Sippican Cottage

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Content to Be Alive


We had quite a weather evening last night. It’s been warm and dry for, well, since I wrote complaining that it was cold and wet, which is a long time ago. I blame myself.

The lawn crunches underfoot like shredded wheat. The flowers bloom profusely, as long as you water them daily, but woe be to you who forget for a day. If you are a member of the local constabulary, why no, that last sentence is fiction, we only water for an hour in the morning on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, being on the “odd” side of the street, and never on Sunday.

Anyway, nature always solves everything, one way or the other. And last night, she “brought it,” as they say in baseball. Rolling peals of thunder announced the change in the weather, accompanied by almost continuous flashes of lightning, for hours late last night. The power winked out last night around eleven, and so we returned to the America of our farmer forebears, and retired because it was dark.

A delightful puff of air came in the window, cool and ionized, and then the rain came, hissing and popping on the sill. You could almost hear the earth outside sigh, and drink, and smack its lips.
The children sleep right through it, every time, and you wonder when the last time you slept like that was. Twenty years ago? They don’t owe anybody any money. So they sleep. And on top of any cares they might have, unlike their parents, they’re not worried that their children might be woken by the thunder and be frightened. And so the thing that doesn’t affect them affects their parents because it might affect them.

And so you are awake, when you’d rather not be, and you are slightly on edge from the booms, but the rain patters on the shingles, and the paradiddles and flamadiddles begin to lull, and the gentle sigh of your mate gulls you, and you drowse and dream, and start a little when the lightning strikes a little closer, and return to your reverie when it passes for a time, and are content to be alive.

Content to be alive sounds almost mystical, and I’m sorry for that, but I don’t know how else so say it. Peace of mind? I’m not selling insurance, that’s furniture one page over. Happiness? Happiness is a memory. You never know happiness while it’s going on, you only recognize it in hindsight. You mistake thrills for happiness, until the tilt a whirl makes you see your lunch a second time, and you realize your error.

That little sigh of the mother of your children, still nervous when it thunders, some dim childish thought she carries forever, as she drifts off to sleep because you are with her, the whisper of your two sons breathing and snoring down the hall, dreaming dreams of childish intensity and amusement, the languid patter of the warm summer rain on the roof that shelters you all, and the puff of cool air through the window. The house, like all houses, ticks and creaks and hums and pops ever so slightly, as the unfamiliar moisture permeates its very bones. But the sounds are all faint and familiar, like a wordless lullaby.

You never remember falling asleep. It steals up on you, when you’re finally content to be alive.

Day: August 2, 2005

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