One morning in early November, I woke up at 5. It was pitch dark, but I had slept enough. So I got up, put on my warm down robe, had breakfast, and fed my dog, Al, a Welsh corgi. I opened the door to let him out and stepped outside with him.
I stood enchanted by the quiet. It was the same pure quiet that I had felt with my whole being on a certain day 17 years ago, when I turned off the motor of my car and first stepped onto a particular Vermont meadow surrounded by tall pines about one-third of the way up on a mountain. I bought that land three days later, not impulsively, but with the solid conviction that I had come home.
The darkness was damp and almost warm. Stars were out but looking faint, because my eyes were not ready. I know from sailing at night that it can take almost 20 minutes to gain good night vision. But I could see Orion up there with his dog, Sirius. A bright planet hung high over the trees. I wished that I knew which one. The garden beside me was black, invisible.
I walked back through the house and turned off the kitchen light, went out to the deck, and leaned against the railing that overlooks meadow, forest, and mountains.
Al sat still beside me, his big ears alert to catch the tiniest of sounds and his clever nose ready to sniff out the smallest of rodents. I soaked up the stillness, so rare a luxury....
Nothing moved for a long time, except for a small bat on its way home from its night shift. As my eyes opened to the dark, I could just make out an aspen still clothed in its golden leaves, standing like a goddess against the dark pines, flat silhouettes against the lighter sky. A white birch, small when I first came to the forest, now was a tall white outline. I discovered a squirrel nest that had been hiding all summer in a maple tree right next to the deck. Its inhabitants were asleep. An airplane blinked and hummed its way north along its transparent highway between earth and stars.
Ever so slowly, beginning at the top edges of the mountains, sky changed from light gray to the palest of lavenders, to lavender itself. Pines changed from black to gray to dark green. Fallen leaves were unrecognizable bits of torn white paper. Some clustered together and caught in branches, looking like white peonies. The flatness of silhouetted pines slowly changed into shadowy three-dimensional forms, the trees we love.
The meadow came alive. I could see the leafless stalks of goldenrod with their fancy fuzzy tops. The white silk of milkweed pods glowed in the half-light. Stars faded. Al slept.
I left my place by the railing and walked slowly along the narrow part of the deck on the side of the house as drops of dew landed on my hair from the overhang of the roof. From there, while I looked into the shadowy depths of the forest, two birds suddenly, silently flew out, startling me. Morning was not far away.
Two steps down from the deck and I was in the garden, no longer invisible, soon to wake up. Al slept on. Orion and his dog had gone hunting. The fairy-rose bush, covered with tiny pink flowers, was an exact match to the small pink clouds. The blue gate matched the sky. The green of the lawn was blurred by hundreds of silvery dewdrops, waiting for the first rays of the sun to turn them into flashing diamonds.
Earth was turning toward the sun, though I couldn't feel the earth's motion any more than I could feel the motion of my sailboat in a light air on the Chesapeake. But I knew I was on a unique and wonderful ride. Colors were brightening, and I could see things that I had not been able to see before. Our gigantic beautiful ball decorated with chains of enormous mountains, waterfalls, oceans, and infinitely more, was moving right under my feet, without a quiver or a sound, while two gold aspen leaves let go, twirled, and dropped to the ground.
Gently, ever so gently, our rugged faithful old Earth keeps right on bringing us from darkness into light, no matter what happens and at no charge.