Wednesday, April 06, 2005

my view of heaven

i love being outside at night for almost any reason, especially if i have time to just sit and relax. something about the night just offers privacy, a chance to reflect on the past and imagine the future. i'm surrounded by the darkness like a blanket of insulation that brings peace and quiet while i marvel at the beauty of the night sky and the infinite display of shining stars. totally awesome. really brings home the reality of God's greatness.

i've always loved being outside at night, and many summer nights growing up i chose to sleep outside. when i was little, we only had window air conditioners that we turned on when we came in from the field at night. obviously, the house was quite hot for a while, and it wasn't easy to go to sleep in that. after a shower, dinner, and any chores i had, i would sit out on the porch waiting for the cool night air to come. sometimes dad would sit out there with me, but usually it was just me. sitting there, waiting on the cool air and looking at the stars.

we camped quite a bit when i was young, so we had all the supplies for living in the wilderness for extended periods of time. i could use them to sleep in the yard at night if i wanted to, but i didn't really care for sleeping on the ground. i didn't care for the bugs that crawled around, and i never was too excited about the idea that a snake might find its way into my sleeping bag. not big motivators to sleeping outside.

when we got a trampoline, i had a whole new outlook on sleeping outside. i could fall asleep looking at the stars, not be lying on the ground, and not be a tempting bunkmate to snakes. it was the perfect solution for me! from that point on, summer (starting in march and going until
october) meant sleeping outside. this added a whole sense of freedom to the summer.

mom always worried about me sleeping outside, but really mom just always worried. there was really nothing to worry about -- i was right next to the house, i wasn't doing anything other than sleeping, and i had a guard dog with me. i didn't feel there was much danger, but because we lived on a major highway there could have been other problems. of course, this is the same woman who wonders what would happen to all the people in an area if a water tower bursts (and thinks this as she's driving under the tower!). so yeah, it's not surprising that she was worried.

when i was grown, i had my own family. before long, i had moved away from home and lived in town due to a job transfer. i wasn't enjoying the night sky anymore because i was busy rocking babies and giving baths and reading bedtimes stories. i was in a different phase of life, and there was just no time to sit outside and look. we also had neighbors, and they were always "right there" no matter what we were doing. even though we had good neighbors, they still drove me nuts. always coming over, always making noise, always mowing their yards, always letting their kids run loose, always just "right there". since i didn't care for that much "neighborliness," sitting outside to look at the stars (attract their attention) was not that tempting.

i moved back to the country in december of 1999, to a house that i designed and had built on a piece of the family farm just 3 miles from where i grew up. i lived on a gravel road, with my closest neighbor a mile away. it's usually fairly quiet out there, especially at night. even though my life has still been quite busy since i moved there, i find myself drawn outside -- especially at night. i have a large porch on the front of the house where i sit/recline on the steps and just soak up the night. i like to go out around 10 and experience the night just as long as i can stay awake. feeling the cool, damp night air, listening to the creatures of the night, looking at the sky. something about being out in the night creates a sense of freedom. breaking out from the norm, thinking out of the box, exploring something different. something i just can't find when my mind is crowded with the presence of other people, the stresses of everyday life, and seeing everything in full light. the night just adds a hint of mystery and yet allows me to comprehend, almost like i'm on the verge of true enlightenment.

i tend to sit outside at night more in the springtime, probably because of the increasing temperatures and i'm so eager to "get out" after the winter. i am anxiously awaiting the arrival of honeysuckle this year, as it adds a whole other level to sitting outside in the night with the strong sweet smell teasing the senses. the kind of smell where i feel like i should take bigger breaths so i can inhale it faster. someone recently asked me if honeysuckle was my favorite smell. no, it's not my most favorite smell, but it's real close to the top. when honeysuckle is mixed with the arrival of spring, the balmy night air, and stargazing -- it's now a part of the whole image of spring. that scent is now synonymous with spring, so it has transcended beyond just the smell of a particular plant. the smell of honeysuckle -- sweet, heavy, intoxicating. m-m-m-m.

i recently found myself sitting on a park bench in joplin at midnight and took some time to look at the stars, wondering if my friends saw them the same as i do from home. i'm not used to the city lights being around and hindering the view of the stars. maybe it was just coincidence or maybe it was just prejudice, but they certainly didn't looks as bright that night from town as they do from my own porch. i even got up and walked to another area to make sure i had a good view, and still not as good. i guess i'll need to add "compare the view of the stars from multiple locations" to my list of things to do while wanderlust is in control. maybe it was just the noise of the traffic nearby, or knowing that there were other people near, or being alone in the dark in a strange place. whatever, it just didn't feel as good as "my view of heaven."

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