Another in the occasional series of "The Rural Life" short essays by Verlyn Klinkenborg from the New York Times' editorial page (November 30, 2010). That we could all write as evocatively as he...
I pull into the farm from the city. It is early in the evening but well after nightfall, and the moon hangs over the hills like a hypnotist's watch. I drop a few things in the house and then wander out to check on the animals.
I used to take a flashlight when I was new to this place. I no longer do. My eyes adjust slowly, but part of the pleasure of walking out in the night is watching the flat opacity resolve into the three dimensions of this farm. All the nocturnal creatures are out and about--somewhere--and I will never be one of them. Even the horses are more nocturnal than I am. They live in natural light year-round, and by the time I get home they're a couple of hours into watching the night.
In summer, you can pretend the night is translucent and that even the Milky Way is emanating warmth. By late November, those illusions are past. The sun feels benevolent, but when it vanishes, after 4 p.m., the rising darkness becomes continuous with the deepest, coldest reaches of space.The chickens pretend not to notice when I look in. The horses stand impassive in their pasture, though if I opened the gate and walked in, they would drift over to share their heat. I have no idea where the barn cat is, but he is so black that he would stand out in a night like this. I complete my rounds and still my eyes haven't opened fully to the night.
I light a fire in the wood stove and settle in to read in the kitchen. Light spills onto the deck, and I see a movement. It's an opossum, come up to investigate the cat-food dish. It walks up to the glass door and peers in, surely blinded by so much brightness. Perhaps this is the one I met--to both our surprise--on the ladder to the hayloft a few months ago. Now it stands in the light looking hopelessly disorganized, as opossums do, and then it wanders off into the darkness, where the seeing is much better.