Sunday, May 8, 2011

Walking in a May night

Here's what it's like to walk about a mile at night, along our mountain lane:

I walked home from our friends' house around 10 pm, walking a short stretch down North Branch, then up along Pearl Lee Road to our house (see map).  There are no streetlights, and the very few houses along the way lit few if any lights.  I didn't bring a flashlight, because I know the way, so it was a very dark ramble.

The road is dirt, pitted by holes, slashed with some runoff cuts, humped up in the middle, laced by tire ruts.  My feet remember the biggest gaps, the sudden breaks. When they don't I stumble for a second, then proceed.

When I reached the halfway home mark huge animals moved in shadows, on my left side.  These are Cecil's cows and horses, big beasts.  I couldn't see anything of them, utterly invisible beyond the rare occultation of a few stars, but could feel the vibration of the earth through my feet and legs when they ran.  Run they did, curious about me, wondering if I brought food.  They ran for short distances, booming charges cut short by trees and perimeter fences.  I found myself staring into the shadows on my left, hunting for the flicker of a star blocked or revealed by a tall shoulder, listening hard for chuffing breaths.

All kinds of sounds crowd the night, especially those from birds and insects.  I listen with one ear, as my other listens to a podcast through an mp3 player's earbuds, leading to a comfortably surreal mashup.  Insect gnawing, quantum computing, birds desperately singing for mates, Scots science fiction.  My imagination extends into the dark, seeing foxes pace me, writers finishing novels, information racing from site to site.

There is neither snow nor ice.  I can recall their late presence easily, seeing last week's surviving drifts along one side of the road.  My muscles remember vividly how to walk on the lane when covered with ice (my back and shoulders tense automatically).  But walking, now, brings up thoughts of snow and ice for the future.  I see fallen tree limbs, sawed-up stumps, and want very much to cut them into proper shape for stacking against the first cold November day.


Iggy O said...

I sent my first-year seminar students with a #2 pencil and some paper to find a quiet corner of campus.

They had to disable or leave behind their ever-present phones.

Reports were pretty universal, from the notes they took: this was something none of them ever do. They don't move through nature alone or sit quietly. They liked the experience, but quickly returned to their gadgets and cloud of acquaintances known as "friends."

They'll have to do a lot more of gadgetless life as the Oil gets more expensive and the Grid less stable. I was glad to give them some practice now.

Bryan's workshop blog said...

Terrific assignment, Iggy. Did you specify that they evade non-handheld media - tv, radio?