Without air conditioning in the house for the past ten days and another seven more to go, nature has been very present. The windows are open all the time, and the bay breeze helps a bit; well, as much as it can in 100 plus heat-index temps. Fans in the house keep things circulating, and it isn’t that bad really.
But the significant result of this primitive life style is the sounds. Birds have always surrounded the house, filling the woods here at Aerie like the nest it is named for, including hawks and the occasional bald eagle. But right here, on the porch, in the apple trees and the shrubs around the back, is an abundance of birds, including Carolina wrens, cardinals, finches of all types, indigo buntings, gnat catchers, thrushes, robins, blue jays, bluebirds, tufted titmouses, and more. I suppose the home has always been the resting spot in this aviary of woods, but with the windows open, the birds are more present, and their songs filter through the screens like the sounds of music from radios on neighboring blankets on the beach.
Since the air inside remains more stagnant, even with the fans, than the open air outside, I spend most of my daylight hours wandering around the trails and along the river. The growth from the rains of this past spring is deep with laurel along with the deep ground cover of fern keeping the woods cool. And the garden has become my preferred place to retreat. There, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and eggplant not only grow well on the vine, the unmistakable aroma of the vines from the cucumbers and the fragile limbs of the tomato plants identifies summer to me as much as the temperatures.
I don’t need to remind myself how fortunate I am to be here, to be surrounded by beauty in virtually every direction. People spend a great deal of money and time to head out of the cities to places just like this. Yet most of the time I sit here with the windows closed, the ac blowing, oblivious to the graceful presence of life just outside. To be fair to myself, I do spend more of my waking hours outside and I always have, but there’s something about changing the view a bit which awakens in me some sort of new appreciation.
This morning I went to the bay like I always do and watched the sunrise. A line of clouds sat just above the horizon, delaying the sun’s appearance a bit, but also increasing the beauty of the dawn with its red and orange hues. Normally I am not there long before rushing to the gym, but this morning I sat a long time, listening to the water hit the rocks. It was gentle but fast, moved ashore with the help of Hurricane Chris some three hundred miles to the east, far enough away to not affect us except for the pace of the current. Osprey landed nearby and gulls dove for food. And a rare sight this morning, some river dolphins fed just at the mouth of the river. I’m glad I didn’t sleep in. I’m glad I didn’t rush off.
We all seek some sort of foundation, some “cushion” we rely upon for our definition of psychological comfort. Financial advisors come up with numbers for retirement to “maintain” the lifestyle we have become accustomed to. For me, the value of my life has always been and I’m sure will remain how close I can keep with nature, whether it be on the trails of Northern Spain or the paths here at Aerie, to hear a river run, or the call of countless birds, or the breeze moving leaves making for an orchestral accompaniment to the wrens and finches. Yes, I am well provided for.
As I step away from the daily grind of critical thought and argumentative structure, as I turn away from the pointless commentary regurgitating from screens, as I move away from the stagnant presence of prefabricated comfort, I come to life and it is as if for the first time every single day.