I am up before the moon this morning. Or maybe she is in her dark phase and isn't going to let anyone see her at all today. The stars are very bright in her absence and the air is clear. This far in the deep south, the humidity of August is usually a visible entity.
The lane is dark. A few of our neighbors have security lights, but none illuminate the lane. They shine on sleeping cars and tool sheds. Orion is high in the sky behind us as we head out.
The lane runs north, so that's where we're headed. I have never noticed before that there aren't many bright stars low in the north. The sun is still below the horizon, so it is very dark.
At the end of the lane we turn left and start up the hill. The horses that sometimes trott up to the fence to greet us stay with their hay this morning. That means I am looking up when the meteor races into the west. A straggler from the Perseid shower? No one else says anything, so I suspect I was the only one who saw it.
At the top of the hill, we turn left again and start downhill. The incline isn't nearly as noticeable as it will be on the return trip! This part of our walk has the most traffic. There is usually a dump truck that we can hear backing up to start his morning commute: beep...beep...beep...beep. Then a minute or so later his lights appear at the intersection. Most days he heads straight through the intersection and we slide to the edge of the road to give him plenty of room. This morning he takes a left and we stay on the road. It is so quiet and so dark that there really isn't much chance of a vehicle sneaking up on us.
When the moon is out, there are lacy patterns of trees on the road. This morning it is just dark. When we come to an open space, I look east to see a lavender band beginning to form on the horizon. We pass a long section of white rail fence that always signals the domain of horses. Orion is high in front of us.
We've walked about a mile now, but we're not ready to turn around. We've come to my favorite part of the journey. There are only 2 more houses to pass. The first has no security light, just a warm front porch fixture that glows on the door and 2 friendly chairs. It is surrounded by trees. We walk through a deep darkness and come to the last house. Its security light is so bright that it illuminates the house, the old homestead on one side and part of the hay field on the other.
Just past the hay field, we pass under an oak that arches over the road. Tall pines rise on both sides and the road becomes a dark canyon. The scent of pine fills the air. The only thing visible is the sky like a river above us. There is a fork in that river of sky that we know is the turn-around point of our walk.
In the sky above the hay field, I can see that most of Orion's cosmic companions have faded. He is steadfast in his watch. As we come back to that last house, a rooster's hoarse crow announces our passing. The darkness is losing its hold on the night. We make our way back along the white rail fence and begin to climb. The gentle descent of the outbound trip has become an angle of attack on the way home.
At the crest of the hill, we turn right. The lavender wave in the east has crept up higher than the distant treeline. Just a bit farther and we're on our own lane. I look up and the only part of Orion that is still visible is the lower corner of his tunic. The sky is brightening in the east as we turn into our yard. Orion turns his watch over to the rising sun.