Inching Toward Simplicity: Pragmatics and Prose

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Silent Nights



The temperature reached the mid 90s last night, so I tolerated the icy drone of the AC as I fell to sleep. I prefer to avoid the AC, even at the cost of feeling a bit sticky. It makes me feel confined, shut off.

I thought back to childhood evenings of summer. I had an early bedtime, and never an air conditioner. Lying flat under a thin sheet, I fell to sleep listening. The requisite crickets all summer, of course. Chris, three years my senior and the ultimate crush of my youth, sitting on the curb with his friends, their restless voices making plans. The voices of Chris’ parents in their yard, lingering as the barbeque cooled. The rise and fall of my own family’s voices, less frequent as they tired. My sleepy mind could never follow the conversation.

As I listened, I also watched. Watched the slant of the light as cars drove down the street, watched it elongate and then narrow the shadow of my blinds and lace curtains. Sometimes in early evening or early morning the shadow of a bird on the telephone wire graced my pink wallpaper. Or sometimes bare tree branches appeared in silhouette. In the winter, of course, fewer sounds to accompany my drift. But I heard the rain, or the early morning snow plow. On autumn trips to our Vermont cabin I heard Daddy get up and get the fire going. For a few weeks every winter I watched the halo of light around a plug-in blue Christmas candle, the same color that I imagined for the Virgin Mary’s robe. I was filled with a holy feeling.

I was struck with gratitude that my room had been completely “unplugged”. Pre computers and cell phones of course. But no AC, no phone, no TV. What a different person I might have become if I’d fallen asleep every night to the TV, or to the sound of cool, compressed air filling my room. What if hadn’t heard summer just before I fell asleep? What if I hadn’t woken to birdsong? I swear I can hear the dusk and dawn, and even on the most stressful of days some small part of my mind treasures this connection.

When I left the still running AC behind in my bedroom this morning, the birds greeted me again. It was good to be back among the living.

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