Sunday, 28 August 2011

The Color of a Sky

A few minutes ago, as I began to write a post on a completely different subject, I looked out the window and noticed the color of the sky. It’s dusk as I’m writing, and we’ve just felt the westernmost fringes of Hurricane Irene pass through this part of eastern Ontario over the course of the afternoon and early evening. Here in Oxford Station there was only a bit of rain and enough wind to move the trees around but not enough to bring them down.

I spent some time outside this afternoon in our screen tent while the storm was at its peak, smoking a cigar, listening to the rain pelt against the canvas roof and watching the trees move briskly back and forth. We live on seven acres, and our house is surrounded by trees. The air was very fresh, and it was safe – more safe, I knew, than in other places where the storm had previously passed.

Now, at 7:30 p.m., the winds have eased somewhat and the rain has stopped. As I say, I was just beginning to write a blog post on a subject I’ve already forgotten when I noticed the color of the sky outside my office window. I got up immediately and went out on the front verandah for a better look.

The verandah faces west, where the sun had just set, and the color of the sky was a remarkable cantaloupe. Cut open a cantaloupe, scoop out the seeds, and as the juice runs down your wrist you’re looking at the color of a sky at dusk after a passing hurricane has brushed its fingertips across its cheek.

As I stood on the verandah I thought of my father. When I was young and still living at home he used to call me outside from time to time to look at something or other that had caught his fancy. The power of a thunderstorm, a rabbit in the back garden, the color of a sky. I used to oblige him because he was my dad and these things were important to him. I’d take a look, try to match his interest, listen politely as he tried to put into words what these natural phenomena made him feel. It was important to him, as I say, and he wanted these things to be important to me, as well. He wanted me to appreciate the beauty and power of the world in which we live.

He’s been gone for seventeen years, but as I stood there on that verandah just now it was as though for a moment I’d unconsciously obeyed his call once more to come outside for a minute to take a look. I hadn’t thought about it, I’d just seen the sky from my desk, said “wow” or something, and went out the front door for a look. It took me several moments to remember why it felt so familiar to be doing this thing.

So I stood there and admired that cantaloupe sky as though he were standing there next to me.

Now here I am, back at my desk typing this entirely different post, and it’s dark outside. Night has fallen. The dog next door is barking at something. My border collie’s a little restless, lying by my feet. I’m well aware of how violent the weather has been, that lives have been lost and property destroyed, that nature is often something to be feared these days. I’ve never been more certain of my mortality, believe me.

I feel like someone left behind.

I feel as though my turn to pay the bill has once again been deferred to some other day, down the road I don’t know how far.

I miss my father very much right now.

But that sky, I must say, was very beautiful while it lasted.

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