Wednesday, July 2, 2014
Inch Seventeen: Summer
Summer is ripening, starting to hit its stride. Some days are pure Midwest: hot and humid. These are days when phrases like "steam bath" and "wet wool blanket" come to mind.
This weather breeds pop-up storms which race through quickly, dropping rain and the temperature. These storms often come later in the evening and last night was no exception. For much of the evening the air was dead still, sultry. The sun went down, the night came out—not hot, but not cool either.
After reading much of the evening away, I wandered to the screen door to the back deck. Fireflies were flashing, as was faraway lightning to the east and the south. There was a faint coolness to the air, a whisper of movement.
I stood at the screen door, then pulled in a chair from the kitchen and sat down. (I don't go outside in the evening because of a long-standing, always losing battle with mosquitoes.) I smelled dampness in the air. I sat there for some fifteen or twenty minutes, watching the light show on the ground and in the heavens.
My skittish thoughts slowed. The tangles of the day unwound and slid away. It was meditation, it was revelation as I sat there in the dark and watched the lights.
Flash on. Flash off. A distant curl of thunder.
When we went to bed later, the sky show was intensifying and the thunder was moving closer.
Lying in the dark, the air not quite cooled yet, I heard the wind pick up in small increments. I hang chimes in the dogwood tree outside our bedroom window and the first sound was the clink of the ceramic chimes as the least breeze stirs them. As the gusts increased, the tubular chimes rang in pure tones. Finally I heard the clack of bamboo, the last chimes to sound.
I fell asleep to the gentle mix of clinks and tones and clacks.
It rained sometime in the night after I fell asleep. This morning the gardens and the outside planters were good and soaked. It is raining tonight again as I finish typing this post.
I am trying to be more deliberate, more aware of the outdoors this summer, mosquitos to the contrary. Life is hurrying by too fast and while I cannot postpone the inevitable, I can savor and soak up the small details.
The slim silver moon in the west last Sunday night as we drove home from a concert. The rudbeckia, which barely cleared the deck when Ramona was here, now towering high into the air and forming buds. The bees in the spiderwort in the cool of the morning, when the purple-blue blooms open up. The sweet fragrance of the linden trees overhanging the sidewalks. The sullen flicker of distant lightning.
Thoreau wrote of time in Walden, calling is "the stream I go a-fishing in." In drinking from it, he detected its shallowness and that the thin current slid away, leaving behind eternity. It is his concluding image that I have always found most haunting: "I would drink deeper; fish in the sky, whose bottom is pebbly with stars."
I'm a-fishing in time too, watching that thin current slide by. And in dropping into the moments of fireflies and bees, or of linden trees and blossoming flowers, I am testing that creek bottom pebbly with stars, finding my way by the flicker of lightning, the flash of the fireflies.