The Air is so Still

All morning, I could hear light rain rapping against the sunroom roof, tapping out a rhythm to accompany the melody of a windchime. It’s been a gloomy day out there, made warm inside thanks to an oscillating heater which is adding its own long-drawn-out cello chord. Wind, fire and water seem to be warming up for a grand performance.

The conductor must be putting on his tuxedo jacket and straightening his tie off stage, as my mind imagines this symphonic warm-up with instruments that may have no more connection with one another than do my dogs barking at a UPS truck and tires humming along highway 550 on the way to Durango to pick up Jon for Thanksgiving Weekend. But that was many years ago.

As I feel myself sinking into memories that seem unrelated to one another, I feel an impulse to move. I stand up from the couch, put on a coat and hat, and–as if embarking on a long journey–slide the sunroom door open. Outside I slide the door closed to preserve the heat inside and stand under the spreading branches of our mulberry tree, which cover the lawn, patio, and back half of the house.

How still the air is. It takes me a moment to notice that the wind chime, hanging from the eve of the roof a few feet from where I am standing, is ringing loudly. I watch as the wooden blade strikes the cylinders. Each cylinder, according to its length, sounds its own special note as the blade, flailing back and forth in a wind I cannot feel, hits it.

Mulberry leaves, some as large as Clydesdale hooves, strike the sunroom roof like falling hail. Yet I don’t feel the slightest breath of air. I feel like I am waiting for something to happen, and realize that’s how I live my life: waiting for my turn to strike my drum.

I begin to feel afraid of what is happening. I fall to one knee on the concrete patio, in part because I am feeling faint, and in part because I wonder if an earthquake is responsible for all this commotion in the breathless air. But the ground is completely still.

I am not that surprised when I rise up into the air, above the mulberry branches into the sky above the city. I notice that I am not breathing, as I look down and see myself still seated on the sunroom couch. Suspended far above, people I knew while they were still alive on earth gather around me. I want to ask them questions: why are you here? Are you happy? Am I dead? But they just smile. One very familiar man, whose death still troubles me almost every day, looks deeply into my eyes. When I notice that he is smiling too, I feel a healing touch being laid upon my soul.

Then I am sitting on the sunroom couch again, just as I was a moment before. As my arm reaches toward the coffee cup on the bookcase beside me, I am not surprised to be back, in the midst of my body’s familiar sensations. It is as if I never left the couch; but something in me knows that I did leave. With immense gratitude, relief washes through me, and a doubt I didn’t know was enveloping my heart has simply vanished.

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