent people save their money and major in Marrying Kennedys and Other Connected People and scout the landing before they cliff jump. Or, better, they put up a market stall at the bottom of the cliff jump and sell splints and tourniquets and coffins. Imprudent people invest in Yahoo! and major in Ancient Dusty Things and don't signal to change lanes.

But unwavering prudence that knows no exceptions is a real shame. Because prudence takes you to places you know, places everyone knows. And those are usually pretty good places. But what if imprudence -- distinguishable from idiocy, I might note -- occasionally delivers unexpected blessings?

Who let the ducks out?
My senior year of high school I went to three proms, which was in and of itself imprudent, since prudence dictates minimizing the amount of time spent in tuxedos, trying to impress your date by acting like you truly have feelings and that John Michael Montgomery really touches them. One girl invited me to her prom. She was a casual long-distance friend going to high school some 200 miles from where I lived. She was student body president, wasn't dating anyone, didn't wish to give any prospective suitors at her school undue encouragement, and so needed a non-local date, respectable and reasonably attractive, who could hold up a conversation without drooling or alluding to AC/DC. She chose me, failing on nearly all accounts.

The dance was pleasant. Cowboy hats abounded, looking out of place in the strobing colored lights, throbbing up and down like felt piston heads to the beat of "Who Let the Dogs Out." When the dance ended after midnight, a bunch of us went to Denny's. There are classier late-night eateries, but they are located in "population centers." But we weren't close to the center of anything, particularly what might be termed "population."

I got my date home at about 2:30 a.m. Her parents, long-time friends of my family, graciously offered to let me catch a few hours sleep on their couch and head home in the morning. Prudence suggested sleep; I was hours from home. But on an impulse I chose imprudence. I bought a two-liter of Mountain Dew at an all-night convenience store, loosened my bow tie, rolled down the windows in my Volkswagen bus, cranked the Rolling Stones, and hit the westbound freeway for Portland.

That night imprudence gave me a splendid gift. The road between my date's hamlet and Portland traces every broad curve of the wide and testy Columbia River as it winds through its famous Gorge. Consistent winds keep the steely waters choppy at best and downright horrific in not infrequent gales.

But this warm May night was singular. Unprecedented. The air was still as a sepulcher. The two river banks, a mile or more apart, seemed to pull the river's surface taut between them, so that the water was like liquid glass. And, magnificently, an overwhelming full moon hung lazy and startlingly white at the apex of the dark sky. Cliffs and pines and roadsigns, buoys and sandbars and distant hills cut the sharpest shadows from the intense, pale shroud the moon floated down upon it all.

The sight was surreal, unreal, even holy. And the freeway was empty, and I sailed through the stillness, the only one watching the otherworldly scene, like a little angel who snuck out of bed for a glass of water and stumbled upon Creation.

Prudence has it's times and places. Lots of them. But every once in a while maybe we should see if imprudence has any beauty in the shadows.