|Today I threw open windows in my home as the first crisp morning of autumn arrived. It took me back.|
Rough, harvest gold and forest green verigated shag carpet beneath my tightly-crossed legs, clad in shorts for the first time since winter truly settled in. Chalky, textured dry-wall against my back. An attic fan, mounted in the hallway ceiling outside my bedroom, spun its massive blades and whined, drowning out the everyday evening sounds within our home and the new noises outside my opened window. The first whirs after the flip of the switch were what I imagined a helicopter would sound like and the sudden intake of air from the opened windows around the house were so strong the house seemed to inhale and gain some momentary altitude. That intense pull created my favorite spot of refuge, my temporary hiding place that I could only enjoy for a only a few weeks of the year. As long as the attic fan's blades spun, the full sheers which hung at my small bedroom window would billow out completely and create for me a perfect hidden sanctuary behind their spread folds.
I believe it was the first time in my life I knew what it meant to truly savor something. Delicious food was plentiful on our table and so it had the mark of the ordinary for me. Mama's green thumb and the natural beauty of our tiny farm meant that even the glories of my surroundings could be ignored. Climate, however, makes itself known in the delta, especially in my homeland of the Florida parishes of south Louisiana. It is the great equalizer, exerting power over everyone regardless of race, class, or creed. Even the residents of the mightiest air-conditioned mansions would have to eventually make their way out into the thick, too often breeze-less, air of a summer day in Louisiana. It would leave its mark on us all, as it bore down on us, heavy and damp. Even at night, the setting of the sun brought darkness, but only a slight change in the temperature, obedient, servant of the humidity.
The oppressive summer climate became a character in any story that unfolded in our lives, the ever-antagonist, against whom we all struggled to maintain our composure and some sort of physical dignity. In my childhood, spring and fall were distinguished mainly by the presence of Easter eggs and fried chicken in one and the falling of pecans and simmering chili in the other. What they both held in common was that relief they granted. Not just relief, though, that first crisp air of fall was a reprieve to me, granted at a time when I was uncertain I could bear the unrelenting heat any longer. On those day, windows normally closed were thrown open. Sounds were magnified as flies buzzed against the screens and birds chirped their approval of this weather change. Everything was crisp where before it had all faded into a blur, like the horizontal waves of heat visible above all the black-top roads we travelled. The sun could warm without injury, its rays seemed to gently pass through bone, as if they warmed my very soul.
Winter in south Louisiana was an ugly affair, as it still is, after the gaudy sparkles of Mardi Gras have been packed away. Grey and damp, without the hope of snow's white beauty, it was as dead as nature can seem without really breathing its last. Spring brought a reminder that grass and tree leaves were meant to be green. Just as I did in autumn, my senses were awakened to what could be, to what really should be. There was a cycle and a rhythm, even if I had lost sight--or even--hope of change or relief.
Twice a year, that rounded-out fabric of my window resembled an elaborate skirt of a ball gown and created a tent into which I could escape. The special breezes and cool temperatures were as rare and exotic to me as a fancy dress, or especially, the occasions at which they were required. It always seemed as if there was a yell or some chaos on the other side of the attic fan's noise and it should probably have my attention. I claimed the opportunity for an excuse, though, and would bravely wait a few seconds, with my breath held, to see if anyone came barging into my room. Most of the time, though, I was left alone, unaccosted, as I settled down with a book or my journal. I could savor what I had learned was only a short period of time, a burst of joy and peace in the midst of trials. I could take hold of the moment and soak in every bit of it.
Darkness, loud noise beyond, but me, safe and soul-settled, at peace within a gauzy whiteness. The outside blurred, as the previously harsh realities of that world, were now, as I looked through my sheer shelter. Cycles, reprieves granted in the midst of strain and suffering, reminders of promises we have forgotten. Savoring, appreciating the glorious, because it is just that, a glimpse of glory, all the more appreciated because of its rarity in this world.
Glory billowing around me, a flutter of time. A sharp intake of air that reminds me I am alive, that beauty and comfort exist. It is not hyperbole to say it is a desperately-needed reminder right now, a promise of a new season and a future. Heavenly. It is good for my soul. It is well with my soul.