Gift of the Morning
Among the things that horrify some of my relatives is my open door (Autumn has to have free access to the outside while it is seasonable and I am home, a bird flying in every now and then is no big deal as long as it does not start building a nest, or panic) and no fixed screens (in the too many years it took me to replace my rotten living room windows I lived with heavy curtains, holding out some of the wind and much of the scant winter light, and once the new ones were in place and sunlight flooded the space, even through old-fashioned width, that is, narrow, panes, I didn't want to shut out any sun, even by the fine mesh of a screen) policy.
In summer there is one window in particular I like to lean out, to call the dog, to look at whatever is going on, and, on summer nights, to hear the sweet sound of the surf rolling up through a quirk of aligned low places in the land, from Mansion Beach, and the crickets' voices rising in chorus from the pastures and, on the best of nights, the rustling of the leaves in the trees in the yard, the very sound of cool air.
When it is dark I never think of what may be in the way when I lean out that window for the pure sound of summer in the country. For my lack of thought I feel instead of see the spider web spun by an already absent spider. They are always gossamer, not the heavy cobwebs that I hardly notice until they start collecting dust and then seem to spring into being even as I walk about with a broom, like the old lady in the nursery rhyme.
I remember, as is generally the case, more the illustration of a lady in a basket against a starry sky, and her purpose, than the words that she had been tossed up there “Seventeen times as high as the moon” to sweep the cobwebs from the sky. Without even trying I found three versions, that mentioned seventeen, and seventy, and ninety-nine times as high as the moon.
When we were children we had books about going to the moon, of space stations that looked curiously like the circular fluorescent light in the kitchen, where space scientists would work, and of old women tossed up in baskets. Small wonder the actual 1969 landing was an expectation even to my just 18-year-old mind; that it would not happen was never a question to me.
I did get up and look for the nursery rhyme book I think is still in the house, not the one with color illustrations, an older volume with largely unfamiliar text and the sort of blue and red illustrations of a process between black and white and full four color. It was not where I expected it to be — whatever is? — but instead I found something I would never have remembered existed, one of my great-great-grandfather's books, not the printed accounts of his voyages and genealogy, but more of his accountings, of Congressional appropriations, of failed and repaired and replaced a telegraph cable, of a summer without service in the 1880s, but that’s for another day...
It is the web filling the corner of the open window in the early morning fog that caught my attention the other day, each of its threads covered with dew, thickened into fine silver chains. I was thinking of calling the dog, out there somewhere getting her big feet wet, but pulled back, unwilling to disturb the curtain, so like aged lace, a remnant of its former self, once perfectly aligned shapes distorted, filigree-filled spaces emptied.
It is a gift of the morning, on the west side of the house away from the drying sun, although on this day the fog will hang, like a sleeping giant, lacking the motivation to do more than lift itself up from the land only to settle, again, with a heavy sigh, until early afternoon. It could have been miserable but the temperature was still cool, and damp had not yet sunken to the leaden humidity of summer. The land out beyond that, beyond all my windows, the yards and the fields, are green, deeply green, lush even, into early July, marked only by the pale paths of tall grass gone to seed a good month ago.
At the end of a day closing with an uncharacteristic lack of flaming color, I have to stop myself from running into the strands of the web in the window, thin threads nearly invisible after an afternoon of warming sun, when I lean out for yet another reason, to look south and try to see whatever it is that has caused the dog to sit up and bark, instead of just lying on the ground and emitting an anemic “woof” or two. She is off, on a pretense of chase that will end, I know, quickly, at the edge of the yard, when she will stand on alert, my great protector.
Some kind of winged insect was caught in the web during the day, during some day, it is paper, now. My mind drifts to other insects I have seen, the always magical fireflies that hover at the edge of the barn yard, but more to the scarcely seen/heard/felt June bugs, those air-borne mini-tanks that have never heard of the concept of “personal space” and may well have been the inspiration for armies of tiny flying invaders in super-hero movies.
There was a dead June bug in the kitchen sink one morning, below a partly opened window, and I thought I might have heard one or two clattering about of an evening.
The dog is inside, the east curtains stir but, for now, the window with the ladders of silver webbing, misshapen ship's rigging, looks dark and empty. It is night.