Dark Was the Night, Cold Was The Ground

By Michael Pointer Mace


>Jan. 4, 2009



So this is what’s on my interstellar record player: Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground—Blind Willie Johnson, 12-inch gold-plated copper
disk.


“Papa, is it bed time?”


I consider the question closely. The children have been climbing on us for hours. I look longingly at the birthday present from my wife, a
1930’s Regal resonator guitar found at Top Shelf Guitar. It sits lonely in the
corner.


“Well,” I say looking at my watch. “It’s 5 o’clock.”


“Oh, it’s way past my bed time,” says the big one. She really has no sense of time. “Look how dark it is.”


“It is dark.” I agree. “But no, it’s not time for bed. It just gets dark really early this time of year. Our part of the earth is tilted away
from the sun. We don’t get much light. It’s the darkest time of year.“And it’s the coldest,” says the big one. She sits down
cross-legged on a heating vent in the kitchen. Despite endless admonishments,

she is wearing a skirt and t-shirt. Both pink.

“Yes,” I say. “It’s very cold.”

At least she is wearing reindeer earmuffs.


I get down the globe and hold up a flashlight. I show her how we are in the earth’s shadow. How slowly, as we get closer to summer, we will get
warmer. I tell her that, from here on out, every day will have a bit more
light.


“Where are the rocket ships?” asks the big one.


“Most of them took off and eventually fell back to earth.” I demonstrate fingers blasting from the surface of the globe and crashing back. I
aim for oceans and avoid highly populated areas.


“But there have been a few, that took off and kept going. The Voyager spacecraft left our solar system in 2004, and won’t reach the next star for
40,000 years.”


The big one is nonplussed by the commute.


“Then what will it do?”


“It has a record player on it. If anybody finds it, they will be able to hear what earth music sounds like.”


“Is it like our record player?”


“The Voyager record player is space-alien friendly and it plays a record made out of gold!’


“Sparkly!”


“Absolutely.”


“Would you like to hear one of the songs?”


We leave the warmth of the heat vent and head to the record player. I cue the track. We turn off the lights and lie on our backs on the
living room floor. Blind Willie Johnson’s ode to the dark begins. He played
slide guitar. He was a Delta man. Carl Sagan apparently was a big fan and so
Blind Willie became one of our audio ambassadors to the stars. So while Blind
Willie’s gone from Earth, we still have his voice in a time capsule, his
message in a bottle.


Metal slides across metal. Notes float in and out of the western scale. The darkness allows us to see through the dining room ceiling and past
our house’s roof. We see past the lights of Bay View and past our fellow
planets and our solar system. We look for a spacecraft speeding away from us,
headed for distant suns. For 3 minutes and 22 seconds we look back 90 years and
forward 40,000.

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Comment by Uncle John on October 18, 2010 at 4:24pm
A good story, Papa.

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