“I think of the masters of a century ago,/And often wish they’d come and whisper their secrets in my ear…” ~ Charles Wright, “Littlefoot”
Saturdays… we rode around town with brush curlers in our hair, looking for boys and hoping they didn’t see us. At night we danced at Jack’s Blue Room where you could get a chili dog and a Coke for a quarter and dance all night for a dollar. Seven to eleven, we ate downstairs and danced upstairs in the semi-dark where there was only one big window at one end of the room, the glass covered with dark blue paint.
A local band called the Second Best (we didn’t have a “first” best) played Louie, Lou-I…Devil with a Blue Dress…I can see for miles and miles and miles…hippie songs with a hillbilly twang. Later, we drove home with the windows down, laughing in the wind, to curl up in the dark and let the crickets sing us to sleep.
Secrets... never could keep them. Every little detail got passed around like salt at suppertime. The table was the place to talk. Or the front porch. Or while sitting in a tree. The only secrets that got kept were the big mysteries that nobody had the answers to, anyway. Did the lost city of Atlantis ever exist? Did this Kentucky fellow the grownups talked about really have a vision of Atlantis? Who built all those statues at Stonehenge? I wondered. Nobody really cared.
A friend’s secret, however, could follow you around like a shadow, pull at your heart, weigh on your mind until you just had to give it up to somebody else, had to see the look on their face, hear the gasp or the groan. What good is a secret if you can’t share? I learned one lesson: Sharing is not always a good thing.
My best friend brought me several bags of Doritos on the day I left town. “Maybe you won’t find them in the city,” she said. “Maybe they won’t be the same.
I remember when everything was the same. Trees were oaks and elms and sycamores. No one had a hophornbeam tree. A stream was not something that ran only through parks or nature centers. A stream was a cross between a river and a mud puddle and we knew to hike above the barn to drink the stream water. And a chili dog with a Coke was pure magic.
Memories are like brushstrokes or small fires or loops of twine; they paint a picture, make connections, light up the mind. And I wonder…does the moon still look the same through the branches of a wild cherry tree?
Starlight… In the city the fuller the moon, the more the stars hide. You have to drive out of town to get a black sky. Here the night sky is indigo. Red dots flicker and move in a designated path, in from the north and out to the south — or vice versa. We live midway between two airports. Still, I like the subtle orange glow from the city. It’s like a living, breathing — something. With this white blanket of snow that refuses to go away, nights are even brighter, animal tracks visible long after sunset.
I remember as a kid looking at the night sky in Kentucky and getting excited to see the distant lights of a lone jet sailing across the sky. There is no sound nor light pollution out in the country. I was reading the other day about the various birds and frogs and other animals that live near cities or other night-lighted places and how the rhythms of their lives get twisted and distorted because of it. Thousands of baby turtles die every year, for example, because once they hatch on a beach they are drawn to sea by the bright light of the moon on the water. But if a turtle pops out of a shell and the first thing he sees are the lights of the nearby Marriott, he’s drawn away in that direction — and often to his death.
I like tropical islands that aren’t overrun with buildings, places where the brightest light is the full moon on the sea, where the forest after a rain smells like the Kentucky woods in spring time — a mix of honeysuckle and spices. Cinnamon trees in the tropics; pines in the mountains. What more could you want? A glass of fine wine…a barrel of Kentucky bourbon…the night song of a tropical mockingbird…or some dogs in the back of a pick-up truck… hmmm, maybe a little alone time?