Memories: The quiet times
Sometimes when the joys or sorrows in life cross our paths, we find ourselves reaching out for peace and solitude. We often just want to be alone. Maybe we wanted to retreat to a favorite spot, our private quiet space. Sitting in the shade in a corner of our environment, I have reasoned that a retreat can build or rebuild our fortitude and acceptance of life’s events. Such visits can restore us when we face the sharp realities of unexpected challenges of living. Even if nothing traumatic happens, a bit of quiet can be good for us in this busy, sometimes very noisy, life. Even Christ went to a garden to prepare for what was to follow. It was a moment to ‘be still’ and be quiet.
The slope on town hill during my day was just an angle at certain points where it was possible for me to turn, lay down, and see our little town, and people’s activities between my feet. Yes, I could see who was going in or out of several businesses below, and who was hanging out or taking in laundry. I could see someone taking a sun bath or another visiting a neighbor. The sidewalks carried a number of adults, most known to me, all heading for downtown or home from work. I could see the kids riding bikes and others using a push mower, perhaps to earn a few coins, or if really lucky a whole dollar.
Town Hill was one of the places I remember in this way. I remember that the warmth of the sun was gentle. It tended to make me want to doze off. No matter. Once I had gotten in a short nap life felt ‘good.’ Granted, there were times when dark clouds threatened and I knew it was time to run downhill to avoid getting soaked. I remember granny talking about so and so who was too dumb to get out of the rain. I surely didn’t want that label, even if it sometimes fit.
I remember a number of times when I sat on the porch swing on a summer’s day. Sometimes, I would read comic books, but on other occasions it was enough to doze off. When the storm hit, I was pretty well protected from the downpour, but in some cases I would get up and go inside. Later, after the rain had stopped and the street had many large ponds of pooled water I would tear off my shoes and roll up my jeans to wade in the warm sea created by the backflow that was too great to quickly disappear. Some of us found joy in riding our bikes at high speed to make a splash soaking any kids standing too close.
I remember fishing on the Tug at Salt Peter. Frankly, we weren’t getting any nibbles so we were left to merely watch the current as the black water rushed by. I remember sitting on the bank of the pond on the Wallace farm. One day I heard a popping noise and saw Pete Armstrong using a fly rod to entice fish to take a bite. It didn’t matter that they didn’t. Sitting and watching was enough for me.
It was May, on a warm summer’s day when Johnny Bill Boggs and I headed down River Road to the mouth of Blaine Creek for a little fishing. We didn’t have any obligations until that evening when we would attend graduation ceremonies on the football field behind good ole LHS. I sat down on a large smooth rock and casted the bait in the creek. Johnny Bill went a little further upstream in hopes of finding a good spot. It was later when I woke up realizing I had been sleeping bare chested in the hot sun. So had Johnny Bill. We were both sunburned and looked like a set of ripe red peppers. That night we had to sit in wool suits and robes and hear the formalities of graduation. Every move hurt and taught me a lesson never forgotten. I didn’t want to miss this important event, but wished I could go home and lay across my bed. I had earned this pain.
There was my Uncle John Walter’s farm that I remember, too. More than once I sat on bales of hay in the loft of the bid dairy barn. It was fun to run over the hay, leaping over low spots to finally land in a pocket that hid me from my cousins. I could sit there for hours, but there was too great a chance I’d miss my Aunts good cooking. I guessed right when I got back to the house and found the table set. Whew! Timing is everything.
I recall a time when the Levisa was suffering in drought. The water level was very low and the multiple sand bars were cut through only in a few places by small streams. I walked out on the sand bars and saw many interesting things protruding from the sand. I studied the shape of a sunken boat of some type, the stern sticking barely out into the bright sun. I saw pieces of smooth timber that undoubtedly served a purpose for a time, but was now waterlogged and stuck in the riverbed. There were small rocks, and even some rusty steel shells perhaps washed downstream during a flood stage. I did some digging around the wreck in hopes of finding pirate’s treasure, but alas, I found nothing worthwhile. Finally, I sat on the sand and listened to the quiet. No one was crossing the bridge just downstream. There were no sirens from firetrucks or ambulances, and not even a barking dog. I remained quiet and found rest in my own. It seemed to me that ‘special places’ could be nearly anywhere if we dared to pause, take deep breaths, and become one with that spot. This spot was temporary and remains below the water level even today. Fixing the needle dam helped with that, I’m sure.
I remember during my final days in high school that band members walked up the three flights of stairs to turn in uniforms, instruments and sheet music. There was only a small gathering of us saying our goodbyes to Mr. Armstrong and each other. Alas, I was in a sentimental way as I retreated back down to the landing just off-stage of the auditorium. I wandered out onto the stage and looked at the empty seats once so alive with faculty and students. There was a stuffed couch remaining on the stage, which had been a prop in the recent senior play. I sat by myself for a time looking around and remembering the events and people that were already in my past. After a time, I was joined by fellow classmate and band member, Kaye Buskirk. We spoke and I asked her if she’d join me. Together we discussed what memories this old building could tell if it could. Sadly, the old ‘normal college’ would soon be demolished and a new school would sit in its stead. Everyone who was anybody in Lawrence County must have stories in or involving the old brick building. Events were held there for teachers, students and the community at large. Kaye and I were friends before, but grew closer because of this short visit. It was the last time we were in the building, but I will always remember that grand auditorium.
I learned that it isn’t always the exciting and often noisy times that matter in our lives, but often the sum of quiet times that give us insights. They help shape who we ultimately become. Whether sitting alone, or sharing the moment with another, these times can have great value as we ponder life’s great mysteries. They teach us about life and allow for us in living. With a little quiet time we could fall in love, or find or means to work out our plans or problems. Taking a break, or a time out, we can truly benefit. Some prefer to curl up with a good book, or maybe just take a seat on a park bench and watch the rest of humanity passing with their own concerns. Sometimes it is when we lay the book down that we find answers that will change our lives. The fact is that we all ought to have those times and special places wherein we can find rest, build up our hopes, or realize how grateful we should be for our blessings. I know that when I was growing up I always had special places I could use for a getaway. Grab yourselves a moment, seek the quiet, and think about your blessings.