Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Silent Skies of September

Well, my swifts are gone. I wrote about how the chimney swifts arrive over my house every year on or about May 1 and brighten my summer sky with their happy chittering and zooming (“Magic in the Air,” May 5, 2006). I’m always so happy when they show up, taking their arrival as a signal that another long, warm, happy summer lies ahead. As suddenly as they arrive on the first of May, they leave on the first of September. They slipped away this year, right on schedule, but I wasn’t looking.

We were out of town on the first of September, taking our son back to school, but really, I just wasn’t paying attention. I noticed the silent sky a few days later, and realized that I had missed one of the important little events of my year. Around Labor Day, I try to pay attention and notice how one day I can spot them flying high overhead; sometimes alone, often in formations of twos and threes; and then the next day, they are gone. I wish them well, look forward to their return next year, and try not to dwell on the fact that their departure is one more sign that the season is also slipping away. This year, my friends slipped away, and I didn’t even say goodbye.

How often does that happen in life? One day, we have a relationship with a friend or loved one, and the next day, when we aren’t paying attention, they are gone. September 1 was my father’s birthday, so on that day I often think about how he slipped away forever in 1990. I missed that departure, too, being hundreds of miles away and busy with my own life and family. My thirtieth college reunion is coming up this fall and I was thinking about going, but even with all the good times I had and all the good people I knew back then, I’m not in touch with any of my classmates anymore. I let them slip away. I thought about e-mailing a few, but they might not write back.

The silent skies of September also have a new meaning. I love peering into the deep blue infinity of a clear September sky, but that joy is sometimes now tempered by what happened on one of those clear days in September, 2001. I think the pilots call it “severe clear,” when the visibility is unlimited and the flying is wonderful. I still remember looking up as I worked outside for a few days after September 11 when all air traffic was grounded. Probably for the only time in my life, I could look at the sky all day and see or hear no planes, see no contrails. The blue dome was quiet and beautiful. As wonderful as it was, I hope never to see it like that again for the same reason.

We’re all slipping away. Vivian at “Off the Grid” (See link in sidebar) asks, “Why do you blog?” It’s a good question. She says that blogs are forever. While I’m skeptical about that – all some corporation needs to do is decide to pull the plug on some servers – she has a point. In this age of e-mail, instant messaging and cheap phone calls, we’re leaving a pretty lean written record of our individual personal lives. Children won’t have dusty steamer trunks to dig through. Lovers won’t have ribbon-tied bundles of perfumed letters. If blogging prompts people to write, maybe some of these posts will be the best clues we leave behind about who we were.

I know, in my own life, it often seems I can’t get a word in edgewise. My mind works slowly. My thoughts don’t come in soundbites. Nobody wants to listen to me long enough to let me form my ideas. I can do that here, as I like to say, with impunity. Maybe, someday, some curious descendant will wonder who that guy was.

Another little tradition I have around Labor Day, is to look at John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley. It seems I’ve always had a fantasy about wandering around the country. If I couldn’t do it on a bicycle, I’d do it like Steinbeck, in a small camper. He planned to leave on his cross-country journey with his dog Charley and his camper truck, Rocinante, soon after Labor Day (1960, I think). I like to pick this book up around this time and read a few paragraphs. While writing his explanation about his irresistible urge to travel and roam, he said: “I set this matter down not to instruct others but to inform myself.” Maybe that’s the main reason I’m writing this blog. This might be the September of my life. This might be a good time to inform myself about who I am, where I’ve been, where I am and where I might be going.


At 2:45 AM, Blogger Wenda said...

My thoughts don’t come in soundbites, either, and I think that is what I so enjoy about writing and blogging. I usually get the chance to fully express what I am thinking without worrying about being iterrupted or ignored -- at least not to my face. ;)

At 4:35 PM, Blogger robin andrea said...

I've stopped writing on our blog for a while. I'm enjoying the liberation from words for now. It's not that there was nothing left for me to say, it's that what I wanted to say no longer felt right for such open broadcasting. The quiet is good. I like coming over here and reading your blog and remembering why I liked to blog in the beginning. The record of time is really the best part, but as you say, we are not leaving anything tangible behind for our families. I printed the tribute I did for my father on the anniversary of his death, and put it in a journal I keep. A melding of words and worlds.

Our migrators are gone too. I photographed the last of the black-headed grosbeaks two weeks ago. I already miss the song of the swainson's thrush. Something to look forward to for next year.

At 9:45 PM, Blogger MojoMan said...

Wenda: Sometimes I feel like the invisible man. I'll just be starting a conversation with someone, another person will come and interrupt, and I never get to finish my thought. Other times I'll be on line at a checkout, coffee shop or buffet, and people will walk in front of me like I'm not there. I guess I need to do a better job of asserting my personhood! If I didn't find it so interesting, it would really make me mad.

Robin Andrea: I patiently await your return. I hope you have all sorts of good stuff marinating in there.


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