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Mike Lunsford

November 16, 2008

The Off Season: ‘I am acquainted with the night…’

“I have walked out in rain — and back in rain.

I have outwalked the furthest city light.”

— Robert Frost

On relatively rare occasions, my wife or I go it alone on our walks or rides into the countryside near our place. It’s not often that either of us ventures down that blacktop ribbon on our own, for we enjoy each other’s company. But this seems to be the time of year when our day jobs spill over more and more into the after hours, and whether it’s because of our busyness or our turned-back clocks, we have to put off our strolls until after dark, or not take them at all.

Such was the case last week when, on a warm and windy evening, I grabbed our flashlight, laced up my shoes, and took off on my own into the dusk while she was tied down to more mundane duties at an elementary school book sale.

Like most of the best times in life, my walk was unplanned and unscripted, an impromptu march into a colorful sunset, accompanied by unexpectedly mild November air, the kind that one likes to see blowing through bedroom curtains or hear rattle through fall leaves. I intended to tackle only half our usual distance, but quickly changed my mind after settling into a contented pace, comfortable in shirt sleeves and battered ball cap.

As I put a mile, and eventually the hassles of the day, behind me, I began to listen in my head for Robert Frost’s poem, “Acquainted With the Night,” for I had nothing special to occupy that space, and it seemed so appropriate since I knew I’d not make it to my back step before it was truly dark.

I have never been skilled at reciting poetry, an inadequacy that left me ridiculed at vacation Bible school programs and classroom re-enactments in my childhood days, but a line or two of Frost’s sonnet floated between my ears as I turned back east and headed for home, the glow of a robin’s egg blue and orange sherbet sky on my back. I knew I could more than mumble what few lines I could remember, for all that was in the woods and near the fields to hear my halting attempts were a few crabby killdeer and a neighbor’s always-confused rooster, who never knows what time it really is.

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