The air feels alive

by Lorin Michel Thursday, February 27, 2014 11:45 PM

A storm approaches slowly. The air is crisp though warm, puffy clouds float amongst the blue of the sky. In the distance, darker, more ominous clouds are gathering. They say it’s Armageddon. I suspect they’re wrong. There will be weather but there is supposed to be weather this time of year. Since we haven’t had any of late, it’s much bigger news that it might otherwise be.

I love when the air feels alive. I actually heard somebody say that the other day and it rang so true. The wind blows. There is an electrical charge that pulsates throughout, like static electricity. Touch something and it snaps and sparks. The air flicks.

The wind swirls and gushes, teases the trees and the flowers, ruffles the hair. Birds flaps and fly, and soar, chasing each other up and down and around before coming to a screeching halt atop the building. You can hear the sound of their wings as the pulse through the air.

Butterflies hover and alight. Moths do the same. Small flying insects cruise about, looking for access to the light, the house. The wind helps them as well.

Sunlight streams through the upper windows of the house, the windows up near the ceiling some 16 feet up. Maybe even higher. They cut across the wall, horizontal glass that’s been UV coated so as to hopefully curb some of the fading that inevitably occurs because of the sun. Below, dust particles dance in each stream. I am forever amazed at how much is actually inside the air, things we can’t see until we can.

I am dust particles in sunlight, I am the round sun.
Say I am You, by the 13th century poet Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi

I used to joke to those back east that I didn’t trust air I couldn’t see. They thought it was hysterical, given that I lived in Los Angeles and LA had long been known for its smog problem. When I was in college and visited California for the first time, I spent a day or two in Los Angeles. I remember driving up from San Diego thinking that the air must be so dense with emissions tat you couldn’t see anything. A really dirty fog bank.

It was nothing like that of course. The sky was blue. Yes, there was a bit of smog but it hardly affected the views or visibility. I saw an article today about China and their horrendous smog problem. There was a picture of a man walking his golden retriever. Both were wearing surgical masks to block out some of the bad air. All around them was smog, making visibility only about 16 feet or so. Scary stuff. The air in China is alive in a completely different way; not a good way.

Clouds are rolling in over the desert, filling the air. Those that were fluffy and white seem to have left for drier prairies. These clouds are heavy, a brownish gray, ready for rain. The air is getting thicker even as the winds pick up. A storm is coming and it will be glorious.

It will drench the earth, cleanse the soul. It will be difficult while it’s happening, but once it’s over the air will be clearer, cleaner; crisper. Reborn like tomorrow.

The Japanese writer Haruki Murakami wrote: “And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”

Another metaphor for life, much like the air being alive. A living, breathing entity that surrounds us, keeps us true, it can spark with furry and dissipate in the wind. And then, it can dance in the shafts of the sun. That’s what life is all about.

And the desert smiles

by Lorin Michel Monday, October 7, 2013 12:07 AM

I’m in Tucson and looking out at the sun dancing in the Catalina foothills. It’s been a simply glorious day here, not too hot, a gentle breeze tickling the palm trees and running headlong into the millions of saguaro and prickly pear cactus that refuse to budge. Birds have been singing and the butterflies are everywhere in all manner of sizes and colors, from the smallest yellow to the largest orange and black. Occasionally there is one of ghostly white with gossamer wings. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a white-winged butterfly before. I wonder if perhaps the intensity of the sun has faded away the color it once had.

This morning we went for a walk along the expansive and dry Rillito River. The city has created pathways and bridges for walkers and cyclists that runs nearly the length of the river, a bed that I’m sure has water in it at some point during the year but never has during any of the times we’ve been here. There were plenty of people walking their dogs, others walking dogless like us. The number of cyclists was impossible to count. People on mountain bikes, others on road bikes; some out for a leisurely tour, others working up a sweat. Some were young, others older, still others old but all were happy and friendly. Good morning. ‘morning!

The sun crested eventually, dripping heat down upon us. We retreated to the air conditioning to watch a little football, do a little more work. Our entire weekend has mostly been about work and that’s OK. We have work; this is good. It is infinitely better than the alternative.

We relaxed. We enjoyed. We reflected.

Monday is knocking at the door already. It’s a faint knock but insistent. Tomorrow evening we’re thinking of going to the movies since we didn’t get a chance to do much of anything this weekend, at least not much of anything fun, not much of anything that was nothing. Sometimes nothing is what’s needed in order to recharge and re-energize. I did do a little bit of nothing later today. By nothing I mean simply enjoying the moment and not being involved in anything stressful. By nothing I mean something fun. I talked to a friend I hadn’t spoken to in a while and it was delightful.

I’m standing at the window watching as two big bear-like dogs, Newfoundlands I think, are strolling with their owners. Plodding along, also enjoying the something that is nothing.

The last bit of sun is kissing the highest point of the hills; the rest is bathed in shadow, now flat and dark. The temperatures are starting to fall again. Soon the city will sleep and us along with it, before getting up to work another day, another week. Still, as the silence begins to settle, I am struck by the calm of it all. The desert, for all of its harsh reality is a beautiful place. It is filled with color and hope; with life. As the night begins to settle and the sun wanes, I think I can see it smiling. 

Butterflies on Friday

by Lorin Michel Saturday, August 6, 2011 12:01 AM

I don’t see them often enough but today, around mid-day, they seemed to be populating the air with color. Even in the yellow glare of the sun, the yellow, orange and red butterflies were glorious, fiery and beautiful, chasing each other effortlessly. They flew just above our heads and just below the trees, like self-propelled flowers.

There must have been at least twenty of them, all individuals and yet all together, a convention of wings that made no sound but filled the air with grace. Nathaniel Hawthorne once said that “Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight on you.” What a lovely metaphor, and one that works for happiness as well as for life in general. I spend my days chasing work, chasing and often missing deadlines, pursuing my career and many days I am moderately successful. I find, though, that if I simply stop the mad dash toward a possibility that is often just beyond my reach, the possibility comes closer. I can nearly touch it.

Watching the butterflies today, I found myself awash in peace. I don’t know that there are too many creatures on earth that can elicit such a feeling. An immediate calm arrives with each flutter of their wings.

One stopped to rest on a flower and I stopped, too, just for a minute. It sat very still, its wings barely twitching in the breeze. I wondered what it was thinking, if it thinks. I wondered what it was feeling, if it feels. I wondered if it was enjoying the fact that it was Friday and the temperature was a near perfect 81º. I wondered but I didn’t ask. I thought that might be intruding. Not to mention the fact that it was, you know, a butterfly and even in Wonderland, butterflies don’t talk.

There are six different types of butterflies in the United States. The Hesperiidae, also known as skippers, are small and brown, almost moth-like. There are 3500 different kinds in the world. Lycaenidae have gossamer-wings. There are 4740 types worldwide. Nymphalidae are the largest types and commonly known as brush-footed. They include the famed Monarch identified by their orange wings, checkerspots, crescents and more. 6000 different types live in various places around the globe. The Papilionidae family, of which there are 600, have tails on their wings. Pieridae butterflies are white, yellow and orange, and they’re extremely popular. Last come the Riodinidae. 1250 world-wide and they only live in very warm climates. Not sure we qualify. We’re warm just not very warm.

I have no idea what family my butterfly was in. It didn’t seem important. What mattered was that this creature was sharing the day with us, alighting near us, telling us to slow down and enjoy the day.

We took a long lunch and did just that.

May the wings of the butterfly kiss the sun; And find your shoulder to light on; To bring you luck, happiness and riches; Today, tomorrow and beyond. From an Irish blessing.

Happy Friday, happy weekend, to all.

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