The Other Half of the Day’s Tremendous Wheel
As a kid what I loved about night was walking for hours. Especially in winter on my family’s farm because December and January are when the north winds come at us strongest, sweep our humidity and dust away. Everything in South Georgia is made up of peanut dust, swamp water, pine straw, sand. They latch on to your skin the moment you are born and dig deep into you the rest of your life.
I’ve spent thirty years living in city places, my late walks filled with streetlamps, their pinkish-yellow glow humming a barrier between as far as I could see and the whole night-cold above. But whenever I could, I made it down to the family farm. It was always dark out in the winter months because of the long drive, because of daylight savings. I’d stop the car on the sand road a quarter mile from the house just to walk. If it was a clear night, the sky opened bright in its black stars, the north wind rushed, and something in the heel of my foot lifted me into that vast space just as—and this was the other trick of my mind—that vastness crashed to the floor of the earth. Back and forth my body and the sky switched, making a vertigo. The cliché says, life is short. But in those moments, life was endless, and I was, for the briefest of time, endless.
Now my home in Alabama in the woods and away from streetlamps has become a haven, too. I built the house out of old church glass a church in my county no longer wanted. Not the stained glass, but the tempered glass used to protect the color and lead designs. I have done this so the world outside made up of oaks and leggy hydrangeas, what is indigenous to northern Alabama, iron and chert ridges, the looping pattern of red-tailed hawks, is always my world in. At night with the hawks gone, with the cold air making the crickets and frogs silent, I turn off every floor lamp just to stare through the thinnest barrier of west glass wall so that I may find again stars, trees, and the black between them, what Henry Beston calls the other half of the day’s tremendous wheel.