I have always liked spending time outdoors.

The sights, sounds and smells of the outdoors are worthwhile, no matter if the weather is cold, wet, hot or dry. But when the conditions are just right, being outside can be something very special.

Such conditions occurred last weekend in the south-central Missouri Ozarks, and my wife Wendy and I took full advantage.

We were at home fairly late in the evening, and a full moon was shining like a beacon in the southeastern sky. The temperature was comfortably in the mid-60s (as has been the case on a frequent basis this spring) and we decided to go out onto the back deck at our little house in the forest perched high above the Big Piney River.

Accompanied by our dogs Gertie (The Permapup) and Scotty (the Scottie), we proceeded to lie back almost horizontally on our thickly padded lounge chairs, and a surreal series of moments followed.

As we stared up at the beaming moon as it almost burned a hole through the tree branches, we quickly noticed it was casting large shadows all over the place. The prettiest were of the big pine and hickory trees on the big, steep slope above the river, while the funniest was of Scotty, whose beard and bushy tail were clearly discernible within his overall profile.

But as wonderful as the sights were, it was the sounds that truly made the scene what it was.

There was (of course) a slight breeze wafting through the wooded surroundings, and the resulting acoustics were like that soothing music you might hear in a massage parlor or spa. To say it was peaceful is probably the only way to describe it, but doesn’t really do it justice.

With the lovely wind-in-the-trees tune as a constant background, we then noticed the frogs. A couple of bullfrogs droned somewhere deep in Tweed’s Bottoms. A green frog honked somewhere near the river below the house.

All through the forest, crickets spoke up above the calm, along with a tree frog or two.

And then one of the neighborhood whippoorwills chimed in from across the river valley and kept up an evenly-paced song for many minutes before determining it had done enough.

Meanwhile, Gertie and Scotty took turns growling into the darkness of the forest floor below the deck, obviously convinced something unwelcome was out there. Wendy and I helped scare off the unseen intruders by loudly saying things like, “who’s out there?” or “what is it, boy?”

Besides making the woodland gremlins know we were awake and ready to react, such purposeful articulation no doubt made the dogs feel as if they were making a meaningful contribution (which they were).

Eventually, we turned in for the night instead of just nodding off where we lay. But before that, we had shared an incredible outdoors experience – only a few feet from the sliding glass door that leads into the house – in a setting that made it impossible not to forget everything but the current moment.

As we got up from our stationary magic carpets, we both said out loud how incredible the spectacle had been. And it’s all because we live in the Ozarks, in Texas County, near the Big Piney, away from any form of urban distraction.

And because the weather that night was just right.

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald.


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