Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Alone, Outdoors, In The Dark




It was a warm dusk, the darker stage of twilight. I'd left the streetlights to walk secretly with my dog Stella on the fairways of a golf course not far from my home. The stars were more visible from out on those clipped lawns. I was alone, outdoors, in the dark, unseen, a shadow amongst shadows, letting Stella's nose and ears guide us.

We weren't the only animals out there. Something the size of a raccoon raced along ahead of us for a time, exciting Stella. There were a few rabbits out as well -- I could just make out their white tales a they raced away from us -- along with, overhead, the inevitable, silent, sudden darkness of hunting owls. I was hoping that our relative clumsiness was warning the bunnies into hiding, although then I regretted that the owls would go hungry. 

Stella, rendered colorless against the grass, found something stinky to perfume herself with, goose poop or a dead insect. Her roly-poly writhing was conveyed to me through the leash. 

A breeze rustled the trees and in the impending night it sounded momentous, putting any traffic sounds into the distance. These moments thrill me. I recall them from childhood: being all alone, outdoors, in the dark, relying upon every sense other than sight. Even inhaling the air was something special. As Stella rolled, I stood tall to fill my lungs, releasing it slowly.

Faintly, I thought I heard a whisper from across the fairway grass. A ghost was my first giddy thought. Stella and I walked slowly in the direction from which the whisper had come, her nose against the ground. It had probably been my imagination; being alone, outdoors, in the dark is a canvas for imagination, for creative real life works of mystery, magic, and horror. That's part of the thrill.

I felt Stella stop. I knew her head was up, alert, and then I saw it too, animated shadows on the green just beyond the relative paleness of a sand trap. My heart leapt even as I, like Stella, was drawn toward the unknown. We were at least as hidden by darkness as whoever it was; something about the movements let me know that there was a human there, or possibly humans. In the last of the light, I could see, against the sky, the banner that marked the location of the hole waving wildly. Then I made out a child, two children, their hands grasping the flagstick. At the same time they saw me.

I was close enough now to recognize the boy and girl, a brother and sister, 10 and 5, who have been staying with their grandmother, my neighbor. I greeted them and they me, before returning to the game they were playing with the flag. Then after whispering to one another, they lit out, running pell mell in the dark along the long fairway, seeking once more to enter the spell of playing alone, outdoors, in the dark.

As they receded into the dusk, the darker stage of twilight, I knew that childhood was still alive, at least for these children, at least this evening, alone, outdoors, in the dark.

******

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