I stood on the deck facing south the other night, and felt the familiar late-August tug of melancholy that settles into my gut for pretty much the remainder of the summer season. The field to the east is uncut, but also un-planted, a thick tall carpet of weeds too high for the zero-turn mower. I love its wild and abandoned appearance, and also wish I could just walk right through the collection of soft and prickly stalks to the sycamore saplings that mark where our responsibility ends and the next farmer's begins, and not emerge itching or carrying multi-legged stowaways in my socks.
To the south, at the end of a graceful lawn slope, is the old old goat barn, not to be confused with the former new old goat barn, that burned to the ground July 15th while we slept (see the July 29th post for that story). The old old goat barn runs west to east, it's sliding doors opening to the north and south, and still echoes with the ghosts of our Boer goat-raising days, specifically kidding season, and I smile, remembering the blond triplets we caught one winter and had to bring into the house for the night, because their mother wasn't quite taking to them enough to feed them, and the temperature was dropping into the teens almost as we watched. The three of them fit in a laundry basket on the floor by my side of the bed. I awoke the next morning with my hand resting on a sweet small furry head that was bleating for room service.
But tonight, the barn is quiet, and empty of livestock, and as my gaze sweeps from east to west, I notice there are no more lightning bugs blinking their hypnotic mating dance that welcomes the start of summer. I ache with missing them, the memory of June still fresh and green in my mind as I stood on that same deck, mesmerized and clapping as their flashing lights signaled "hey baby, whaddya think of me now?" in rapid-fire succession. Their arrival, after nine long months of peering into the blank inky wooded canvas, is the end-of-winter confirmation I hunger for. No turning back now, no chance of one last, errant snow squall. Spring bursts open all around us, heralded by these 1/2" floating sparklers, by the thousands. An on-deck standing ovation seems the only appropriate response.
In my late-August funk, it's easy to forget to look up on a cloudless, moonless night, and see the thick swath of the Milky Way that arcs overhead. Stars, arranged and set into black velvet precisely, wait patiently for my attention. When I do look up, it's always the same--my eight-pound head falls gently backwards, and my mouth slowly drops open, not just by the architecture of the human skeletal construct, but also in awe. Lightning bugs, thick and fast for the past three months, have passed the torch upwards so that mere mortals can still be dazzled and stopped in our tracks by tiny lights, some blinking, some resting. A streak of meteor draws a thin bold line in the dark sky, and I realize that my neck will start hurting soon, because I'm not dropping my gaze until I see a couple more (c'mon, I know you're out there...). Five minutes become thirty, and I promise to do extra yoga stretches in the morning to put my neck and shoulders right again. I collect six more streaking meteors, wish one of them would make contact and land in the open field to the east of the old old goat barn so I can be late for work the next morning after talking to the press, and then go back inside.
This is why we live here. This is why we had the electric company take that darn security light off the pole by the driveway. This is why we wake up in mid-August, and mid-November (Persieds and Leonids, respectively) at 3:30a.m., stumble groggily out the back door and make our necks hurt for thirty minutes. We happily hand over the mortgage payment for our front row seats at an almost-nightly light show.
As long as we remember to look up.