The sun has no voice, surely, so I must have imagined that call. It summoned me outside as it continued its ascent in the bright, early hours of the morning after Thanksgiving. The striated rosy and berry pinks of dawn over the hill behind had just faded, giving way to near-blinding illumination from a cloudless sky.
Probably will be too cold out here, I grumbled, unsure about accepting this invitation as I wrested open the porch door and stepped out in my tattered old yellow robe and slippers. Still, lured by the crimson tints still clinging to a few determined trees in the woods behind the house and the bleak grace of the towering bare trees farther up the slope, I longed for some different air. I took along my book and coffee, and, of course, the dog, who frets if ever left more than about 14 inches from my feet.
The porch is shuttered for winter, like a beachside pub in the off season, its colorful flower pots retired to storage and cheery cushions stashed in the garage. But on this particular morning, there was an odd, welcoming draw in its lean openness. To wrest one of the creaking old iron chairs around sideways was the work of a moment. There! Now I could read without squinting straight into the rising sun, and I perched.
A chilly breeze denied the sun’s promised warmth, and I hoisted the collar on my old bathrobe higher around my neck, inhaling deeply, once, twice, then three times, not entirely sure why this perch inspired the deep breathing exercises. The sun settled on my right cheek and hand, holding in place like the lingering touch of someone familiar.
The dog, in his elevation some seven inches above ground, struggled to settle. His requisite security patrol around the visible perimeter completed, he sat briefly on the concrete, then for a fraction of a second on the grass, before he came to stretch up and position both paws gently onto my thigh. This telegram read: The grass is wet and the concrete is cold. What shall we do? Appreciating his dilemma, I plucked one of his beds off the floor of my adjacent office, dropped it on the porch concrete, and sighed with satisfaction along with him as he jumped in. He curled up with face toward the sun and gaze toward the woods, from which despicable aliens like turkeys or deer might always encroach. There being none in sight, he closed his eyes.
With fresh clarity bestowed by the warm light and wafting winter air, I could admit why I needed that deep breathing. I let that discomfort stand up on two feet and sat with it, staring into the trees, my finger holding my place in the little book I was ignoring. Thanksgiving Day was a tough one, a low-key version of the holiday, or what I sometimes call an “off year”. I desperately missed my late parents, who loved rowdy family groups and festive holiday gatherings. I missed my extended family, all understandably occupied with other branches of their own families, an inevitable calendar result of these holiday rotations. Memories of earlier holidays, especially before some of the beloved had left us, scrolled across my forest view like old movies on a screen, and my eyes briefly welled with tears. I tried one sip of coffee, now completely cold and slightly bitter.
Hard to say how long I sat there, the sun steady in its grasp on my cheek, like a comforting palm. As I felt my chest relax, I closed my eyes and thought, shoot, I could doze, sitting right here. And I remembered, with gratitude and for the umpteenth time: There is nothing that begins to ease sorrow more readily than staring it right in the face.
The dog raised his head, nose twitching briskly to re-examine potential threats signaled on the breeze, and it seemed best not to doze where one could inadvertently slump forward onto concrete. The hard day of lingering loss was behind me, a bright new morning begun, with groceries to procure and a table to set for guests coming later. The peaks and valleys of the holidays, sometimes so closely knitted it is hard to distinguish between them, can take on different tones when an interval to sit still and breathe is afforded.
Thankful for the call of the sun and carrying the feel of that warm palm with me, I started back into the house. Time to be up and at it. And if the call comes again tomorrow morning, I’ll be listening.