Carolina wrens sing in the trees outside my bedroom, like clockwork, every morning. The sun hasn’t yet cracked the surface of the bay and I can hear them call. And mourning doves, too, near the birdbath on the front path. And this time of year in the near distance the grain drills lay down soybeans and wheat in the fields, just after dawn and then on and off all day. Just rising from the cotton sheets, my mind hasn’t adjusted to the world yet, and it remains in the cocoon of here and now and the slight chill of morning, and the faint aroma of coffee my son makes in the kitchen.
At the river the small rolling waves break on the rocks, and the young osprey call from the nest on the other side of the marsh. My calf muscles tighten on the uphill walk home, and it feels good, as always, the taught skin, the sense of motion. Before the humidity brushes across the bay and overtakes the rising temperature, I take a deep breath and fill my lungs with the faint feel of saltwater, and it fills my senses like air, like first snow, like last light.
Bacon, eggs, and some toast at the small table on the porch, with orange juice, and I can feel the energy rise, my mind wake, and words mix with images and I resist the urge to walk again just yet and instead head to my upstairs office to make notes, scribble out some ideas and digressions for a piece, perhaps about the train ride, maybe Spain, always about life and dying, love and time and their passing. Only then, a few hours later when the sun has lost its intrigue and hangs blankly in the sky, do I meander the paths out to the road and down the hill to the river, and if the tide is heading out toward the bay, a small breeze moves in from the west. It feels later than it is, and the rest of the day comes toward me like a car ahead of me on the highway suddenly backing up, and reality seeps into the rest of my isolation, and what was not confinement, was not “staying at home,” was not anything other than my normal life being normal, is suddenly redefined, impressed upon, constricted by a new diction. I hadn’t really planned on going anywhere anyway, but now I can’t, and there is a difference.
The news bleeds all over my thoughts, my work, and my instinct is to fight the new path, but I can’t. I hear of rising numbers, of a falling economy, and I wonder when I’ll see my mother again, her safe behind several sliding glass doors and an acutely careful staff at her independent living home, hoping. Just hoping. I wonder when I’ll see colleagues, my brother moving to the area, yet, when I see him seems still indefinable. And now the small things I had forgotten about but now remember how they always lay scattered across my normal weeks, like lunch with Tim, pie with Jack, oysters with Michael, and readings, so many readings in crowded cafes leaning into each other, laughing, sharing and embracing. I had not so much forgotten as much as set aside, and that worked fine. But now, midday, when the sun is high and the sky a pale blue, barely catching my attention, and the birds have moved on , and the newness of first light fades, I remember, and I wonder, and things no longer feel…what….in my grasp, perhaps. That sense of absolute conviction that my future is my own has faded to a mere hope that things turn out okay. And once again the power of things unseen is proven.
And I recall the strength of this dichotomy, the life and death of things unseen, what doctors tell me is a microscopic serial killer, contrasted with what in my college days we learned was also invisible to the eye, faith, and that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.” For many it takes one to battle the other. And so goes my mind, followed by my day, until evening.
Evening, when a whippoorwill calls as she ever has from the brush behind the patio, and I read Kevin Codd’s narrative about walking The Way in Spain, and I am reminded of those days when every single day was like the one before, yet somehow unique, and beautiful, and permanent, and how it turns out that a pilgrimage is rarely about reaching a destination and more about finding some peace inside we seem to be in search of all of our lives.
And I crawl back under my cotton sheets, cocooned, and the waning moonlight streams in the skylight, reminding me that things change, and then they’re the same again.