One night in 1936, the Aurora Borealis was seen in Ridge Spring, South Carolina. My friend, Dr. Keith, told me this— he was there. He was one of the many children pulled out of bed and brought outside to see. It was beautiful, remarkable. Dr. Keith would grow up to accomplish many great things and travel the world, and yet among his favorite stories, the ones he especially wanted to share, there would be this one: what I saw in the sky.
Dr. Keith was a reliable source, but still I researched this and found the Northern Lights have indeed been seen this far south before. There is a legend that warns not to whistle for the lights, or your breath will be caught up with them, and so they must be feminine in nature, for I’ve never yet met a woman who liked to be whistled for.
I like to imagine the adults that night in Ridge Spring. Maybe they were just finishing the chores or rocking on the porch in the cool of the evening . Dr. Keith’s father was the only doctor in the town and still traveled by horse and buggy. Maybe he was waiting up, expecting a call any moment. Perhaps on the outskirts of town, an old woman was slowly dying or a young woman was near to giving birth.
I know now firsthand the deep relief a parent feels when their child is asleep in their bed. It would take something big, something really special, to wake them up after the great work of putting them down. Perhaps some of them just couldn’t do it that night, not for anything. Perhaps they said to themselves, I’ll tell them about it in the morning, it’ll be just as good, knowing it was a lie. Perhaps some were frightened by the lights, and didn’t want to scare the children. But some of them looked up, amazed, and they recalled the wars, the diseases and the darkness of this old earth and how similar the days can be, and so they ran in and scooped up their babies and held them up before the waves of bright and colorful light— a gift to them forever, for remembering.
If you have found a way to introduce yourself to me personally, I’m so grateful, and I remember you. My life has changed. With marriage and a baby coming so close together, I find that my time is less my own than ever before. Our little girl loves very much to be held. I have learned to write with one hand slowly making its way across the keyboard. That backspace button is more painful than ever, yet still so unavoidable.
I’m starting something new. In January (good Lord willing), I will begin sharing a monthly email-post, by subscription. For $1 a month, you will receive what I’m calling The Local. It will be a piece like what you’re used to reading from me, especially focused on the mundane, as well as a brief book recommendation and a gardening section (with seasonal tips if I have them or comforting stories of failure).
I plan to work the next couple months on collecting a little stash of writings so that I won’t disappoint, and also try to figure out the best program to use for this purpose, the one most suited to someone who has no wi-fi, no iCloud storage and no patience.
Thank you for stopping by this slow place, where I sit on the back porch. laptop balanced precariously on my knees, distracted by the birds at the feeder, thankful for the rain still shining on the trees.