The heat broke when the cold front came in. All day we had sweltered under the oppressive weight of hot, humid air. I think the whole country was sweating through the last few days. As I was putting Buddy Boy to bed the wind started to rise, rattling our old double sash windows and making us nervous.
Buddy doesn’t like high winds, ever since a tree branch fell directly in his tricycle path during a windstorm a few weeks ago. It was about a second from smashing his head into the patio. I think he heard it crack and stopped pedaling and looked up. He saw the limb and branches and leaves coming at him, and watched it hit the pavement and settle around him. I was watching out the kitchen window, and saw the same thing. I will never forget the way the leaves shivered and swayed as they settled. The tension of his neck and the shocked stillness of the back of his head, his hands gripping the beribboned handlebars of his little red bike. Then he jumped up and screamed and ran inside as I was running outside. We stood and hugged for a minute in the sunroom, and another huge tree limb came crashing down onto the patio in the exact spot where I usually have my chair so I can sit and watch him play. We count our lives as God’s (yet again) after that day. Every time the wind rises he says, “Is the tree going to come down on us? I am afraid of trees!”
Tuesday night the electricity went out conveniently right after I finished reading Curious George Rides a Bike to Buddy. We closed the book and the lights went out. Thunder boomed. I thought it was going to be hard to get him into his bed and settled down, but he said right away “I want Buddy Boy” and scampered off to bed. "Buddy Boy" in this case is the rag doll I made Buster 17 years ago, that my Buddy-Boy-the-Real-Boy inherited and with whom he sleeps every night. I thought it was a good sign that instead of clinging to me and whimpering, he wanted Buddy Boy to comfort himself. It just gave me a moment of missing him and his need, but mostly it made me relieved and grateful that I could sprint up to the attic to turn off the fan and close the windows and then dash down to the sunroom and turn off that fan and close those windows. I ducked out into the back yard to gather up the chairs and toys, praying no trees would fall on me and leave my children alone in the dark.
So I got inside, all hatches battened down, and the kids in bed. Lightening is flashing, and the rain starts. I stood in the bathroom peeking out the louver window, gasping for the breeze. Coolness!! Ice water pouring over my sweaty body. The rain only came down hard for about five minutes, then slowed. I went into my room and opened all the windows and got up in the window seat and curled up to watch the night. Looking out the window is different when you have no electricity and neither does anyone else in the neighborhood. It’s dark inside and out. My window seat looks down on my garden and over to my neighbor’s porch. Jo, my friendliest neighbor, was sitting out on her porch calling out cheerful hellos to everyone. I looked down and watched the wind whipping through my garden.
My butterfly bushes are about twelve feet high now, in spite of my sporadic radical pruning. I tend to prune all the side branches so they don’t take over the walkways, and they shoot straight up to the sky where I can’t reach my clippers. The breeze tickled them around the edges until a gust came roaring through, dumping them upside down and throwing them backwards. I was dizzy with the force of it all. It was rolling darkness and wild colors: charcoal green, silver, flashes of purple and orange and gold from the lilies on the other side of the bushes showing through.
Watching from above I felt like I was a ship at sea on the storm-tossed waves. It made me a little seasick. The leaves are shaped like long slim crescents and the undersides are silver. The bushes are forest green until the wind blows through and turns everything to flickering. They made me think of the Elanor trees of Lothlorien in Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring. When Frodo and company have to leave the elfish forest they are given magical cloaks woven by the elves. The elf leader tells them “Leaf and branch, water and stone; they have the hue and beauty of all these things under the twilight of Lorien that we love; for we put the thought of all that we love into all that we make.” The cloaks are “fastened about the neck with a brooch like green leaf veined with silver.” It is one of those leaf brooches that is left in the mud to help point the way when Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas run across the wasteland to rescue Merry and Pippin from the orks. I am sitting in the window seat watching the wind in the leaves and thinking of all this. I am in a silver leaf-shaped elf boat rushing down the Silverlode to adventure or doom.