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Breathe It All In
This is the only moment that matters
Saturday afternoon just beyond the first third of June. A vigorous rain shower is barging down my street, towed by lightning and pushed by thunder. It seems early in the season to be celebrating such things but I don’t see any point in wasting time waiting to feel exultation. What’s good for August is good for me right now and I am thrilled. It’s been warmer than I prefer for several days in a row and I love the aggressive coolness of the air, how the precipitation pulls scent out of the soil to be tumbled along by the wind. Windows are open and even if the breeze conspires with the wet to soak the sills, well, that is why we keep towels around.
The hours of my day contract more and more with every passing season. The older I get the more aware I am of the sand at the bottom of the glass, and every moment wasted feels all the more precious for its slipping away. But pausing in my labors to watch the water stream down the windowpanes, the trees across the road bend and wave, the huddle of brown-headed cowbirds clinging to the feeder while rain runs off their backs … yes, there will always be time for this.
The 8:00pm howls that have sprung up around the country in support of healthcare workers and other essentials are still happening in a couple pockets of my neighborhood. I have joined them in the past but haven’t lately. I tend to lose track of the time I’ve just claimed mortal awareness of, which is a poor excuse, and then the howls are happening and I feel foolish being late to the party. I do always pause to listen to them, like I do the coyotes that call in the darkness just yonder in the open fields, and they make me smile. When these “solidarity” howls first started some weeks ago I was surprised to hear them in my neighborhood. It made me like the area, my neighbors, more. Same thing with the coyotes, that first time they announced their presence however many years ago. Wild things make everything better. And what’s wilder than a pack of near feral children, yowling into the sky support for … who? A parent? A relative? Maybe even the entire world? Does it matter beyond that they do it at all?
Last night I was just-returned home from a saunter at the river. It was cool and pleasant after a sweltering day and I was puttering around my front and side yards filling up bird feeders, checking flower boxes, inspecting woodpecker cavities in the trees. Then, with a couple quiet preliminary yips, the howls just around the corner started to surge to life.
At that moment two boys came from the other direction on bicycles. One was small and young, maybe six or seven, pedaling wildly and laboring to keep up. The other boy was older, maybe twelve, thirteen or fourteen, red-cheeked and big for his age. I don’t think either saw me, screened as I was behind the willow tree and the cottonwood.
As the howls swelled, the older boy tipped back his head and yelled, “Break out the shovels, the wolves are back!” He laughed crazily as the pair swept around the corner, passed the front of my house and were gone up the street.
The boy’s remark was a reference to the thuggish western approach to endangered predators, of course: Shoot, Shovel, and Shut Up. I was indignant. Angry. I wanted to shout something. All manner of horrible things I wanted to roar, and all to a child.
Then I realized the hell those boys must live under. The kind of parents who hold such views and indoctrinate their children in them. I despaired for the moment.
Summer is coming. It will get hot, and dry, and fires are likely to fill our valley with smoke. It is my least favorite season, and one I best not enter into with anger. “Embracing the ebb and flow of seasons is like welcoming a friend back after an extended absence,” writes naturalist Ken Keffer in his book Earth Almanac, and I intend to do my best. I don’t want to hate summer, a child, or his parents.
The storm outside my window has moved north and east. The air is flushed clean and is a pleasure to pull deep into my lungs. I breathe it all in, close my eyes, listen to dripping water and the chirps of sparrows and breathe out my anger. This is the only moment that matters.