In a single day I experience no less than one million minute visceral reactions. I am certain that the spectrum of my emotions knows taxonomic breadth. I know fifty nine tribes of gratitude and at least seventy two series of satisfaction. I could pinpoint at this very moment nineteen orders of appreciation for the meal I just enjoyed and seven forms of adoration for my cat. On some days I could regale you with infinite taxa of frustration, impatience, aversion, and indifference, but that would be a real bummer. Instead I'll defer to the innumerate ranks of love that proliferate from a life well lived. The rest is minutia.
These past few months, during this beautifully mild summer, that heartbeat of minutia has crescendoed to a magnum opus of "Ahhhhh...." night after night on my back deck. It starts with dinner, which I'll admit was hastily prepared more often than not in favor of enjoying every last second of sunset. My skin soaks in the last good hour of bright, hot sunlight with each delectable bite of dinner. Ever notice how different food tastes outdoors, when you can really breathe in to it? Earthy and round on the tastebuds, flavor that bleeds in to your sinuses. Since I was a little girl letting bites of tomato slide down my chin I've found it remarkable. How does nature do that?
I'm not the only who enjoys an evening snack. Izze, our cat, has taken a liking to evenings on the deck. It's our girl time (sometimes accompanied by real girl friends, sometimes happily crashed when Sean has a spare evening). Our deck is lined with plants, mostly herbs and a few vegetables that only come to fruition long enough to be absconded by critters. Izze and I are alright with that because she likes critter watchin' and I don't mind a trip to the grocery. While I'm allowing my mind to wander somewhere deep beyond the sun rays, my cat happily and relentlessly gnaws at the stalks of my plants. Perplexing as it may be, her favorites are fennel and chives, with which she flosses her fishy teeth with great satisfaction. Ironically, the catnip turned brown many weeks ago, and remains untouched by kitty paw nor jaw.
The ultra-dilated pupils of my happy deck companion are sharply diverted from snack to sky somewhere near the 8 o'clock hour, at which time dozens of starlings come charging over the rooftop in a circular, low lying fuss.
Izze's pupils protract a little with each shallow advance, my pulse regulated as their chatter finds its rhythm. It appears as though the bones in my Izze's neck have melted into spring loaded putty, whipping in small quick circles that match feathered aerial show overhead. Together we watch them with equal enchantment, my cat and me, as the birds fly low and tauntingly, goading one another in to chase and guiding one another in some systematic flight that only Mother Nature and a studious ornithologist can decipher. It is my dinner that satiates me after a long day and a rigorous workout, but the birds are the ones who playfully sate any lingering mental toil, reminding me of how even the most complicated matters are simple at their core.
And then, at a seemingly arbitrary point in their performance, the curtain is lowered and our winged actors scurry backstage, or as the proscenium view over the rail might have it, past the Ramsi's rooftop and off in to the sunset. The sunset. Our encore.
From our third floor perch we're at the top of the treeline, prime real estate for those grappling in the clutches of an addiction to sky porn (guilty). We have watched that great big cosmic ceiling change in mind blowing permutations of color, form, and luminosity.
There was one evening right before a storm when the clouds were heavy and thick and a foreboding yellow hue loomed all around them. Sean and I stood outside in the putrid glow of friction in the vernal atmosphere as that familiar shade of stormy yellow began to take to dull green, though the clouds were unmoving in position and color. As if someone in the Heavens were changing films in a light canister, that bewildering shade of green gave way to orange, then bright, royal purple, and finally solid grey. It never rained. It never stormed. Eerie as it may have been, it discoed that night, and man oh man did we boogie.
On a night that it did storm there was nothing but black cloaking the front of the house and over the rooftop, but looking out past the deck there was a perfect arc of white light accented in a gilded halo of light from what remained of the defeated sun. I took a panoramic photo of Sean standing in front of that tunnel of light, an epic representation of whatever lies on the other side of this business called living. We were choked with an immediate sense of our own mortality, paralyzed by how similar it was to descriptions you hear of that great white light that leads you home when your heart decides to stop.
And yet most nights it's just this cotton candy evolution of Easter pastels, ever changing technicolor. It only takes seconds for one breathtaking view, one that you think will remain unmatched in beauty, to be transformed by the most subtle cloud movement, by one exposed ray of sun, by a band of lavender that somehow magnifies and changes the tone of everything around it. It's all I can do to keep from snapping a hundred photos a night because it seems unfathomable that that particular moment in time could exist so exquisitely ever again. And yet, it happens night after night, offering a brand of solace or a breath of satisfaction to punctuate the day. It's all over in a matter of minutes, the whole celestial shebang. The minutia of the day, the stuff that clutters my life and fosters every kind of trivial self importance, it all just dissipates. I'm washed with overwhelming gratitude for my small speck of existence and the gift of being in a world that can simultaneously dwarf me and fill me fuller than any ocean.
Do you know what follows that degree of repose? Joy. In the dark night I run my hand down Izze's fennel plant and throw handfuls of dead stalks in the air hoping the bats, who have since come out to claim their hour in the darkening sky, will swoop down mistaking the scattering shards for a tasty knot of bugs. They know just how to tease me, how to draw yelps and giggles up from my gullet. It's a pleasing end to a couple of simple hours. I'm put right by this routine, and over the summer months it spoils my senses.
Tonight I carried my dinner to the deck and let the screen door slam behind Izze's paws at 7:52, eight minutes before we have come to expect the starlings to make chase. Tonight we were met with nothing but twilight. A still diorama. A fleeting azure glow met a thread of flame colored horizon that wove through the black shadow of tree line, and then the curtain closed. An eerie urban soundtrack of traffic and bellowing restaurant workers pierced through the dark; unfamiliar dissonance that I can only assume was previously put in harmony by the accessories of those long summer nights.
And while I welcome this Fall Equinox with sweatered arms, blanket draped legs, hot tea, and all things crisp and cozy, I can't help but wince at coming to grips with losing my little nightly release. I have just a couple more weeks to study that fading flame colored sliver before it too will fall prey to the change of the seasons and recede to nothing but dark dark dark.
"A period or state of obscurity, ambiguity, or gradual decline," a definition of twilight. And yes, tonight's abrupt afterglow certainly felt like a state of ambiguity, certainly signals a gradual decline. But it also signifies a juncture, and that's important for me to remember if I'm to shake off the where-did-my-summer-go-blues. Soon the changing trees will take over where my sunsets left off and I'll have a new opportunity to lose myself in this magnanimous earth. How lucky we are to have such a benevolent host.
Of course, there's that gradual decline business; the early dark, icy, barren months that form a petri dish of Seasonal Affective Disorder in my soul. When Old Man Winter gives us the first nudge of his boot I'll just have to figure something else out. Maybe you'll look up from the alley one night and see a tiny shadowy figure on a lawn chair in her long underwear smiling in front of a fluorescent therapy lamp as snowflakes melt on her tongue. Maybe, just maybe.
A look back...