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.