The lantern light cast a radiance about the entrance of the covered bridge. The wood in its light became chocolate brown mixed with tar black, a sturdy, rugged, stand-forever look. The road glowed as if the light were catching stardust mixed within the earthly dust on which we journeyed. Above the entrance of the long, long, covered bridge, the lanterns joined their light to reveal a sign. It read, NEW HOPE. Was this a reference to the unseen river we could hear rippling below in the darkness? Was it an awaiting town just beyond the bridge? Was it a memory, a tribute to happenings in long ago? Or was it a dream of someone, yet waiting to be fulfilled?
As we neared, I could hear that living sound of the flames as the oil and wick came together in blazing life, a passionate fire kept in measured control for the sake of our human need.
My grandfather with an almost reverent manner first looked at me then reached and took the lantern nearest him. Then lifting the lantern near his face, he turned toward me and without words instructed me to take the other. When I did, the lantern's voice returned, the old man's whispers I first heard coming from the oak.
In a soft and husky whisper, the lantern spoke to me, "Enter in, young lad, and let us share with each other all we've come to know."
I felt a momentary fear. But it settled into that feeling of resolve that comes when you realize that there is something that must be done.
So we crossed the threshold from the stardust road into the cavern of darkness. And when we did, the lanterns transformed the darkness into a cathedral of light and shadows, a cathedral of hewn timbers and the dust of time. Among the cross hatch of timbers above us, barn swallows had made their home. Timid, tiny bits of flitting life now watching us, huddled in their nighttime security, keeping an eye on these strangers, maybe in their intruders into this their world.
The bridge itself had a voice, the creak of an old structure that for oh so long has done the labor of bearing up its own mighty weight and holding itself together.
I would have thought we would have hurried through to get to the other side, but Granddad chose to lean against the wooden rail. And there we waited until the shadows began to move midst the lantern's flickering light.