sounds of the past boom in the present's silence

Sounds of the past boom in the present’s silence

Sitting on the deck of the cabin, the silence is evocative of times long past, when all I felt and heard were warm summer breezes, late afternoon sunshine, and every so often a train chugging past the town in which my grandmother lived. Back then I had never heard such silence – I was visiting her from a big city; well, its bustling suburbs. We didn’t ever have silence in Baltimore  like  what we had  on a lazy summer afternoon in Jonesville, South Carolina  — even in the middle of the night!

Today was another day of pristine West Virginia silence. Well, except for a few squeals, shrieks, and thumps and bumps from the grandkids. Now, I can look out and see all the mountains and trees, sky, sun, and clouds noiselessly harmonizing with vague creature sounds – no cars, no airplanes . . . just quiet drowsy harmony. 

Memories resound loudly in this symphony.

Where we are staying, I am two thousand feet higher than I was way back then in Jonesville – the trees are taller here in West Virginia– mimosa trees soar seventy or eighty feet; dogwoods are taller, too. Way taller than in Dallas. Of course, a river is just a short walk away. The air is warm but drier; at night the air is fresh and chilly– and the sky . . . the sky sparkles with stars whose names I still don’t know.

A half-century ago, a retired schoolteacher, Miss Belle Free, patiently pointed out all the stars to me but I could never see the figures all those clusters of stars were supposed to represent. Now, my son-in-law describes their courses so we can watch a meteor shower. Who knew there is an IPad app (Sky Guide) that not only connects the twinkling dots, but projects how the heavens will shift throughout the night. I wonder if the prophet Isaiah saw something like that when he recorded God’s questions:


So—who is like me?
    Who holds a candle to me?” says The Holy.
Look at the night skies:
    Who do you think made all this?
Who marches this army of stars out each night,
    counts them off, calls each by name
—so magnificent! so powerful!—
    and never overlooks a single one? (Isaiah 40:26)

It never crossed my mind then that I might one day hold a map of the heavens as easily as I once help a South Carolina road map – at which I was equally inept reading!

When I was young and visited Jonesville, I kept in touch with my world by looking at the pictures in back issues my grandmother accumulated, and read:  The Saturday Evening Post, McCall’s, Ladies Home Journal and Life Magazine. Now, my nine-year-old granddaughter shows me how to use features on my computer I never knew I had!

I wonder what I knew how to do that my grandmother couldn’t?

Gazing over the mountain landscape, hearing the quiet symphony of beauty, order, peace, played by a gentle warm breeze, I see so much I  missed back then because the parochial pride of being a city dweller was not a sound measure of some treasures in that rural setting. Jonesville may not have had a library comparable to the Enoch Pratt, but it had people who loved learning and teaching – and who knew a few things I was too dumb to appreciate, and am still learning.

No. I am not about to hug a tree – or sign up for overnights anywhere but my own comfy bed: “I love not camping.” But, I am humbled, grateful, and motivated to remember how things were once — Tony Evans, pastor at Oak Cliff Bible Church, wrote on Facebook:

  • Learn from yesterday. Don’t live in it.


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