Spent the past seven days in isolation after realizing, embarrassingly after the fact, that my taste and smell had abandoned me. I was sitting around a fire in our backyard when it occurred to me I couldn’t smell the fire. Was really taken aback that it took me that long to notice. Then it occurred to me in retrospect that I couldn’t remember tasting my dinner. I think I was tricked by my stuffed nose to believe congestion was the culprit. A positive test the next morning sobered me to the reality.
I spent most of the day after my positive test sitting alone in one half of our garage, isolating. I’d backed out my car for space so I could sit and catch some fresh air from the gray rainy Sunday. Set up a little white folding table and the red camp chair the kids had gotten me for Father’s Day. Lawn equipment and our overstuffed garage pressing in on either side of me. Couldn’t help but think what a sad spectacle I made. I could see through to the woods between our parked cars in the driveway. Spent the entire afternoon in the garage, first listening to the rain, then when it got dark, the crickets. I was listening contentedly to their Sunday night chorus when I caught a glimpse of the damndest thing — a lone lightning bug dancing in front of the woods. Couldn’t believe my eyes. Here it was October, and there he was. Still had some business to tend to, yet and still. Both of us all by our lonesome. One of us oblivious to the other. The other suddenly caring about nothing else in the world.
Made me remember the time I dragged Emma to a theater performance of a Sherlock Holmes play being hosted on Pitt’s campus. I remember little about the production itself (it was pretty awful). What I recall is Emma, in her theater best, spending the entire intermission chasing lightning bugs across the lawn outside the hall as the fireflies danced among the old oak trees. We were both so enchanted I remember us cursing the building’s flashing lights that beckoned us back to our seats when it was time for the second act.
All alone in my red camp chair peeking out from our overstuffed garage, all I had was time.
So as long as the season’s last lightning bug wanted to dance to the crickets, I was staying for the entire encore.
While sitting at the campfire not smelling anything I found myself captivated by a skinny young flame dancing a corkscrew in a narrow channel just to the right of where the main business of the fire was being conducted. It was spinning itself through a little passageway … presumably reaching for a bit more oxygen on the other side. It looked like it was having just the best time. In my convalescing state, I tried to remember that feeling. Took me to the tall slippery slide on the playground two streets up from the old house on Mullen Street. The slide was part of the ‘new’ playground that was installed at our neighborhood grade school before third grade. And although our school would be closed for good after that year (my Mom saved a newspaper picture of a bunch of us neighborhood kids with signs ‘protesting’ in vain to keep it open), the playground was salvaged, and the fastest slide on the planet still stands, timeless as fire. It’s a just-enough steep, two-hands-on-the-rails vertical climb to whet your expectation, placing you high enough to want to pause for a couple beats and survey the world from above before descending. By the time you reach the bottom you’re still picking up speed, and if you pull your legs up, it gifts you a bonus little launch into the air, requiring a running start as you land. (Heck yeah to that.) Must’ve watched that tiny, twisting flame a good couple of minutes as my mind climbed to the top of that slide just one more time … ’til a cough broke my reverie.…
My favorite sound of the week ….
It’s the season of falling nuts in the woods. When the acorns decide it’s time to geronimo, they smack the branches and leaves on their way down, which, if you’re lucky, gives you a split second fair warning to train your gaze towards the sound and catch a glimpse just before they plunk the ground. They land with this hollow wooden, earthy thump, and maybe bounce once before coming to a rest in the grass. If you close your eyes it sounds like this happy little firework, the falling through the trees a quick fuse that resolves into the gentlest of pops upon impact. It’s the most satisfying sound, even more so if you are a squirrel or chipmunk I imagine.
On second thought THIS is my favorite sound of the week ….
In the mornings after lugging myself up from my mostly expired air mattress, getting a shower and putting on the clothes stacked for me atop the shelves in the bathroom, I sit outside in my red camp chair sipping the morning’s coffee (for ritual, not for taste or smell). Around 7:30 I pick up the sound of a bouncing basketball a few houses down to the right. The trees and bend of houses around the corner prevent me from spying the source, but the music travels. Kids waiting for the bus, out early so they can steal a few shots. Bounce, bounce, pause, heave, dull, vibrating thud off the backboard, carom, chasedown, bouncebounce, repeat. I know that sound well from the countless evenings Peter and I would take aim at our backyard hoop til way past dark on school nights. Sounds like one maybe two are shooting, while a couple schoolmates or younger siblings chatter nearby. They are all properly loud — the way children squeezing the last drops of play before the school bus should be. It’s better you can’t see them. Their shouts and bounces make the visual richer in your conjuring. THIS is how to greet a morning I sip and think to myself. You know as soon as the school bus swallows them, they are already thinking about the first shot they’re going to take the moment they step off later that afternoon.
Heck yeah to that.
There are things this life has to whisper to you. I’m not sure if it cares if you listen or not. But in order to do so, it’s on you to quiet the things buzzing around you long enough to hear them. And when you do, it’s like you’ve been let in on little secrets. You can’t help but feel privileged that you listened, and you heard. Sometimes so much so you have no choice but to share. The bigger secret is that the world is always whispering. The shame is that sometimes we need cajoling to remember to pay attention.