We couldn’t see the end of the street. Grey embraced everything in sight, including us. Even birdsong muffled somewhere behind in the trees we knew were there but couldn’t see. At the end of the driveway I looked left, right and then left again making sure the kids noticed so they’d follow suit in our street crossing safety routine. It didn’t do any good though. All we could see was the thick cloud we were swimming in.
Cars on the turnpike refused to reduce their sense of urgency and flew past at speeds much to fast for these conditions. There’d be a low rumble of an engine off in the distance. Then a glow in the cloud would fade up like a miniature sunrise. Suddenly a pair of blinding headlights would appear and the car would flash past us. The boys knew it was going to fast even at their age.
We heard the bus long before we saw it. Fortunately the new driver had the good sense to let up on the gas pedal a little bit. As usual a line of commuter cars stacked up behind waiting impatiently for the kids to climb aboard. One of them had the nerve to honk. The monitor winked at me and took an extra long time finishing up her required safety checks before she climbed back inside and sat down. The brakes released with a loud hiss of air and the tires rolled forward moving the huge, sour shade of yellow-orange beast toward the next batch of school kids.
I walked through the chill breathing in mist feeling it fill my lungs with moist morning air. It felt nice. Cold, but nice. I opened the curtained window to the left of to my desk wanting to keep some of the freshness in the air while I set myself to work. It had been a couple months since we left the windows open around the house. Winter seemed to loose hold earlier than expected though and pretty soon the heat would pound me into ineffectiveness.
I sat watching the cursor blink an invitation on the clean image of a white page. Searching for ways to accept and enter the festivities, I turned my head back to the mist concealing everything more than a few feet outside. It happened rather quickly. Light climbed by subtle degrees. Low, nearer the ground the grey dissipated leaving dark oranges and bright greens of the now visible ground behind. Invisible mere seconds ago, the baby blue wood paneling of the house next door whispered its gentle welcoming to the day.
Birds called out to each other in songs mirroring the exhilaration of greeting the newly clear sky. A squirrel ran across the low brick wall picking up a fallen acorn shell he might have missed only moments before. Down the street the big, mean black dog our neighbor kept in her fenced in yard barked back at the birds threatening to chase them down if they entered her precious territory.
I felt a breeze come in through the screen kissing the side of my face. Sometimes nature does that. She can be harsh and cruel at times with all the devastation of her tornados or earthquakes. She must feel the need to constantly remind us that we are at her mercy no matter how technologically advanced above her influence we might think we are. Her breath can destroy entire communities before lunchtime. Her tears can wash away centuries of our hubris before we have time to grab an umbrella. Her anger can crush an entire continent without expending enough of her energy to break a sweat. Or she can caress our skin, lulling us to sleep with a hush.
Now I’m surrounded by the overbearing rumble of an oil truck pumping the slimy, smelly substance into the pipes of a house two doors down. Its bitter tang of diesel aggressively attacking my nose with no remorse. I’m tempted to close the window. But why should I let this rudeness shut me off from what’s otherwise been such a beautiful morning? He’ll wind up his hose and drive away soon enough. Then the music of the trees will come back in to soothe my ears with songs no man-made instrument could ever replicate.
I may miss out on a lot of things now that I’m no longer a big city Los Angelino. None of the bands I love come to the sticks to perform. The might come as close as Boston, but even for me that’s a long haul away. We don’t have all the fancy museums or Disneyland or opening weekend independent movies like I’m used to. But back in L.A., the air hasn’t been this clean since the days before they built Dodger Stadium. Last night I walked out in the front yard and the stars came so close I could reach up and touch them. I’ve never seen Mars glow such a deep bloody crimson.
I’m not wearing my sweatshirt anymore. Embracing the bumps on my skin that come when the chill comes in to visit. The sun is shining. Birds are still singing. Keys are clacking under my fingers. Soon the kids will be home and need to do their homework. Bike rides and playing catch until the light fades into another clear sky night. Maybe after they go to bed I’ll go outside again and try to touch Orion’s belt.