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13 December 2021

Chase Rd – Continued: Approach

My father built his forever home at the top of a rise in upstate New York. The Colonial structure with its bold red door and black shutters presided over a bed of vibrant green grass broken only by a long, winding gravel drive. Dad purchased the neighboring lot to ensure nobody would build next to him; thus, his verdant lawn ran down the hill on the left into a fallow field of wild grasses that swayed in the wind like waves on the sea, making the invisible visible. Aside from his property, hedged with ancient trees, the rest of the landscape was quilted corn fields, ramshackle dairy farms, and beyond the hedge at the back, a manicured golf course (home to unspoken, often unseen and nocturnal, wildlife wonders).

Standing in front of the house, we could see thirty miles north with clear skies: Rochester’s skyline during the day and its orange glow at night. From that elevation, I witnessed the world holding its breath as storms approached; at first, down the hill in the distance the land would pall and darken, then the cloud reached from the sky to touch the earth, and then that liquid veil would work its way like a progressing army, slowly from the cornfield, crossing the street, and then up, up, up the hill to the house. As it neared, there was at first a pregnant silence until it came close enough to be heard. Then, it became the sound of television static with someone’s hand on the dial gradually notching up the volume. The pall expanded and the leaves of the hedge rustled in succession as the army marched on…directly toward me. It was mesmerizing – hypnotizing really: absent thunder or lightning, although my instincts fought to flee, my mind glued my bare feet to the warm, smooth asphalt in front of the garage. Let it come. Within seconds, the storm embraced me with the same fervor it had the rest of the earth, and I was one with nature. Liquid melted my sight and saturated my clothes, relieving the air of the ponderous humid heft it carried before the storm broke. Head tilted back, my tongue captured drop after bursting drop, and I knew the sweet nectar of liquid life.

There are far too many memories of this kind for me to report from the house on Chase Rd.

One night, Dad and Donna told us there was going to be a meteor shower. Nights, Rochester’s glow reached up about only 1/6 of the way across the sky, and there was no major source of light between Rochester and our yard. Therefore, from the dewy grass on trickly nights, the milky way created a runway of silver down which my imagination strutted in glitz and glamour. A city slicker would not believe the volume of stars that exist when there is nothing to dim their sparkle. Donna pulled out car from the left bay of the garage and we each grabbed the dusty lounge cushions down from the heavy particle board shelving against the front wall. The four of us kids wove around out back to the concrete patio, and in the dark, we dragged the white plastic outdoor lounge chairs through the grass on the left side of the yard out to the front, where our view would not be obstructed by the giant hedge trees. Craig and Julie each took two chairs, one for Donna and one for Dad. Each of us placed our cushions, set our lounge chair backs to the lowest position, and nestled in chins tilted to watch the sky. Once we were settled, Dad strolled on long legs to the house where, one-by-one, he extinguished the lights in every room.

That night, I counted nine shooting stars before the family grew restless and wandered back indoors, leaving their chairs for the morning. One, two, three…pretty soon it was only me, and I quaked at the thought of a rabid raccoon (the one from the newspaper earlier that summer, the one that Craig and I believed chased us from our tent one night). I scurried back inside, out of the damp night, and into bed.

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