About two years ago I took a short vacation to the Blue Ridge Mountains just west of Asheville, North Carolina. The excursion was entirely spontaneous and greatly needed as a respite from my daily grind. I managed to get a room at the Pisgah Inn on the Blue Ridge Parkway where my accommodations included a patio with a rocking chair and an unobstructed, panoramic view of the peaks and valleys of the Blue Ridge Mountains, all from a lofty elevation of about 4,000 feet above sea level.
My daytime activities in the mountains for those few days included a climb to the summit of Mount Pisgah, the highest point in the range at about 5,000 feet, hiking and some sightseeing, but what I remember most from the trip was that back porch at the Inn. Each morning I would enjoy sitting in that rocking chair while having a cup of Joe and reading the newspaper. And then, once again in the evening after dinner, as I watched the deep greens on the horizon slowly dissolve into the blue-gray haze for which the range is famous.
Finally, at bedtime, I would leave the windows in my room open for the night. The weather was calm and clear and nighttime temperatures remained in the mid- to high sixties. I slept like a baby. And one of the reasons I slept so well was because of the crickets and frogs.
Having grown up in a country setting, I have a tendency to yearn for those days when I could retire for the night with open windows and the sweet smell of recently manufactured oxygen wafting through the bedroom on the gossamer wings of a warm summer breeze. And then be lulled to sleep by the chirps of crickets and cicadas and the rhythmic croaking of frogs in the distance. If you have ever owned a puppy you may be familiar with the trick of placing a ticking clock in the box with the little fellah in order to get him to go to sleep. It works with people, too.
I currently live in a suburb of Jacksonville, Florida, which is a fairly large metropolitan area. I selected this particular house though because, among other things, its backyard backs up to a virgin plot of Florida woods that will likely never see a backhoe. Even though the woods is only about fifty yards deep, ending at the grassy backyard of a local middle school, I can sit on my patio in the evening and listen to the crickets and frogs just like the good ol’ days. Except, of course, during those times when they are drowned out by the whine of the sewer lift pump down the street, or during those hours when they are drowned out by the whining of traffic on Atlantic Boulevard, which happens to be two streets away. And, being in Florida, there are only a few nights each year when a comfortable sleep can be enjoyed with the windows open and no air conditioning. But as rare as these occasions may be, they are greatly anticipated in the autumn and spring of each year.
There are many who enjoy living in the country, including my sister Carol and her family, for example. They have a raised wooden deck attached to the rear of their home that overlooks a large backyard and acres of pristine Michigan forest. I am confident they will never take that view for granted, nor the gentle creaking and croaking from the forest that tells them that they are safe and secure and all is well.