I love the sounds of late-summer nights. As I write this, I’m sitting on my porch in the city of Albany, listening to the endless trill of crickets as a fan whirs above me and moths smack, kamikaze-style, against the light. Thanks to my late husband, who had a fine streak of whimsy in him, the ceiling is sky blue and dotted with clouds. He painted it when the kids were wee, and I’ll never paint it over. To me it means family, and childhood, and picture books, and love. It means warmth, even in the midst of winter.
But sitting out here on a muggy August night, I feel close to my own childhood on a lake in Connecticut. Most every night I would step out onto the porch and hear that same, thrumming chorus of crickets. And the peepers! I loved those beautiful frogs, considered them my pals and even wrote a little poem about them — for the record, one of my least-bad efforts at adolescent versifying. It’s short. So short I can remember it in full, which rather shocks me, given the unmemorable nature of my teenage poetic output and the unreliable nature of my memory banks. It goes like this:
I love the peepers
My sweet froggy souls
As they sing their sweet hearts out
Through mud, gnats and night
They always sang loudest from the tiny creek that trickled beside the house. I would walk past them and down the hill to the lake below, where I dangled my feet from a stone fence above the sand. There I would watch, at peace for a lovely, lasting moment, as bugs dappled the dark water and the distant whine of cars echoed from the opposite shore.
Sometimes my cat Peter, a fine old gentleman with a cracked “meow,” would mosey down and say hello, and we would sit there, we two, contemplating the universe as a soft breeze played across the water. I loved doing that. Doing nothing in the lazy warmth of a summer evening. Just thinking, drinking it all in, looking up at the stars or the haze of a moon, hearing the bark of a neighbor’s dog or the plash and chug of a slow boat creeping back home through the dark.
Those were my late-summer nights. I still have them somewhere, lodged in the back of my mind and the start of my life, keeping me tethered to a long ago that never really left me. As Faulkner once observed, and I am constantly repeating, “The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past.” Not tonight, as the crickets hum and a dog barks in the distance. Not tonight, and not ever.