September 1st, and I’m sitting against a fencepost in the yard, soaking up some sun. I never do this – although I’ve bunched a jacket beneath me and propped a pillow at my back, I’m not particularly comfortable. Nor do I enjoy sunbathing – it’s too hot for me, usually, and unless I’m at the ocean I get bored almost instantly. But today it’s partly cloudy, so the heat isn’t an issue. There’s a sweet breeze – literally sweet; I can smell it – and the fact that it’s suddenly September adds a bittersweetness to the mix, an urgency that I heed. We won’t have many more days like this and, even if we do, classes have begun and my time is limited. And so I’ve assembled this makeshift chair and rolled up my t-shirt sleeves so I can feel the brush of a burn on my shoulders. My feet are bare and I’ve abandoned my sunglasses – these rays are meant to reach me.
Our neighborhood is a quiet one. No such thing as traffic out here – I think I’ve counted 2 or 3 cars at most in the last hour. Someone out of sight is making a small racket. Sounds like he’s hammering a metal post – a rhythmic, ringing series of clangs and clanks – but it’s far enough away that I don’t mind. A neighbor kid is clearing some messy growth from our backyard. Leigh hired him to machete an area that has become a tangle. It’s not really the backyard… more like the back of the backyard, a nondescript area that separates the tamed lawn from the untamed ridge. Beyond this intermediate zone is the heavily wooded slope I refer to as “the jungle.” It’s really just an extensive, thick stand of mature trees and underbrush. I find it a little funny that Leigh’s having the margin cleared – she wants to improve the view. To me, the view can be summarized in a word: green. But where I see green – shapes and sizes, versions and varieties, tones and shades of green, yes, but in the end, just a mishmashed canvas of green – Leigh sees fern and wildflower and shrub and poison ivy and maple saplings. I think she’s needlessly shaving off a layer of green in order to appreciate another layer of green, but it makes her happy to open up the yard to the wider world, and it makes the neighbor boy happy to have a pocketful of twenties, so why protest.
Thirty yards upridge from his efforts, more in the front yard than the back, I’m surrounded by buzzing and chirping and rustling. There’s an aural intelligence to these acres, I’m sure of it. The overlapping sounds of the wind, the chipmunks’ persistent, cranky cheeping and trilling, the yellowjackets and wasps that whizz by but rarely bother – it’s complex but accessible music. Visually, too, there’s composition everywhere. In the grain of wood where I sit, in the fringe of grass which is really ten kinds of grass and clover and weed and moss and another dozen things I can’t identify. I’m a little in love with the nail heads visible in the wood planking of the walkway. You’d call them round, and flat, but not a one truly is. Each has an irregular perimeter – rightly call them roughly round, or roundish…And they’re grooved, some of them, or appear embossed. It’s possible I’m the first person to closely examine these particular nail heads, and I feel as content as an explorer who’s stumbled upon some new species of tortoise. Some of these nail heads look like tortoise shells, actually…
The breeze picks up and brings me back to my senses; it’s almost like I can feel the wind through my skin. Along the driveway, a stretch of dried grass, fallen leaves, and gently curved twigs is disturbed by a low-flying current. It’s like a leafy chorus line – the whole strip rises up and tumbles and flutters – but it’s a chorus line with no stamina. As quickly as it kicked up, it dies down.
The post I’ve been leaning my head against is embroidered on either side with spider webs. A couple of butterflies flit by, and two hummingbirds parry, battling for rights to the feeder. A big tree groans, the neighbor continues to hammer. The boy’s still hacking at the underbrush – every so often he exclaims from the effort. The sun’s become hotter and the clouds have dissipated. I’m sweaty and happy and – despite what I know to be pervasive suffering, near and far, despite what I know to be fear and loneliness approaching those I love – for this hour in the September sun, I have been sated.