Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Even In The Quietest Moments

Last week Summer finally visited the Northwest. It's not as if I'd been missing it, but judging from the reactions of others, it was thrilling. I'm one of those rare oddballs who could live with a high of 60° six months out of the year and a high of 35° the other half of the year. The only reason I'll acquiesce on the need for hotter weather at all is because I like fresh fruits and vegetables.

Alas, true to form for the Northwest, as August arrived, so did some semblance of Summer weather. I sat on the deck sipping an icy cold Chardonnay on a particularly sultry evening, trying to catch any stray breeze that might wander by, listening to the swallows chatter at each other and watching them dive for their dinners. The scent of cedars and freshly mowed lawn hung heavy on the air, along with the warm scent of my own skin and the very faint odor of distant cigarette smoke.


In an instant I was swept back to a childhood evening, the memory as clear in my head as if I was watching it on TV. In this memory, I'm maybe eight years old. I'm sitting at the picnic table in the backyard with my father. It's about mid-evening. I'm wearing my bathing suit and my hair is still damp from a swim in the pool. The air is muggy and I can hear crickets chirping and locusts buzzing. Dad is smoking a cigarette and I'm eating a popsicle. In all likelihood, my mother sent me outside with the popsicle so I wouldn't drip sticky syrup all over the house. What's really distinct about this scene though is that it is a moment, a very rare one at that, of absolute peace.

Maybe that strikes you as odd, that I'd be so focused on the peace of a moment, but it's actually profound. I grew up in a household that, even when it was quiet, it was anything but peaceful. My mother was uptight, overly concerned with appearances, and more worried about keeping a house clean and in order than any real issues. My dad was at worst a raging alcoholic and at best frenetically funny - even his humor tended to land just this side of something manic. Don't get me wrong, I love my parents. I'm just trying to help you understand what it means to me now to recognize the importance of The Picnic Table Incident of 1969 for what it was.

It damned near knocked me flat to descry that moment. It was beautiful. It's easy to talk about difficulties, about the trials and tribulations that we go through and how we triumphed regardless. It seems to be less important that we recognize the finer moments and give them air. What a shame.

The finer moments are what make it a life that's been lived rather than a life that's simply been experienced. The finer moments are always there. Waiting. There is beauty in the ugly. There is quiet in the chaos. There is light in the darkness. There is love in the pain. If only we would look.


  1. Beautifully written. I was right there at the picnic table with you. It brought to mind a memory of my own from age 8...my earliest transcendental moment, in fact. I should write it out and see what else I recall. Lovely song, too.

  2. You, my dear, are a Master wordsmith. Thank you for this. I have my own memories of peaceful summer evenings, eating a Popsicle in a wet bathing suit, sitting with my dad.


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