This year, I am studying summer like there will be a test at the end. I’m intentionally lingering in the breeze of a summer night enjoying the feel as warm air slides across my body. I am paying attention as swirling heat, brushes my hair back from my face as I walk between buildings on campus. I am noticing how my lungs recoil at the thick humidity that feels like a warm wall of water as I step outside of the air conditioning. The air seems to be alive, and I am awake to it in a new way.
Early in the morning, before my 5am alarm, my eyes flutter open to the gray light of early dawn. Against the brightening sky, I can see the dark outlines of the trees. Swallows and finches are just waking up to share their song. I watch as the mother bird’s body falls past my window as she looks for breakfast. Her nest is tucked into the corner of my bedroom window, its bounty has emptied as young birds took flight, but she returns. In the softness of this moment, I stretch and slide my feet along the smooth sheets encasing me. From the warm spot of my pillow, I watch the awakening of the day. Thoughts not yet whole, flitter through my head in words, images, and fractured sentences. Not yet required to pull them, or myself together, they rise toward the ceiling as a prayer.
I am a slow riser. I value time to linger, to sip my tea, to listen to the awakening world outside the front door. The other morning, they reported twin fawns were found playing in the mud puddle that forms in the low part of our long driveway. The hummingbirds buzz by intent on a sip of nectar, and the startling rays of sunlight illuminate the haze left over from the night before. I am not yet a participant in the nearby awakening, I sit quietly with my cooling teacup in my hand as I thumb through the morning’s news.
On my long drive to work down highway 122, I move from protected wildness toward a more cultivated scenery and city life. I round the bend and glimpse the mist rising off the pond, a great heron guarding the Lili pads, and widening ripples on the water. At another vista, the sun hangs low on the horizon wrapped in a gray mist. Low fields spread out behind the weathered barn. I can see cows off in the distance. A little way on, the open spaces make way for cultivated yards, fences covered in rose vines, and potted plants running up the stairs.
The trip home unwinds me from life in the city like a spool of thread coming undone. It gets looser and wilder the father I drive. By the time I turn down my dirt road sanctuary, all the hustle and bustle have been blown away in the fresh breeze. I’m ready to settle into the quiet. In early evening, the deck still blisters from the sun. Slowly, as the sun settles into the thick line of trees behind us, the air cools. We relax to the hum of insects, squirrels chattering, and our little dog running laps in pursuit of her ball.
Evening brings its own fragrance. It carries the sharp sting of the pine trees surrounding our little oasis. Recent rains washed away the thick humidity and ushered in a drying breeze. Bats swoop low over the deck, scooping up insects, as night settles. The musty smell of mulch and dirt cling to our clothes and follow us inside. Last weekend, a skunk introduced himself to our little dog and the smell seems to be tucked behind her left ear like a flower.
This time of year, bedtime happens before full night. We crawl into bed while the sky still glows faintly behind the darkened trees outside the window. As a child, going to bed while it was still light seemed to betray the basic principles of fairness, but now it is a delicious indulgence. I end the day, as I started it, tucked into my soft bed. As my cheek seeks the cool side of my pillow, my heart sighs contently. I trace the softening outline of the sky behind towering trees. I am awake, I notice, and life is beautiful. This too is a prayer, I think.