Friday, July 31, 2009

Summer Nights

The heat of the summer days on the farm could drive me crazy - but oh the summer nights! Now those could be a whole different experience!

Depending, of course, on the weather of the day, a bit of stormy weather could develop quite quickly as the afternoon progressed into evening. You had to listen to the weather reports and watch the skies. If the sky had a yellowish tinge (not from the sunset) or the clouds were really dark or there was a sudden drop in temp - then you knew that there was something ominous nearby. There could be hail, damaging winds or even a tornado hiding in those clouds.

I only remember a couple of really bad electrical storms when I was young. Sheet lightening and a bit of thunder never scared me, but oh my - the more severe storms still scare me. The sudden streaks followed by thunder booms could knock my socks off! They make me shudder with fear of what could be coming.

A gentle rain on the other hand can be a welcome relief. I loved walking in the rain and didn't care if I got soaked to the skin! As long as there was little risk of it becoming a thunder storm, then I wanted to be out in the rain. If I couldn't be out in it, I wanted to sit by an open window, watch, listen and breathe in the smell of the rain as it cooled down the lingering heat from the day.

The hot muggy nights were the worst. You wanted a little rain to cool things down, but if it started to rain it might turn to a storm, so you hoped for a breeze from the north. Trying to sleep on those muggy nights was next to impossible. The air would be still, thick and sticky. You didn't want to even put on any type of sleepwear - let alone have a sheet covering you. You'd lay on your back, with your legs and arms out to the sides because even the thought of another warm body part touching your skin was enough to make you sweat. The heat was exhausting, but sleep wouldn't come easy. Oh you might doze, but the air was so thick and hot that it wasn't a fitful sleep.

We never had air conditioning. Mom and dad wouldn't leave the fan from the furnace on all night as the cool air from the basement would all be sucked out and we'd roast even more the next day. Sometimes we'd set one of the box fans on a chair at the bedroom door and let it blow even a warm breeze on us, but the noise from the fans would keep us awake too!

We didn't always get to fully enjoy our yard and peaceful surroundings in the evenings, as that was always a favourite time for the mosquito's. Bug sprays helped, but a nice breeze helped even more!

If the weather co-operated and the bugs stayed away, we often entertained guests outdoors. We'd turn up the stereo from the living room and listen to music through the patio door as we chatted over drinks and desserts on the patio.

Dad had a horse shoe pitch down behind the house and there was also a croquet set or lawn darts to set up on the front lawn if we wanted games to play. We could also take a walk along a path through the trees that lined the grass on the east side of the lane.

When I was a teen, I learned to play a bit of guitar while working at summer camp. I often took my guitar out with me in the evenings - along with a notepad and pen in case I got inspired to write some lyrics for a song. I usually just played and sang songs that I knew.

I have always loved sunsets. My favourite place to watch them, was a tree behind the house. I don't recall what kind of tree it was, but it had split into two sections about 3 feet off the ground. Where the split was, made a perfect seat to view the western skies. I spent many an evening sitting in the base of that tree - contemplating life and marveling as Mother Nature painted the sky every night. I always loved taking walks at dusk or even after dark. I always carried a flashlight with me to be on the safe side, but I rarely had to use it, as there wasn't a lot of traffic along our part of the road at that time of evening.

There is just something very calming about a walk in the evening. You hear the crickets chirping, owls hooting, and the breezes blowing through the trees. Occasionally you'd hear the sounds of grass rustling as a fox, a squirrel, or some other small animal scurried by. Sometimes you'd hear a neighbours dog bark even though it was almost a mile away. If the wind was just right, you heard a train whistle as it passed through a small country station/whistle stop about 5 miles to the south west.

Besides the sounds along the walks, I loved to just watch the sky turn from dusk to dark and watch for the first star sighting of the night so I could make a wish. If I was really lucky, I'd see a falling star. It didn't happen often, but if the conditions were just right, there may be a bit of northern lights doing it's colourful dance in the northern skies! Walking when the moon was out was wonderful, as you didn't need a flashlight - unless you needed to identify your presence to a nearing vehicle. The shadows of the moonlight, cast a wonderful glow on the surrounding countryside.

If I didn't go for a late night walk, I would at least try to sit in my tree or lay on a blanket on the grass for awhile. When I was old enough, I would sometimes even sleep out under the stars. Even though, I was within sight of the house, mom would still worry about me!

On the nights I couldn't sleep, I'd grab the guitar and head out behind the house or down the lane into the trees and sing into the wee hours. I just had to remember to do it softly or make sure my voice would carry away from the house so that I wouldn't wake mom and dad.

I also listened to the radio late at night. Many stations turned down their power at dusk. Once the powers went down, the stations from Winnipeg didn't come in as clearly, but you could scan the dial for far away stations. They weren't always perfectly clear either, but it was interesting to hear what people several hundred miles away were listening to! I had a small portable radio that was about 3"x5"x1". I used to put it right beside my pillow so I could listen to it quietly. I fell asleep listening to the radio more nights than I can count! I also wore out a LOT of batteries! Mom and dad finally bought me a clock radio!

Living in the city, definitely has it's advantages but, I do miss those summer nights of my youth. The sunsets, the walks, star gazing, northern lights, the moonlight and the sounds of nature's night life. I'd love to be able to turn out all the city lights and stop all the traffic and other noises so I could enjoy the night skies and sounds, but since I can't do that, I'll just hope for sweet dreams!


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