Back to school catalogs have begun to arrive, and summer, the season that when you’re young you think will never end — Labor Day being barely visible on the horizon — has barely begun. We are pulled into the future even as our darting eyes try to catch a glimpse of the present and reflect upon the past.
“Did you see that. . . ? At the feeder. I think it was a vireo. Let’s go to the book. . . . Wait, what’s streaking across the lawn? A chipmunk? What do you call the color of the shirt you’ve got on? Magenta, puce. . . ?
“Dark raspberry, I think.”
“Ah, dark raspberry. . . . You’re very beautiful. Don’t you think the honeysuckle in the outdoor shower smells wonderful. Seductive. And that clematis vine’s so pretty, and the hydrangeas by the fence have bloomed. . . . You’ve got to go. . . ? Drive carefully. Come back. . . .”
Come back and we’ll dance to an ever-faster tune and dream we’ve awakened to a winter’s fire from whose ashes spring will poke, whisking us through golden backyard summer evenings to autumn’s silver, slanted light and on to talk at holiday tables of other moments when we’ve felt blessed, moments when we stopped to look before we were called away.
“Wait, what streaked across the lawn. . . ? The twins! The day they played hooky from school. My mother, paying us a rare visit, got a glimpse, she said, of their shadows darting between the trees.”
And I got a glimpse of her, and of my forebears. Glimpses made on the run, whose tender moments we reserve against the time when, ennervated, we approach the speed of light. . . . Archaean Pre-CambrianCambrianOrdovicianSilurianDevonianCarboniferousPermianTriassicJurassicCretaceousTertiaryMesozoicPleistocenePaleolithicNeolithic. . . .
“I remember that Christmas morning when the living room was a veritable mountain range of presents from Aunt Kate and at the far end, by the tree, a two-wheeler. . . !”
“Wait. Look! At the feeder. . . . A flicker.”