The smell of gasoline that laps off the bouncing lake water. Skin tender and pink, scored with lines from our bathing suits. Every day our muscles ache from biking or football or feverish swimming, and every day we smell of sweat, skin sticky and gleaming. The evenings are longer, and we stop worrying about how tired we’ll be at work the next morning.
It’s part of it all…part of soaking in the outdoors, the humming wind, the smell of stale lake water and ashen woodpiles, the way lilacs look just as they’re beginning to bloom, and how they look like a completely different plant when they’re left on their own for a day or two; the feeling of small bits of water as they spot my arm while Tony casts into the shaded spot of lake, under the over-hanging tree.
And the way that, while fishing, he breaks the silence to say that when staring into the waves, he sees the light string down from the air, hit the water top in different places, reflect a proud and glinting spark, and then fall flat and dull almost instantly; like a blanket of fireflies dancing across the lake-top, he says.
How when his line gets stuck in a branch near the shore line, he laughs, says I got cocky, and while trying to maneuver it out from our anchored boat, we discover the song birthed from the wind lacing through the fishing line—we pull it tighter and the pitch climbs higher; give it slack and the humming dips and grows hollow; raise the pole higher and the octave stretches even further. We race through all the possible metaphors: a power saw chirping in the distance, a children’s choir singing on the other side of the lake, a clan of fairies screaming and pulling wildly on their fiddle strings…
And that’s the biggest part—more than the individual smells and sights, it’s the new-found attention we pay to everything, this need to examine things more closely, give them some sort of poetic definition, appreciate them more.
It’s this seasonal commitment we make to pay more attention, make more plans, read more books, write more poems, catch more fish, and catch a tan…and we think about feeling guilty for not committing this to the universe all year round, and we envy the rare soul who does, but we become far too busy and lovingly consumed to give it a second thought…
…because it’s all just too damn beautiful. And for this span of lyrical days, there is just not enough time in twenty-four hours to even begin to give to the earth what she has so freely given to us—the least we can do is be awake for it.
What does it feel like to be alive?
Living, you stand under a waterfall. You leave the sleeping shore deliberately; you shed your dusty clothes, pick your barefoot way over the high, slippery rocks, hold your breath, choose your footing, and step into the waterfall. The hard water pelts your skull, bangs in bits on your shoulders and arms. The strong water dashes down beside you and you feel it along your calves and thighs rising roughly backup, up to the roiling surface, full of bubbles that slide up your skin or break on you at full speed. Can you breathe here? Here where the force is the greatest and only the strength of your neck holds the river out of your face. Yes, you can breathe even here. You could learn to live like this. And you can, if you concentrate, even look out at the peaceful far bank where you try to raise your arms. What a racket in your ears, what a scattershot pummeling!
It is time pounding at you, time. Knowing you are alive is watching on every side your generation’s short time falling away as fast as rivers drop through air, and feeling it hit
-Annie Dillard, An American Childhood
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