Last night I heard someone playing "Taps" outside my open window. It was late in the evening; I was caught up in reading. The classical country CD had run its course and for a long time as I was reading all I heard was the continual faint sound of traffic, the rustle of paper as I turned a page, and the soft tapping of the wooden blinds.
The evenings last forever lately. The sun doesn't set until a quarter to eight and it takes hours for all the light to leave the sky. I had left the blinds open so I could see the twilight deepen outside and by the time I heard the notes it was cobalt blue out there.
At first I thought it was a recording, but it was too smooth and clear a sound; someone must have been standing outside, practising. It was haunting to hear that unmistakable sound come floating lightly over the dark air; I put the book down and, amazed, listened until they finished.
Mornings are the best time; the sunlight is white and refreshing. I go around opening all the windows and then fill the tin watering can. In bare feet with the can dripping, I make my rounds from planter to planter, leaving a trail of dark water blotches on the deck boards.
Yesterday I did all the laundry, stripped the bed and sorted the piles downstairs. By the end of the day I had my dry clean only hanging from the shower curtain rail and the ironing board up and in place. I felt as though I had gone back in time several decades; I felt like I should be wearing a frilly apron.
As summer draws closer, I feel the presence of my husband infusing the house after months and months of absence. It feels as if I might turn a corner and find him there. In the night, I reach my arm out across the bed, as though to check for sure. The damp, clean smell of wet earth from the sprinkler brings him back, and the sight of the leaves stretching wider and wider to catch all the sun they can.
The seasons have come around full circle; around this time last year we first met. I feel as if I have begun to complete a wide, lonely orbit that took me out into the dark edges of isolation at its farthest point from here. Now I feel the pull of summer and my husband stronger and irresistible; I seem to be picking up speed as the curve becomes sharper and I can feel the heat of the sun growing stronger.
I don't think I've ever lived so deeply as I have this past year and I worry that when Keith returns I will begin to take things for granted. Distance has this ability to sift what is true into layers; to cause what is unimportant to fall away and for what is best to rise to the surface.
Before Keith comes home, I'm going to make a list of all the qualities of Keith that distance tempered into steel, before the rush of day to day living muddies everything up. It will be purely a delight to be irritated by him, to wish him to go away; even if it is just to the garage and leave me be for a time. I'm looking forward to that kind of luxury; but I don't want to loose the clarity this year has won me; I paid too much for it.
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