Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

August 15, 2013

Under tall Virginia trees

By Nathan Harter
Daily News

---- — After years of sunlight streaming into the house, we now live in Virginia, where the trees grow taller, in part to keep houses cool in the sweltering heat. Little did we expect to miss the light so much.

Now, by five o’clock, it feels as though the day has come to an end. The neighborhood has already grown dark. We have had the experience of driving to the store at seven or eight and remarked that the sun is still up over there. Who knew?

Back in Indiana, the sun lifted our spirits during the day. We could see the weather coming, especially the turbulence, but more importantly we could watch sunsets. For the best of these, we might pop up and go outside for a several minutes just to glory in the colors. I would turn to my wife and in a hollow gesture say, “I give this to you, my sweet.”

In summer, as the evening lingered late, I could step out the back door and revel in extended day, sometimes lapsing into silent gratitude. Most of us remember going back outdoors after dinner for a couple of extra hours to play “spud” or catch lightning bugs. My family knows that once the sunlight struck the northern face of the house, I would cheer up, because it meant summer break.

Though my ancestors dwelt in the Black Forest hunting deer, I find myself mildly depressed in the prolonged shadows. Our house here has air conditioning, so I don’t need all the shade. Not to mention that in hurricanes, trees fall readily. Who needs that?

So out in my studio, facing the woods in back, I find myself stopping to catch the sunlight that penetrates the foliage. I look for excuses to leave the house, maybe drive to the river’s edge, just so I can catch the end of the day and maybe discover that, hey, look at that sunset!

It might be a weird analogy, but having reached 50 years of age, I meditate on the end of my days, the last decade or two in the sunlight. I should want the sunlight beaming on me right up to the end and not settle in among the shadows prematurely, misled into believing the day is done.

Even the cloudiest days can end with a flourish of color and light. Who knows whether tonight the horizon will burst into radiant pink and orange, in swirling textures and bold designs? I don’t want to miss it.

Pondering old age and death when there are hours left to play seems needlessly sad. Living amid the trees, I forget what it was like. I should go back out after dinner, as in days of yore, dancing like a pagan and chasing my wife and finally standing shoulder-to-shoulder facing the west with a satisfied salute as the sun finally goes in. Good-bye, friend, and thank you.

Then, having lived life fully before my death, I can retire for the night in faith that there will be another dawn, an awakening, and an enduring summer’s day when we are all as children let loose to play on the warm grasses, forever.

Nathan Harter writes a weeky lifestyle column for The Daily News. You can catch more of his musings online at