It’s nighttime and the perfect evening for sitting out on my deck and writing by the flicker of candlelight.
I’m feeling rather nostalgic, as I’m apt to feel on certain summer nights when the dampness of the grass clings to the air and the choir of crickets rises up singing the familiar song of so many summers past.
I just came back from a swim a short while ago. The water was so still and soft, brushing quietly past the red pillars of cardinal flowers and the fuzzy pink umbrellas of Joe Pye weed.
I thought longingly of some of my friends from high school who I used to go night swimming with. I can’t remember exactly who prompted it, but suddenly 3 or 4 of us would hop in the car and drive over to the abandoned railroad trestle that traverses the reservoir. We’d hike down a little path, climb down to the landing, and jump off (frequently sans clothes).
I remember swimming way out, for what seemed like an eternity in the silky, black water, basking in the opal moonlight, singing and hollering under the concrete arch of the bridge, and reveling in the magic of the night.
Sometimes our nighttime jaunts took us to the lake at Franklin D Roosevelt Park, which was also within walking distance of my house. I can still see the stars so clearly above the silhouette of the trees, and I’ll never forget the enormous bright red shooting star I saw with a tail that seemed a mile long.
When we weren’t swimming, sometimes we would take night hikes up Turkey Mountain to go camping. It wasn’t about partying or drinking or getting stoned. It was about soaking up life’s adventures. It was about being with friends. It was about seeing and experiencing the intense beauty of nature, and loving it so much that it ached.
I miss those times and those friends dearly. I wish mightily that I still had friends who would show up at my house and coax me out for a nighttime adventure. Can those times really be over?
It seems that we’ve all grown up and become busy with our responsibilities to our families, jobs, homes, and loved ones. Then why do I find myself still feeling like that same girl with the same longing for adventure and the same sense of wonder at nature’s beauty? How is it that I can still stand at the water’s edge and be so in awe of the reflection of life all around me? And will I ever be able to share that with friends in the same way again?
When I was at my 20-year high school reunion last year, a few of us cut out early and drove down to our spot by the reservoir. Our little path is now much wider and paved for usage by walker and bikers, and there is a parking lot where before there used to just be a patch of weeds. The path goes all the way across the bridge, where before there used to be just rail road ties. But just for a moment, that same magic was there, because really, it never actually left.
I know things aren’t the same. But I also know that my sense of wonder will always be a part of me. And I hope beyond hope that many more adventures lie ahead – with plenty to be shared!