I should exercise more; my doctor and my wife remind me of that. I even nag myself about it. But there are different kinds of exercise. Some work your heart, some your muscles, some your mind, and some work your senses.
I stepped onto our front porch about 8:30 p.m., just days removed from the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. It was a golden hour, work was finished, dinner was prepared then consumed. It was a time of reflection, of calming, a time of exercising your senses. I stood with my hands braced on the front porch rail and attempted to soak in every stimulus before me. Though we were months removed from January, I wanted to tuck those memories into a safe-deposit box to be withdrawn as needed in the dead of winter.
Smell: It was unseasonably cool for the middle of June. The rain drifted in and out in a slow, spring-type drizzle all day. Humid air carried the pleasant odor of rich earth dominating every other smell. It was the scent of fertility, growth, and renewal, hope, and good crops to come. Second to that was the bouquet of flowers, present, but in the background, waiting in queue to dominant as the temperatures increased and the air became drier. Moments before I stepped out, someone walked down the sidewalk smoking a cigarette. I could not see the smoker but the damp air held the fragrance of burnt tobacco in its grasp, reluctant to let the vapors escape.
Sound: Natures orchestra was in the middle of a shift change; the birds were in the final movement of their concerto, while the crickets, katydids and tree frogs were just tuning up. It was not hot enough for the cicadas to bless us with their sine-wave cacophony, but an owl hooted in the distance. The wheels of cars running up and down Elizabeth Avenue created a swooshing-sizzle sound unique to tires on wet pavement. From within the house came a faint creak as someone walked across hardwood floors. The siren of an emergency vehicle in the distance briefly dominated the soundscape.
Sight: The setting sun raced toward the next horizon, turning the houses and trees across the street from three-dimensional objects into silhouettes. The edges of leaves and limbs, so crisp and sharp against the sky at midday, began to soften, blur. The air had a golden quality as the palette of the landscape became muted. Street lights and porch lamps were hot points of light that reflected on the wet streets and sidewalks.
Touch: My elbows were locked, feet spread slightly apart, hands planted on the wide porch rail. Beneath my palms I could feel tiny divots in the paint, no amount of sanding would make these hundred-year-old boards feel perfectly smooth. I reached out and ran my fingers across the top of one of the azalea bushes that ran the length of the porch. The tiny leaves held enough rainwater to create a gentle spray as they flipped back in position. My hands were as wet as if I had dipped them into a bucket of water. I brushed them across my cotton work-shirt, softened by a hundred washings, it felt as soft as fleece.
Whew, I’m exhausted by this sensory workout and Mimsy needs to go on a walk. Feel free to withdraw these memories when it’s 5 below.