Last night I was at a dinner party at a friend’s house who has an amazing view of the Dells and a vast sky. As the sun set and the hills changed from dirty brown to greens and pinks and the stars started to peek out from behind their curtain, I was transported back to my grandparent’s house where I grew up.
The house was built on the top of a hill with a view west across from a few acres of hilly southern Illinois. To the left of the house was forest and to the right after the leaves had fallen from the trees in the late Fall, we could see our neighbors. At the bottom of our sledding hill, which ran down from the backside of the house, and a short hike through a thin birch grove, was the lake. I spent many summers searching its banks for four-leaf clovers and swimming out to the square float in the middle of that muddy lake.
The hills to the west were treed, and in the Fall we were treated to a spectacular show of reds and yellows of the changing leaves. On occasion we could hear the plaintive cries of the peacocks at the farm on the other side of those hills a few acres away.
My grandparents house was a modest two-story ranch, as was popular at the time of the build in the mid-1960′s. They lived in the upstairs, and my mom and I lived in the downstairs. Because the house was built on a hill, the porch was built on the downslope and quite high. The roof came out over the porch and we had adirondack style chairs under that part of the roof.
We spent a lot of time on that back porch. When a thunderstorm would roll in, we would gather under the protection of the roof and watch the light show. The rain would splatter down just a few feet from our seats, we stayed dry but could smell that wonderful summer rain air.
From that porch, the view of the sky was beautiful. At night, we could see the Milky Way and my grandpa and I would often spend the evening hours star-gazing and picking out the constellations and making up our own.
During warmer weather, we would watch whole deer families cross our yard on their way to the forest. My grandma had bird feeders hanging from the eaves, and little Chickadees, and Robins, and Cardinals would come feed until, much to my grandma’s chagrin, they were chased away by my outdoor cats.
When I left home, I told myself that I wouldn’t live in a place where I couldn’t see the stars. Since then, I’ve lived in a number of large cities.
I’m finally living in a town where I can see the stars from my front yard. Every time I come home at night, I gaze upward and say hello to the night sky.