Like many across the country in the last week, we’ve melted under the relentless blow drier of a week-long heat wave. The gardens flopped in the sun, the black tar driveway scorched bare feet and indoors, a hot blanket of steam heat compressed our lungs.
This is coastal New England. Sure we get hot days, usually a solid row of them toward the end of July. But most summers, by the time the sun goes down, a breeze lifts limp curtains from windows, shuffles and murmurs in the pines surrounding us, and by bedtime, sleep becomes attainable. The second-hand air conditioner donated to us by my husband’s parents years ago, spends most seasons perched on a cinder block wall in the unfinished section of our basement. But this long stretch of tropical nineties enticed us to lug it up and balance it in one of our bedroom windows. Then we marched around closing the others. It helped.
It also delivered a lesson. You see, most summer mornings, I wake early. Before I get up, I pull on my glasses and stare out our open back windows to where red and yellow lilies bow over granite ledge, to balloon flowers washing the air purple. I listen to the wind ruffling the hydrangea by the window and the cheery-o of a robin as it stop-start-skitters across the inclined lawn. But in the last few days, all I heard was the wheeze of the old air conditioner. The view outside reminded me of a silent movie. Birds tiptoed across the grass, the flowers bobbed, but the scene was flat and one-dimensional. It made me think of writing. Because, just as the view out my closed window was lacking, a scene written without considering sound, along with touch, taste, and smell as well as sight, comes up short. When I climbed out of bed each day, I’d felt as if I’d been robbed of something dear.
An east wind brought dampness to the air late today. I turned off the air conditioner and opened the windows. A song sparrow trills in the distance and goose bumps pit my skin. The fresh cut grass wafts up amid the drone of the lawn service mowing my neighbor’s yard. A hawk flies out there somewhere, I hear his long eeeech eeeeh and the chipmunks scampering up and down our rocks have vanished.
My view to the yard is more rich and full with the addition of these detailed elements.