baa baa black sheep


Summer, Halfway

6:56 a.m.

The dog and cat hate me and don't want me to sleep, ever. And after begggggging to be let out, when I opened the back door the dog just stared at me and backed away. And the cat snuck back in through the bedroom window and meowed to let me know that he didn't really want out that badly, and could I please wake up and just look at him? Please?

I lay for 15-20 minutes, feeling the cool air from the fan and listening to the early morning sounds of this town's summer. Cars. Loud trucks. Trains. Highway noises. Sometimes a neighbor's dog barking. Rarely a bird. The air was cool, and one morning not too long ago I swore I could smell fall coming. Well, not fall. But that smell you smell when you realize summer only has a few months left. The smell you smell when you realize summer is starting to die, just a little, slowly slowly. It was just an instant and gone, but smelling the first stages of summer's death was sobering.

Summer here was different from every other summer I've watched blaze and fight not to die. There were the obvious differences--no humidity. No real heat. No freezing in air conditioning and then being greeted by a wall of thick heavy heat when I walk out a door. In fact, I've only been in air conditioning once or twice all summer. The sun gets hot in the middle of the day and people come into the gallery off the street, complaining about how they feel as if they are going to pass out, and it seems to me that it is a very mild 80. Last night at a ball game I heard a woman tell another woman, "God, are you hot? I've been soooooooo hot. Do you want air conditioning? You should make your husband buy you one. I've been working on mine. I lay around a lot with ice packs on my forehead trying to look pathetic." I was happy when the other woman dryly replied, "It's taken me twenty years to buy a fan." I've only felt hot-hot a handful of times. This has been the smallest sweat-producing summer I've experienced.

This was the first summer I didn't hear crickets once. Or frogs. I haven't heard a cacophony of birds every morning. The first summer I haven't gone swimming, with the exception of the indoor pool at my parents' hotel. The first summer I haven't seen a firefly. Or a dragonfly. Or a horsefly. This summer, this area, held none of the hot, sticky sweet thick aired evenings I used to live for, the evenings when my heart and being would swell with the general fatness and lushness of wet and warmth of things growing. The content I felt with the smell of cut grass, of hay growing, the metallic smell of tired creeks and streams. I haven't felt the grittiness of my hair after swimming in a river.

This was the first summer I didn't eat barbecue once, or watermelon or cantaloupe, or fresh picked blackberries and peaches, or my mom's home grown tomatoes and zucchini. The first summer I didn't seen green tornadoish clouds rolling in, I wasn't called frantically by my mother to "get to a basement now!". In fact, there were only a few thunderstorms I can think of, remarkable only because we needed rain so badly.

This was the first summer I didn't feel an overwhelming feeling of love and happiness and connection with the earth and trees and fields of green-gold hay. The first summer I didn't feel as if I could stretch my body over a gently rolling field and soak into it, the water from my body becoming the hay. The first time I didn't experience an emotional orgasm as I daydreamed about melting into the earth, the earth that seemed so alive and crawling with joy.

But. This was the first summer I produced art that I am proud of. This was the first summer I really started to like who I am, a little bit. This was the first summer I felt a little pretty. The first summer I started to take some satisfaction out of my job, some happiness from going to work. A cool distant respect for this landscape. Happy pets, new friends. Justin with me. My parents and I getting along. I can see mountains every morning when I pull out of the driveway. Rushing through a busy but productive summer of little sweat and a whirlwind of faces and smears of paint.

Baseball season ends in a few days, and Justin starts doing school stuff again today. Our grass is sun-scorched and crispy from the dryness. Our grass has been tired from the very beginning. Struggling. I see tired summer clothes downtown. Sandals worn out. School supply aisles in stores. After the art sale August 5th I go back to work full time, and our days will take a different shape. One more year of school for Justin, then we get married, then we move again. It's hard to believe our time here is halfway over.

Tuesday evening it rained for a while. I had taken a nap, and woke to thunder. I let in the dog, who was soaked, looked as if he had been dunked in a pond. Dried his happy wiggling body off with a towel, went back to the living room, and smiled as I watched rain, real rain, soaking into the ground and forming a river on the street. Put on the tea kettle and sat on the red couch by the window, just watching. Listening to my wind chimes, feeling actual moisture in the air and on my skin. I sipped my tea and thought about Justin and Wyoming and halfway points. I felt happy. I felt content. I was the rain, briefly. I was the rain.

(The next morning, of course, I realized my car windows were both wide open and the inside of my car was wet and smelly. I had to drive to work sitting on a trash bag. I was no longer the rain. I was a disgruntled girl who disliked feeling her butt slide around on a cold trash bag while shifting gears.)

black sheep


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