Evening shadows rise out of the ground like dark dreams come from some nether world down in the damp mossy soil here on Waterhole Branch. They crawl up the tree trunks, and their slow, slow advance toward the sky above seems to lever the sun downward, pushing it toward the horizon where it will slip quietly under, easing on around the world, giving the black night its turn over the land.
From down along the banks of the branch, frogs join in by the hundreds to fuss at the cicadas in the treetops that whir and buzz right back at them. But the darkness lays its cloth over the sound and softens the blended voices. Somewhere down stream a dog barks half-heartedly, just doing his job before settling down for the night to wait for some real business—a raccoon or an armadillo, maybe a fox.
The moon is waxing, presiding over a clear night where its soft silver will filigree the dry leaves when night is fully fallen and stars are scattered overhead. Yellow lamplight in the window invites me back inside. Bobby walks beside me with nothing to say. He’ll find his pillow when we go in the cabin.
At the top of the steps a barred owl calls with a stutter, growls, warming up for its full cry, “Who cooks, who cooks, who cooks for you?” Bobby perks up, stops. He cocks his head, lifts his ears. Another owl answers, and that gets the gossip going between them. Sometimes I catch the flight of the near one going off to share a perch beside the owl in the distance. Tonight we skip it.
A kind of nostalgia creeps up on me as I think how I miss the song of the whippoorwill. I haven’t heard one in years. But a whippoorwill’s twilight trill indelibly marks my childhood like some tattoo that proves I grew up almost three hundred miles from here in Lamar County. The strange nightbird that everyone heard from front porches and walking home from late feedings at the barn, but not many saw, preached its brief sermon with a clear note. “Chip flew out of the white oak, chip flew out of the white oak.”
And I wonder, do I really want back the whippoorwill? Would I want one in these live oak woods? Or is it somehow a sweeter refrain left resting there in those years before I drove a car? Somehow I don’t believe an elusive whippoorwill belongs in the same neck of the woods as an iPhone. And at the door, I wait for Bobby to go in, and take a last look at the gibbous moon, closing the door content to just leave things be.