This weather feels like a drug to me, or more specifically, it is this autumn sun that is my vice. I’m pulled outside, away from chores like laundry and dishes, cooking dinner even, because I cannot resist that tang of fresh air, that low flying sun, shooting rays directly onto my face, tingling my skin. I can’t turn away. I know that it’s leaving, going, turning towards the gray of November that eventually becomes February, and the threat is more than I can bear.
I’m like a lunatic, kicking the kids out, away from books and art projects, homework even, insisting that they, too, must feel what I feel. They are glad for it, I think. Like a drug, the energy of this particular sun is taking over my everything and I’m eschewing responsibilities left and right.
It was one of these days, the sun slung low following its autumn arc. Bright and direct, it warmed the earth, releasing the musky smell of decaying leaves. It’s these days exactly where the sun makes all the difference – one step to the shadow and you feel the brisk air threatening its bite, but the sun entices you to pull off layers, strip bare to reveal skin, as careless as a teenager in summer. I think of it as storing up Vitamin D, like a squirrel hustles acorns.
The kids were home early, released from school to free up their teachers from conferences. Because of these conferences, Mark was home early, too, and after we returned home from meeting with teachers, I made it no option to the kids but to be out. Some days you just have to run for the hills, turn your back on those daily habits that slog you down. Some days, that sunshine promises freedom like a drug.
At the park, I told the kids I didn’t care so much what they wanted to do – swing, climb, run – but I was going to find the sun and sit in it until I couldn’t anymore. My eyes followed the stream of light to just one bench, a bit further away than I normally would be from the action, but the only one in the sun. I claimed it as mine. Grant grabbed his bike, snapped his helmet, and took off for the path. Renee and Griffin ran towards the slides, chasing and climbing and shouting in some fascinated game of imagination. Mark sat beside me for a few moments, but sensing I had few words to share, he chased his own energy back to puttering with the kids.
I sat in the sun.
Griffin ran back to me, breathless and glowing for a moment as he crossed into the path of the sun stream. He grabbed at the bench for balance, paused, looked at me.
“Mama,” he panted, “l love you,” he declared. He didn’t stick around long enough to hear my response, instead pushed off the bench once again to chase Renee. My words, “Griffin, I love you, too” were shouted into the streaming sunshine behind him, but they’re there. I knew that he’d catch them some time around.
Lulled into a different kind of peace, sitting there on that bench, I flipped my sunglasses up on top of my head, to really feel the sun on my face. I closed my eyes for a moment, not in rest, but more in adoration and gratitude. The kids were happy, and occupied. Their chatter faded from the forefront of my brain, now more like a holy chant swirling in my consciousness. The sun had already begun to move; I moved to angle my body again towards it and breathed deeply.
Even with my eyes closed, feeling the charge of sun on my face, I knew when to look up and wave to Grant on his bike, hearing the rhythmic racket of him pedaling on past. He waved, too, happy at his speed and balance, showing off with only one hand. I watched him longer than he watched me, as he and his bike cross the path of the sunshine. There he was, turned black in my vision, silhouetted by this lowering sun behind him. For a moment I was reminded of that iconic scene from ET where Elliot and ET are biking, high in the sky, across the face of the moon. Grant may as well be on that same journey, lifting off the ground in ways that defy my mind. The moment lingered, suspended, time immemorial.
Maybe this is what it means to be wholly present: to sit in this perfect moment, and see it for what it is. It was not a struggle for me to be awake to that moment, to watch Grant pedal harder, gaining momentum to push himself up that hill, then cascading back down again. To watch him find a freedom that exists nowhere else. I saw Grant’s perfect being lit up by that sun, for all he is, and all he will be. In this thinly veiled state, it’s almost as if I could hold the tiny body that was Grant as a baby, hear his tender mewing cry, and see, too, the young man he will be, lanky and muscular, a warrior of love in this hard world. I know, I know – it’s crazy. I’m just a mom on a bench in a park watching my kid ride his bike, but in that moment, staying right there, it was the whole world.
In time, the sun dipped past the edge of the tree-deckled horizon and the warmth left my face. A shiver ran down my spine, and I was in the shadows once again. Imminent concerns trickled back in, no longer able to push off figuring out what to feed the family for dinner. The prickly edges of familiar angst crept back into my body, tensing up already in anticipation of homework have-to’s and bedtime battles. I closed my eyes, trying to bring back the sensation of peace and warmth. All I felt was the empty breeze.
A week later, now, and November has settled in, unpacked its bags, here to stay. Its bleak gray and heavy tones have brought the sky close enough that I feel like I can touch it, but unlike last week I’m not sure that I want to. My shoulders ache from the tight clench of warding off the shivers. That drug that was the sun is a wisp of a memory. I am grateful for the memory, for my instinct to prioritize that glory. It is much harder to be wholly present, equally thankful, for the darkness. Shadows are easy to find; the sun is low and I’m folded into the creases of the earth.