Friday, September 04, 2009
There's something peaceful about the last few hours of night before dawn when the sky is black and fades almost imperceptibly to a deep and profound blue. The streets are quiet and the cool morning breeze smells of dew and flowers beginning to open, waiting for the first touch of dawn when their essence mingles with the dew and warms to be wafted on the morning ripples of air through the window as concentrated summer or spring or fall or even winter. Winter has its blossoms, although pale and faint compared to the glorious buds of spring, the intense greens and primary colors of summer, or the smoke and fire of spicy autumn. Even in winter, there are scents to waken the senses after a long and restful sleep, tickling and teasing the senses to the sharp clarity of a winter morning when wood smoke is in the air and the sharp, clean smell of pine spangled with ice melting with the first blush of morning.
Here in the city it is often difficult to single out the smell of growth and life in the stench of exhaust fumes or pungent refuse on trash day, but it is there, especially after a rain when the earth is wet and its essence rises on violent rain-lashed winds and assaults the senses through the stink of too much civilization.
When I first moved to the city and was out walking after a rain, the aroma of balsam fir enveloped me as I passed near the tree. I couldn't help inhaling its familiar aroma deep into my lungs. I was still a little uncomfortable with all the noise and the feel of exhaust-heavy air on my skin, and that smell, that wonderful exhalation of life in the midst of the city revived me and reminded me that even here there was life to be found and savored. I looked around at bright patches of color struggling upward among rocks and pebbles and the ubiquitous cedar mulch, sunflowers following the course of the sun across the sky springing up from vacant lots and trash-strewn byways. Poppies spread bloody blooms among the withered brown and silver green of desertscapes and roses, glorious roses, of every color, size and shape cast their petals to the winds in a bosomy show of flowery cleavage. Tucked away between busy streets and strolling tourists, bursts of colored petals showered the sidewalks and spread unchecked between the weeds and sterile, rocky paths.
There is life, too, among the bloody rocks and nature tortured faces in the Garden of the Gods. It is a barren landscaped ridged and furrowed with roads, cars snaking slowly along the winding cement ribbons to gape and stare and open-mouthed awe at the weird and bizarre shapes of the rock formations. When I drive out through there, I walk out away from the areas where people cluster, to stroll and wander along the weedy trails. In the quiet, a rustle in the sere grass alerts me to a different kind of life: fox kits trailing their dam, marmot-like rodents scurrying here and there in search of seeds and insects, falcons planing down, riding the thermals, to pounce on prey and the green glittery slither of a snake basking on sun-heated rocks. It's usually too early for the raccoons to be out and about, but their trails are easy to recognize.
Out away from the edges of the city are wonders and life in abundance and I often go to find quiet and be closer to nature. However, my work has kept me penned in away from those solitary trails, but not from the life that slips through my windows and reminds me of what is found just outside the door.
The honeysuckle vines are heavy with red berries and the foxglove is a dry and brittle memory. Vigorous weeds that greened the asphalt are spent in the heat and the lilacs remain only in memory with their purple, lavender and white blooms. The spicy scent of autumn is a faint tickle in my nose and the cold dawn calls me from among the warm, tangled sheets into another predawn morning when the city is quiet, still asleep before the first flags of dawn fly.
This is my time, this silent and empty time pregnant with possibility when my mind is clear and my heart not yet burdened with the demands of the day. This time is mine when I can step to the edge of darkness and watch the world stir to life, limned in rising gold washes of light across the piny hills and waken the first spreading blush across the snowy face of the peaks. This is life, naked at dawn.