I woke an hour ago and thought about the past week, how full the days have been. Every morning we swim, as we have since late May, and most mornings the little boys come down with their dad to play in the sand as we plunge into the deep water green with sunlight. We sit on the upper deck among the sweet peas and tomato plants while the boys play on the grass below. We make the meals I love to set out on the table under the vines, the ones I thought about this past winter and spring when our life was reduced to the house, the garden, the two of us talking and reading by the fire. On a walk yesterday (because now it’s nearly 3 a.m.) we found chanterelles on the edge of the path and brought them home in my hat for Grandad to have with an egg for breakfast tomorrow, which is now today. The boys were watching for the barred owl they’d seen the previous day, swooping from one tree to another by the trail to Sakinaw Lake. It’s no wonder they saw an owl. The woods are full of them these late July nights. Maybe it’s what woke me an hour ago. Maybe it was starlight. Or the realization that there was still a glass with a little wine out on the table under the vines and that I didn’t want the bear who’s been around to find it. That’s the last thing we need.
The table looked strange without us, expectant—the bowl of sweet peas, the empty wine bottle (Desert Hills 2013 Mirage, perfect with the prime rib and little roasted fingerling potatoes Eddy helped me dig in the afternoon), two of the faux Murano glasses left out with the napkins, one of them with a few mouthfuls of wine, undrinkable now because of flies. I sat for a few minutes, listening. What did I hope to hear? All winter and spring I thought of my family, my immediate one and also the one I came from, those long dead and stretching back in time so far I can’t keep track. I got up on those winter nights too and sat in the dark, listening to coyotes. I knew there was a message in their calling, the female keeping track of her mate as he hunted our woods, their own offspring grown and spread out in the world, another generation familiar with the winter sky, the sunrises over Mount Hallowell, the long weeks of rain.
Sometimes it’s so quiet I can hear myself think. I can hear the shimmer of ideas forming as I sit at the empty table, the beginning of an essay tugging at my mind, hazy with starlight and lack of sleep. Write this down, I am saying to myself. Write it down in all its detail—the no-see-ums stinging your bare shoulders, that rustle below the deck, the empty glass and the other one, with its wine and flies, its millefiore lovely under the single light you’ve turned on in the night, the scent of sweet peas unexpected as you brush crumbs from the table, the little huddle of moths around the lamp.