I am sitting in the back yard of an upscale house on Long Island, in a lovely neighborhood surrounded by other upscale houses. The sky is overcast, the air wet and chilled.
Nineteen family members have flown and driven in from three other states to celebrate a young man’s graduation. Out of a party of nine of us sharing an Airbnb rental, I’m aware of one other person awake inside the house. Outside, birds have been up and chirping for about two hours.
When we arrived five days ago, we discussed the plusses and minuses of the house: no washcloths or hand towels, no closet or dresser in our room, loud stairs, a master bedroom described as “bordello-ish,” and no visible WiFi info.
“But the backyard is great,” Sam had said. “It’s the main reason I booked the place.”
The house is lovely. Sam and his wife bought washcloths, the host provided WiFi, etc.
But the yard is a small slice of paradise: spacious, lined with trees and appointed with a table for eight, a sectional couch, two chaise lounges, a full barbecue/food-prep area, and two freestanding iron bird cages, one large enough for me to stand in. It is perfect. It is also therapeutic.
Yesterday, after my third night of depleted sleep, I got up, walked into the kitchen, and asked if anyone else had had a problem sleeping through the early morning construction.
“What construction?” asked Sam. “I’m pretty sure it’s illegal to do any construction on a Sunday morning.”
Apparently, the noise I’d heard was the stairs, which were located on the other side of the wall right behind my head. Ah. Like most people I know, I don’t do well on little sleep. I can get pretty grumpy, so as a safety precaution for my fellow travelers, I went out back, into that perfect yard, sat down on the soft, no-sprinkler-needed lawn, and watched two squirrels chasing each other madly across the grass. One of its cousins wound its way down the trunk of a maple tree, investigated my human trappings, which on this day consisted of a notebook and phone, then quickly dismissed them in favor of more tree-trunk scampering. Smart squirrel.
I sat for a few minutes in an attempt to meditate, then gave up, laid down, closed my eyes, and let myself be held in the lap of the mama. I breathed and stretched, alleviating the tension in my neck, still tight from travel and fatigue. Within ten minutes I felt restored.
Later in the day, feeling a sense of emotional overwhelm, I walked back out and laid down again under a canopy of trees. I kept my eyes open this time, corralling my attention from the mental merry-go-round and resting it in the leaves above my head: millions of tiny green dancers in the sky. No two alike and with no two movements quite the same, the foliage provided a show of organic splendor, abundance, creativity and grace. My lids closed as I sank into the serenity of nature.
After a few minutes, the two youngest family members approached and I heard the sweet sound of children’s voices.
“She’s asleep,” Carter, age five, whispered to Harper, his three-year-old sister.
Then, less than a minute later and closer to my ear, “I want to play with you.”
“Okay,” I said, “but we have to play quietly.”
After suggesting a silent super-hero game, as though such a thing could exist, Carter accepted that Auntie Sage was not moving, and they entered my world. Carter did his best to find two blades of grass that were the same; Harper squealed as she jumped over me and tumbled to the ground. Then they both gathered up handfuls of grass and sprinkled them on top of me. I felt like Gulliver and the Lilliputians.
This morning, I am sitting at the outdoor table. It is our last day here. I see at least six different kinds of trees in the yard. A squirrel is upside down on the trunk of the one in front of me. I watch as she yawns and stretches one paw toward the earth, managing to maintain that impossible hold with three remaining paws. A red cardinal lands on an empty terra cotta planter about twelve feet away then takes off again to the next yard, flying above the man-made boundary.
The trees are dancing again. I want to dance with them all before I leave this place, twirl in the sky at the end of a branch, look to the sun and suck up nutrients from the earth. I want to abandon all things grey and lifeless, ambiguous and linear, drink in this vibrant green and wrap it around me for the plane ride home like a blanket of emerald serenity.
A light rain begins to fall. Tiny droplets of water are landing on my laptop, creating micro rainbows on the screen. My words are distorted. Rain has no respect for text. I wish you could see my column as I do now. I wish I could take you all here with me, into this fairy land of wonder, into the laughter of the children and the dancing leaves.
Sage Knight is a local ghostwriter, speaker, artist, and child of nature. She and Shiloh, her Golden Retriever, welcome your heart-centered visits to www.SageKnight.com.