I’m sitting outside drinking my morning coffee as I write. It’s a perfect balmy 72 degrees, my favorite temperature in the world. But it’s only 6:30am and today it will rise to an unprecedented 115 degrees in Portland. It’s 80 in the house this morning, and all the windows are open until that magic moment when there’s a balance, the inside matching the outside. And then, the tipping point and we scurry to shut the house up tight, hoping to keep in some of that morning cool.
Without air conditioning, you learn a lot of tricks, but 115 degrees is beyond reasonable imagination, know-how, or methodology. Cold showers, feet immersed in ice baths, a washcloth on the neck, lots of water, and endure, hoping that people and creatures who have to be outdoors find a way to survive. We won’t be participating in drought restrictive measures today, but will use water as the life saver that it is, and use it unsparingly. This extreme drought and heat during a Pacific Northwest June shoves climate change in our face, and yet the entire west is vibrating with the unavoidable hum of air conditioners, fans, pool filters, and running water.
In these extraordinary times I’ve been mulling over the ordinary. The plastic pen in my hand, the water glass by my side, the cement patio beneath my feet, the coffee on my lips, the daily morning song sparrows’ serenade, the unrelenting blue of the sky. In the moment of consideration, the ordinary transforms into the truly extraordinary. I consider how someone invented and produced my daily tools and objects from simple materials and elements, used by me without a second thought. Sparrows sing every morning without fail, and become a background sound, but upon consideration become a surprising series of nuanced notes. And the sky! How many times this winter did I ache to have the gunmetal grey turn to a softer blue, and here it is, though it’s being called a “heat dome” now. But at 6:30 in the morning, as the no longer full moon drops to the horizon, the sky is impossibly far away, a distant canopy wrapping the world.
Our garden is a gentle source of comfort in crazy times. How ordinary the tomato plants, the basil, the green bean vines – and yet, not so ordinary, as the macro – just another garden – becomes the micro; tiny bright yellow flowers turning into little green tomatoes that expand before my eyes in the heat; dark purple buds opening into violet flowers on the eggplant bush, soon transformed into delectable delights; soft tendrils on the green bean plants winding up their strings to the trellis top while my back is turned; scrub jays scurrying below the blueberry bushes, hopping straight up to snag a good one, and then banished by the passing crow who needs to establish and reestablish his territory; long slender buds splaying into luminous white magnolia blossoms with extravagantly soft petals, the tips of the shiny green leaves aglow in the sun.
Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous
to be understood.
How grass can be nourishing in the
mouths of the lambs.
How rivers and stones are forever
in allegiance with gravity
while we ourselves dream of rising.
How two hands touch and the bonds will
never be broken.
How people come, from delight or the
scars of damage,
to the comfort of a poem.
Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.
Let me keep company always with those who sayMary Oliver
“Look!” and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.