One of my dear friends has a screened-in porch at her home down in a hollow in a rural part of Blount County. It’s her refuge, a play to play with her grandchildren and also a place of solitude where she can pray and think and let the worries of the world roll away.
This delightful spot also serves another purpose. When she has trouble sleeping, she curls up on the couch and lets the sounds of the night creatures soothe her until she can close her eyes and rest.
I envy this sleeping porch especially when cool, clear nights of an East Tennessee fall finally arrive, when stars shine like glittering sequins on a blue-black velvet sky and the moon spreads a Cheshire-cat grin above the shadows that become trees in the light of day.
I like to sit on my back patio in the darkness of my own little country corner sometimes, even though it’s not a sleeping porch. The silence of the night is what appeals to me, although this rural quiet is filled with sounds. I try to identify each one, concentrating intently to separate the strands of the night music we so easily can miss within the confines of walls.
The different seasons bring different sounds — the chirping of crickets or belching of bullfrogs at not-so-distant ponds in spring and summer are not to be heard now. But small creatures are rustling through the dead leaves and twigs on the forest floor — a field mouse or squirrel, perhaps? I’m always amazed at how much noise such a small being can produce, and every single movement, under cover of darkness, is amplified far beyond what you’d expect.
The soughing of the trees in the woods catches my attention, reminding me of the soft whispers of as many ghosts. I hold my breath, struggling to make sense of the voices, but they murmur secrets too low for my human ears to hear. What have the aged beacons seen in the years they’ve been keeping vigil over this little plot of earth? When those tiny acorns and hickory nuts took root, were the boots of Civil War soldiers clad in blue or gray trampling through? When the trees from which they sprang were tiny seedlings, did the Revolutionary War veteran who ended up building his home on a rolling hill across the way from me roam this place where I now stand and survey the grounds included in his land grant? I wonder ... I wonder.
A light breeze brings the earthy scents of hickory and pine to my nostrils. I breathe deeply and rejoice that, with any luck, leaves soon will be changing color in a glorious burst of beauty, one last hurrah before they fall to the ground and cover it like a paisley print quilt. Like all things, the beauty fades, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy every single second of it while it’s here.
I grow pensive when I sit in the darkness and contemplate life and death, love and loss. I think of family and friends who are experiencing hurts of all kinds right now, and I say a quick prayer for them. I say a quick prayer for myself, too. What’s that Bible verse? Oh, yes … “Yet man is born to adversity as surely as the sparks fly upward.” That’s from the book of Job, Chapter 5, verse 7. He certainly had his share of adversity, didn’t he? I keep reminding myself that in the end, after Job persevered through his trials and tribulations, “the Lord blessed Job’s latter days more than his first” (Job 42:12). Isn’t that a comforting thought, especially for those of us in the “latter days?”
I am content, wrapped around by the darkness and stillness, and I am thankful for my thinking patio. It’s not a sleeping porch, but it’s the perfect place for me.