Summer in the Country

Summer in the Country

It was summer, coming towards sunset, and my mother and I and her friends were sitting on the grass, breathing in the fragrance of the lilacs, the pine trees, our own sun-warmed skin. All around us, nature hummed and whispered and sang to us, drawing us out of ourselves into her sweet, tantalizing arms. The sunlight was at the edge of the world, now, resting on the horizon in streams of gold light so pervasive that the air shimmered with it. The women sat in their striped lawn chairs and faced each other, talking and nodding their heads, and gradually my ears slowed down the sounds of their conversations so they became music. I let their words go and followed the rising and falling of their voices, their alto and soprano sounds interweaving and making a resting place in which I was perfectly held. Happy, I sat on the grass and looked out. I was five, and everything was magic.

We were natives, now. I knew myself as grass. I knew myself as trees bending down to invite me to reach into them, meeting my young hand with their smooth, patient leaves. The green lake, most of all, showed me to myself: fluid and reflective of the ring of trees around it, it held me weightless as a dream. In one moment I was standing on the dirt floor underwater, squooshing the mud between my toes; and in the next, I turned into a twirling porpoise, my legs drawn up and pressed to my stomach as the thrill of the water claimed me, told me how to move and where to go: “Pinch your nose, hold your breath, and dive!” My head upended, my feet above me, kicking so as to keep me upside down, I reached down to the lake floor with my hands and grabbed fistfuls of dirt because I could, the water whooshing past me with each movement. Because I could, because it would let me in, because it told me who else I could be without having to stop. Only the need for air stopped me, and when I absolutely could not hold out any more I let gravity upend me again so my head broke the water’s skin at the top and, gasping blissfully, I came up for air. Everything I could possibly need was here. I was home.

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