Monday morning, early on. I am lying in bed, wondering when I got so old that mowing the lawn and splashing in a pool with the kids for an hour would leave me so tired and sore.
The red numbers on the bedside clock tell me I should get up. But I like it here.
The room seems strangely dark for a summer morning, and the shadows wrap me in soft, secluded comfort. It is an oddly cloudy day — a rare but welcome relief from the searing sun this summer has laid on us. So I savor this morning’s soothing gray. Surely it’s not 7 already. Too dark.
Three kids sleep down the hall. In just a few weeks summer will be done, and mornings will be a jarring explosion of hustle and groan, waking the snarly rebel forces and cajoling, nudging, dragging them out of bed, getting them brushed, dressed and fed, book bags filled and them adjusted and on their way.
For nine months we start each day — five days a week — with this madcap dash against the clock. So I stay here now, luxuriating in the home stretch of summer calm. I count my blessings.
My wife sleeps beside me. I gaze past her — her back to me, sheet draped over the contour from shoulder to hip — and out the window where the skies grow darker. I hear bass drums in the distance — no, the rumble of thunder. Such a sweet sound in this summer of drought, this scorched summer when global warming feels discomfortingly real. Could rain really be on the way?
Out one window the sinewy branches of a river birch dance in brisk winds. Out the other window I can see the tops of a cottonwood, honey locusts and their tall companions — my wife calls them trees of heaven. They wave their upstretched limbs as the swift gusts gain speed and power.
More thunder. And closer.
Whenever I hear thunder, whenever I feel storms rolling in from the West, I remember the Lakota elder years ago telling me about the Thunder Beings, about those ancient spiritual guides shaking up the universe, showing their power, bringing rain and grace. I’ve never forgotten.
So then the rain comes. I can see it out the window — a refreshing downpour of water drenching the thirsty earth. I hear it on the roof, hear it slapping on aluminum, tapping on glass windows. The grass must be so happy. The thirst-quenching deluge cascades down, getting everything all wet.
I have lived before where the basement seeped, the roof leaked, the rains made their way in through the windows. Today I count my blessings. I know it is time for work but I stay here instead. I listen to the rain and watch out the windows at the trees getting washed.
Soon my daughter — hair tousled, wearing her nightgown — slips into the bed between my wife and me. She is almost 8, yesterday was a freckle-faced fish slippery in water. She cuddles between us, holding Sophie, her panda.
Sophie was a gift from her grandmother, my mom. The trip to Build-A-Bear, now almost three years old, is still a clear and treasured memory. The little cloth heart gets sewn right in with all the stuffing. My mother, her grandmother, died a few months later. Sophie means a lot to me too; seeing them together even more.
I know I should get to work but, really, where else should I be right now? Where else is there to go that’s more important? Why on earth would I leave here now?
I love to watch the wind in the trees. The wind is like God. You can’t see it, but you can see how it works in life, what it does to all it touches. It takes but a moment in time to see it.
My daughter smiles at me but says nothing. I like how she does that. Then she rolls over, pulls Sophie close to her and flops an arm onto her mother, my wife.
In time both nature and duty call. One is more persuasive than the other.
Kerry Temple is editor of Notre Dame Magazine. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.