The hammock swayed gently as I lay in it looking up toward the sky. The sun had already gone down for the evening, giving way to the night. My view of the stars was obstructed by the massive tree branches overhead. Their dark silhouettes stretched out toward one another like hundreds of arms with grasping hands. It was still late summer, so the leaves formed a canopy of sorts overhead. There were gaps in the canopy that revealed dark patches of sky dotted with tiny bright twinkling stars.
The temperature had relaxed into the upper 70’s and every couple of minutes a gentle breeze made its way over the edge of the canopy and across my face. I took it for what it was, a tease. It made me long for cooler weather and an end to the summer, just as it intended to do. Fall had to be just around the corner. I wanted to scent its impending arrival in the air, the way you can when you are paying attention. The scent had not quite arrived yet, though. Fall was close, but not that close.
Looking up into the sky through the trees was almost enough to make me forget I was in my own front yard rather than out in the woods camping somewhere. There was a magic to camping if you looked at it with rose colored glasses or the hyped-up imagination of the delirious. It was satisfying to almost feel that woodsy magic and not have to feel the rocky ground beneath a sleeping bag, share bed space with all the bugs and snakes, or to really just want a coke when all you packed was water.
The sounds of the neighborhood were muted. The bustle of the day had slowed. There were plenty of noises to hear, but even with the noises, the world still felt quiet. It was a mystery, the exact opposite of the way that silence can sometimes be deafeningly loud.
The cicadas took over the airwaves singing their ridiculous songs. The music they made would in one moment completely fade into the background where I almost forgot it existed, and then in the next sound so loud I had to wonder if one of them had set off an alarm.
A woman bid cheerful farewell to a child. I heard her close the car door and call out “See you later alligator!” and I had to assume the muffled child’s reply was “In a while crocodile!” as the car motored off down the street.
I could hear the occasional zoom of big trucks zipping on past our town. It was just far off enough to be muted and not obnoxious. The quiet night combined with the sounds of the highway reminded me that there are those that keep the world running, out doing their jobs long past peak hours.
That was a kind of magic, too, knowing there were people out in the world doing stuff like patrolling the town, running the gas stations, and manning all the things. There was a security in knowing that someone was keeping it going out there. I recognized that feeling of magic from when I was a child. I would wake up early, still dark outside and heard a car go by. Just knowing someone was out there, headed to work, brought a feeling of security. It meant more than it actually was, much like the scent of coffee heralded productivity. Once you smelled it, you just knew something was going to get done.
I felt again that old, long ago feeling of security while I lay in the hammock in the quiet night. The old converging with the new. Someone was still out there working, keeping it going. It would be my turn again soon enough. I would get up, make coffee, and do the things. For now, though, I just lay in the hammock and stare through the trees to the night sky, listening to the quiet.