I thought it might be fun to pass along this month's newsletter article for the Bethany Beacon. However, any thoughts I might have of returning to my habit of solitary night walks were swiftly quashed by news that a naked man has been running around Fond du Lac in the early morning hours. The two things are not related. At all. No, really.
Last night, after a hot afternoon and a short burst of rain in the evening, a cool front blew in. The breeze was magnificent: not quite warm, not quite cool, strong, darting, moving through the trees with the flow and sound of a rushing river. It reminded me of the summer nights when I was young—seventeen, perhaps, maybe eighteen. Whenever I felt restless late at night, I would slip out of the house and go for a long walk around the hills and empty streets of our neighborhood. Summers were the best, but winters were good too. If you could stand the cold, the crisp, dry winter air would reveal the stars above in sharp detail. I used to swear I could see the band of the Milky Way stretched overhead. I have no idea if that's true or not.
The last place I lived in Atlanta was a funky old cottage that had been not-quite renovated. Occasionally, when a storm came up, we'd lose power, and then there was nothing for it but to go wait it out on the front porch. It would have been much too hot to sleep indoors.
There was a wardrobe in the main hall that my cats liked to perch on, and an overstuffed armchair beside it. Once a friend's big dumb Weimaraner Sofie came to visit. She followed her nose up the chair and to the top of the wardrobe, where she startled one the cats. He promptly shot, missile-like, to the back door with Sofie in hot pursuit. Every time she came to visit after that—every stinking time—the first thing that dog would do is jump up on the chair and check the wardrobe for cats.
Today, I am become that dog. Every morning, I go to the closet when I know perfectly well what I'm looking for is in the medicine cabinet behind the mirror. This, in a house we've lived in for eight months, and where it's never been in the closet. But somewhere along the line, the closet is where I looked, and hanged if my brain doesn't tell me to go there first.
I am either too tired or too settled to go for late-night strolls any more. It's amazing what getting older, working for a living, and having kids will do to you. It's not all bad, though. I needed calming down from where I was in my late teens and early twenties.
But I wonder sometimes when I lost interest in the breeze and the night sky. When did I stop looking up at the heavens in wonder? When did I stop yearning for something I couldn't quite articulate? When did I stop being a mystic and start being not much brighter than a Weimaraner?
I put the question in a humorous way (I wouldn't go as far as calling it funny), but there is a serious side to it. Many people know what it's like to lose that wide-open feeling in their hearts, the sense of wanting and longing to experience the mystery of God. There isn't much of a solution to this problem: the best I can recommend is to notice the desire and to stay open to it when it does come in those few quiet moments we have in life. But really, what I want to know is: when the breeze blows and the trees rustle late at night, don't you feel it too?