I have been hearing a whippoorwill lately. It’s in the woods behind the house and every evening as it gets dark, and in the mornings before light, I can hear it’s call. It brings back a lot of memories, and creates a desire to sleep on the porch so I can hear it all night. There were always whippoorwills and chuck-wills-widows (kin to a whippoorwill but with a slightly different call) in the woods and their calls remind me of warm, humid Summer nights, fragrant with honeysuckle, and of box fans in the windows, set on high, glasses of ice water on the bedside table, and only a crisp cotton sheet for a cover.
We lived in a neighborhood that backed up to a couple thousand acres of woods, with a swamp and a river and all sorts of wildlife that had it’s own language after dark. Foxes and their eerie scream, rustling of raccoons and possums, owls hooting and Mom identifying each type by their hoot. Whoever coined the term “quiet country life” never actually lived in the country. Sure, there’s no honking car horns or sirens all the time, but it ain’t exactly quiet.
There’s pond peepers (frogs), with their rhythmic chirping and the bass line from the bullfrogs, crickets, night birds…and it goes on. Mix all that in with the fragrant flowers and the gentle heat, it’s a multi-sensory experience that, for me, is soothing in a way nothing else can be. God put all this together just for us to experience the world in a soft way that can’t really be replicated. Oh sure, we try, with sound machines and air sprays and climate control…but we all know it’s not quite the same.
After having lived in a town for the past 22 years, I’m back to living in the country with it’s myriad sensual experiences. And it is just that- sensual…something that makes you stop for a bit and recognize what you are sensing. Is that sweet aroma honeysuckle? Or scuppernongs? The warm soft breeze on my skin as I sip on cold water, the buzz of honeybees, the shadows under the trees during a bright full moon, all those good things so easy to take for granted in the rush of productivity and the worry about the life-things that probably aren’t nearly as important as we think they are.
All the memories of my youth are conjured up by these smells and sounds…Summer nights spent in front of a fan with a damp washcloth to help stay cool, or playing spotlight tag with the neighbors, spontaneous decisions to spend the night at someone else’s house, warm tomato sandwiches, pulling the stamen out of a honeysuckle blossom to taste the sweet nectar…sometimes all that gets lost in the need to pay the bills or send that important email, or make sure the kitchen is clean and the laundry is picked up.
Do you remember how, as a child, when you decided to go to bed, that’s what you did? You just…went to bed. Maybe put on some pajamas…but the process was short and simple. Now? As a 53 year old, there’s all this STUFF that has to be done first. Most of it is self-imposed, but there it is anyway. The kitchen has to be clean (can’t stand to get up to a messy kitchen). Dog crated, cats out, medicines taken…ad seemingly infinitum and nauseum. I just want to go. to. bed. Then there’s the stuff to get my brain quiet. Reading something boring. Listening to something quiet. Lay there in the dark for a while wishing my brain would shut up long enough to fall asleep. Did I remember to do this/fix that/send off the other/ohnoiforgottodothisthingonadeadline/more ad nauseum…
Then I hear the whippoorwill and I’m reminded that God’s got this…He makes the world turn and the birds sing and the flowers bloom…and He’s got this all in hand and I can go to sleep now, and deal with all that other stuff in the morning.