Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Lights of Home

A filigree of sky and tree
has caught an evening star
and if the wind doesn’t blow
and if the branches don’t let go
it might be there tomorrow.

Although winter is still officially a month off, the end of daylight savings time has brought an early onslaught of dark skies. The stars are vivid, but my favorite lights are closer to home. As Joe and I head down the six mile stretch of country lane that connects our house to the small village of McDowell, the blackness is occasionally broken by lights shining in the distance. Each one belongs to someone we know. There’s the farmhouse tucked against the mountains with just a single light showing from a downstairs window. The woman who lives there is very frugal and never burns more than one bulb at a time.

The next farm is closer to the road and every window upstairs and down is a glowing jewel. There are four children in the house and it seems to laugh at the darkness. As we drive by, I can see one small face peering back at me.

We travel at least a half a mile before we see another house. The eerie blue light of a television dances against the curtains in the front room and there is a string of laughing orange jack o lanterns draped across the front porch. In two weeks, they will be replaced with the beautiful red, orange, gold and green of Christmas decorations. I look forward to these each year, especially the ones wrapped around the twenty foot tall spruce tree in the side yard.

Across the road, a big old barn glows in the light of a mercury vapor bulb. If I roll down the windows I can hear it humming in the crisp night air. Most of lights we’ve seen come from tungsten bulbs. They cast a welcoming gold light. But, the barn is garishly blue and gray beneath the industrial fixture. The hay wagons are parked in deep black shadows cast by its one large bulb.

The next house is up on a hill. There is a beautiful bay window, and I can see the five family members seated around the dining room table. That means the twins are home from college. Beyond their house, a recently built log cabin dominates the sky line. It has a modern set of floor to ceiling windows and they are festive against the velvet black night. I wonder how Christy keeps them so spotless.

Two more curves and we will be in our little village. The houses are closer together now, but they still don’t light the night sky in the same way as the city of Staunton which is four mountains to the east. On a clear night, the sky in that direction is orange. I am so glad to live in an area where the sky is dark and each light belongs to someone I know.

Finally, we pull into the yard of the homeplace. Joe's mom died six years ago and the house has been empty. Now Justin lives there. The porch lights are on and the house looks happy again.

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