There’s something beautiful about the backyard on a summer night.
Not every night, but some nights, after long, steamy days out in the world, when the work hasn’t stopped but the will to do it recedes with each passing degree of daylight.
The descending dusk brings the treeline into inky black relief and props a pearly half moon like a spotlighted diva in the firmament. The fireflies come out and the heat pumps kick on, the small, goodnight calls of roosting birds and chitters of the evening insects, once in a while a rumble in the sky. Sometimes it’s fireworks. Sometimes it’s thunder.
The day’s heat has mellowed into something much finer. And when it’s time to turn on the patio lights, they draw the bugs away.
I seem to be alone in my appreciation of the backyard at night. I can see five backyards from my own in this suburban neighborhood of cul-de-sacs and clear-cut, quarter-acre lots. Dark. Still.
My wife goes to bed early and the teenagers in my house only go outside when it’s absolutely necessary.
So it’s me and the lights and the words on the page, sometimes a cat or two, and the chorus of insects cheering me on.
The words still matter, just as much as when they’re arranged from an office desk or rattled off like machine-gun fire at a wobbly coffeeshop table. But the sentences seem to fall differently when they’re made, a few slow bursts at a time, in the backyard at night.
The unsettled scores, the unfinished business, the lingering fights can all fade to black, just as the inky outline of the trees dissolve into the darkening sky.
Back here, it’s easier to remember that the words don’t always need a target, and the points don’t need to be too fine.
Back here it still makes sense to try and write something beautiful, before the day is gone for good.