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Roger Barbee: A valley eve

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By Roger Barbee

Like so many pleasant experiences, it came unannounced. The almost perfect eve began with, of all things, a track meet where I conducted the high jump. Watching a dark, ominous cloud all the time, I managed to finish the event before the rain blew in to interrupt the running events. However, having completed my task, I was in the car when the first splashes hit the ground. Not only had the approaching rain encouraged me to move along, I had a date with my wife to eat at Sal's Bistro, and I was a bit late and hungry.

Driving south from Woodstock to Edinburg, I noticed how the pike was full of puddles, but the strong wind that blew all day had stopped. Off to my right, the sun was beginning to touch Great North Mountain beyond Bryce and its softening rays cast a golden glow over the wet world that I drove through. It was a gentle end of a day filled with powerful wind gusts that had shaken everything. In the short five mile ride to pick up my date, the area came to a delightful rest after the storm. Passing Bowman's Crossing, I glanced west across the interstate and marveled at the hush and hue of this eve.

My date was waiting, and we headed to Sal's where we enjoyed the grace of our waitress Emily , the kitchen skills of Sal, and chatter covering a variety of topics with each other as we ate. Exiting the Bistro, I noticed how delightful the eve was still so on the way home, I asked, "Want to take the long way home?" I knew the answer and turned left off the pike to travel Palmyra Church Road. Cresting the hill, Short Mountain rose in the waning light as if waiting for us. Once again, I was awed by the majesty of the end of this day as the fading light lit up all of the mountain, but especially the bare trees and outcrops on the top half. The leafing, lower trees seemed to be a mat saying, "Come, rest, chat a bit, and enjoy this gift."

Rounding the curve and going downhill to the bridge, we encountered a small hatch of insects that flickered in the car's headlights. Approaching the bridge, we slowed to enjoy the reflected sunlight on the full river. All was peaceful, the only movement being the river as it followed its course. Had it not been for an approaching car from behind, we would have sat on the bridge longer, but felt the need to move and it was then, after the bridge, that we heard another hatch as soon as we saw it. For about 50 yards, to the small airport, was a swarm so thick we closed the windows, watching and hearing this spring hatch.

Oh, I thought, I wish the insects would move to the river for the fish to eat. Slowly, we drove to the hilltop, passing the ancient church, looking at all the wonder we passed. When we reached the flat on the south end we looked across the river and through the thickening trees to see our house, but the trees were already too thick with leaves. Passing Ben's barn, we watched the river, looking for the great blue heron that seemed to live in that section, but all we saw on the flowing water were ducks feeding in the shallows with their heads down and their tail feathers up.

Crossing the bridge at Red Banks, we turned north, heading home. Cresting the rise on the pike, the first words were spoken between us since turning off the pike earlier. Mary Ann looked east and quietly said, "Look, there's our house."

The next day I came to realize what a gift that eve had been. The time shared with others and a deeply loved one, the raw beauty of our valley, and the hush of day's end. By accident, we had heard the command, "Be still and listen." Much had been said in those two hours.

Roger Barbee is a retired educator who lives in Edinburg with his wife Mary Ann, four dogs and five cats. Email him at redhill@shentel.net. Read his columns online at www.nvdaily.com/columns/barbee



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