Praestigiare

Iteration III

How it comes

June 10, 2007

In California the wind brings summer, carrying it carefully in little pieces, close to the ground where it brushes the tops of the long grasses. It’s why the hills turn golden by May. If you walk through open spaces on spring evenings, you can feel it being carried in.

In Hawaii, summer never really leaves and never really arrives. It’s in the ocean, and it washes against the islands in waves and tides. It never retreats so far you can’t see it, and even the hottest days are filled with the rushing sound of it pulling back.

I’m not as sure of how summer got to Virginia. I suspect the trees pulled it in out of the sky, but I didn’t see it happen. I did figure out how the fireflies are involved: they sew it into the evening air so it can’t escape in the night.

Stones

June 9, 2007

The first few steps are all planned out before you start. They were planned out before you even knew you were going to start. It only took one look; your mind did the rest, calculating the distances and forces. Even after those first steps, each at increasing speed, it is not difficult to continue. Everything is balance and timing, but it is so natural. Your body knows this. Step, jump, balance, twist, it’s almost automatic. You feel like you could run like this forever. The ocean rumbles approval. Crabs disappear between the rocks ahead of you. But as much as it feels like your body was designed for this, you can tell you are near the limit. A single missed step, a bad footing, a moment of inattention, and it will be all over. You are flirting with that invisible line where your movements become more reaction than anticipation, that disastrous point beyond which there can be only one outcome and you suddenly lose power over everything but the timing of the disaster.

Or maybe you reached that point long ago, and it’s all been one long overcorrection after another. Maybe you were born into an ever-quickening scramble towards the inevitable, and running down the breakwater between the pacific and your life reminds you what it was like to be in control.

Summer

May 28, 2007

The afternoon storms come quickly. You can feel it in the air first. It’s still, but restless, and heavy with humidity. The wind stirs tentatively, and then dies back down. The trees shiver in response, in anticipation. They reach out for the sky, pulling back the blue. Bolder, the wind moves in little gusts, running over the contours of the landscape. It teases the trees until they sway. There’s a rumble in the distance, quiet, almost a sigh. The sky darkens. The first raindrops fall and everything seems to pause, just for a moment, as the sky meets the earth. The moment stretches impossibly, holding back the full force of the storm to savor that first touch. And then the wind gusts, harder than before. It pushes across the earth, insistent, undeniable. The trees toss and roll, yielding and pushing back. The rumbling from the sky gets louder and more frequent. Lightning strikes, and again, and again. The thunder is almost constant, booming and close. The trees are in a frenzy.

And it’s over.

The rain slows and then stops. The wind dies down, still moving, but gently. The air is full of the sweet musty scent of wet earth. There’s a rumble in the distance, quiet, almost a sigh

Caught in the warmth

May 25, 2007

He sat in bed with his back against the wall, legs crossed, head leaned slightly back. The air was cool and calm. It was late, and the darkness was close but not claustrophobic. Night was draped gently and thickly over the world. In the distance, a train called out its passage. There is always a train in the distance; you only have to listen for a while and sound will find you. But on that night, it had to travel further than usual. He didn’t feel the cool air or hear the far-away white noise of the highway. His eyes were closed, and all he could see were snowflakes. Dancing and swirling, pushing up past the window when they got caught in the warmth from the house and then falling down again. He could almost will himself there. To that window where he had watched the snow falling, when she was no further than turning around. But in the distance, a train called out its passage, and carried him back to his bed.

Rosehips

May 24, 2007

I was, for the second time in a week, lying on my stomach with my camera in hand. This time stretched across a friend’s dining room, with my nose almost touching the sliding glass doors overlooking their back yard. I was still, trying not to let even my breath give me away. I was silent; if I could have muffled my heartbeat I would have. And I was waiting.

Across the deck, around the pile of brush and tree branches, behind the shed, there were foxes. The night before they were brave, coming right up to the glass. I was hoping for a second chance to get a picture.

The first time I saw a fox I was ten years old. I was visiting my grandmother on Cape Cod, staying in the little apartment above the boat house my great grandfather built. There was a path through the woods from the boat house to the street. It smelled of the sea at one end and rose hips at the other. You could tell how far you had left to walk, even on moonless nights, by the smell of the air. Seeing the place again last year, a decade and a half later, the woods seemed small and tame, but at ten years old they were vast and mysterious. It was on that path that I first saw a fox. I was at the ocean end, standing on the little footbridge my uncles had built over the salt marsh when they were boys, and I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. The fox was small and red, carrying a long proud tail tipped with white.

After half an hour I had still only caught glimpses of the foxes behind the house. I saw the male skirt the edges of the yard, tentative, cautious, never pausing or coming close. I thought I had seen the female peeking around the pile or brush. I hadn’t seen the little ones at all. My arms were getting sore from being held in one position for so long, but I didn’t want movement to scare them away. Lying there in the darkness, surrounded by the sounds of the night, I smiled. The rest of the house had gone to sleep. I was waiting.