Last Saturday afternoon, my friend came out from her town neighborhood home thirty minutes away. We walked the dogs around the fields and ate some beef stew with crusty bread and enjoyed the fire in the woodstove and then she packed up her dog and her walking stick and headed out. Not a minute after she'd left, she phoned me to tell me there was a man coming into my driveway as she'd turned out, "...in a white truck. Are you expecting somebody? Do you know him? He was alone..."
No, I wasn't expecting anybody.
"He's here knocking at the door now," I said. "I have to go see who it is."
"Are you okay? Will you be all right?" she asked in a quavery voice.
"Oh, sure, I'm fine," I said, and we disconnected.
The man was campaigning for local office and we had a nice front porch talk about this and that before he went on his way.
Neighbor Bob dropped in Sunday evening to see Husband. Since Husband is out of town for several days, Bob settled for chatting with me. During our conversation, he asked me how I liked living here.
"I love it," I said.
"You don't get scared . . . of the dark? It isn't too quiet?"
"Not one little bit."
He chuckled, satisfied with that answer. We're still the new kids on the block, having been up here on the hill for only twelve years, and I guess he thinks he still needs to take our temperature on things like that.
I told him about my friend's concern, and could hardly find words to express my confusion over her fright on my behalf.
When we built this house with its full glass doors, my sister muttered that she liked a good solid door between her and "the bad people."
"What bad people?" I cried.
I never liked drop-in company even when we lived in populated areas because usually I'm happy doing whatever I'm doing, but I don't recall being afraid of people who might come to the door.
One evening, a few years later, I sat in my kitchen with my sister. The refrigerator kicked on, breaking the silence, and she jumped, her eyes out on stalks. "It sounds like a jet taking off!" she gasped.
My town friend keeps her shades closed and her doors locked at all times. When we walk out here in the wide open she carries her walking stick to fend off attacks by the odd rabid raccoon. I have my doubts about the efficacy of a walking stick in such a circumstance, and to my knowledge I have never seen a rabid anything here. Her stick is a comfort to her though, and that's fine.
I have shades on the windows for keeping out heat and cold, and they're open most of the time to let in the view. If somebody's down in the dark field peeking in my lighted windows at me, I guess that's his misfortune.
Last summer I rhapsodized to that friend about the sensual beauty of a midnight walk Husband and I had taken.
"You would not have enjoyed that," I laughed.
"I would have wanted to enjoy it," she said wistfully.
I have lived where it doesn't get dark or quiet at night and where the sounds of passing cars and boomboxes and crotchrockets never stop. I have lived where hardly a night would go by without my hearing an ambulance's or a firehouse's siren. I have walked city streets from work to my car and seen city cops cross my path on the run after some miscreant. I've been awakened at three in the morning by the red/blue/white!/red/blue/white! flash of police cars parked on the street while the officers took care of traffic stops or whatever business brought them there. I did not feel safe. I felt annoyed.
I know there are people who like lights all around them at night, and the knowledge that there is always someone within screaming distance. And I know there are other people like me whose constitutions settle better when it gets dark at night, and stays quiet most of the time and always at night. When I lived surrounded by people, a couple of times I had occasion to scream at night, and nobody ever came running to save me. Apparently a good loud scream is enough to scare off most evildoers anyway, and the ones that didn't go right away . . . eventually did go.
Dark is only dark when there is a light nearby to prevent my eyes' adjustment. Every night I turn off the outside lights before the dogs and I wander around the yard during Last Time Out. With the lights on I can't see into the darkness. With the porch lights off, I have adequate illumination to see where I'm going. If I hear a rustle I might think "skunk" or "opossum." If I hear a coyote howl, I am likely to join the dogs in a howl right back.
I've been shaking my head over all this fear of the wilderness since Sunday night. I have never been afraid of the dark or of too much quiet.
There are things that scare me, but they rarely come out of a country night or down a country driveway.