August 10th, 2002

caillebotte_man at his window

A Heat. A Palpable Heat

In spring, the new leaves of the oaks are a pale green. Through the early summer, they grow darker, until they are almost deeper than their own shade. Then, they begin to get lighter again, but with a grayness rather than their spring greenness. The big oak in the back yard of the house across the street was the last to grow leaves this year, and now is the first to pale. A few of its leaves are even dried and brown, anticipating autumn in the heat of midsummer. It is an old tree. It rises at least ten feet higher than the next largest of the trees around it. Most likely, at least some of them are its progeny. When that tree is gone, the sun will flood the spot where it stood. Since it is a back yard, the tree will probably be cut down before it falls, and its place will be taken by a lawn. In undisturbed forest, such a tree would fall, and its wood lie in the new glade until it returned to the soil. Deer would pass through the shaft of sunlight, and brush would spring up to shelter small creatures. On days such as this, it would buzz with insects. But, in this fenced yard, the legacy of this trees passing is more likely to be the sputter of a sprinkler head.

No sprinkler heads are sputtering now, though it would be a good day for them, in spite of the heat. It is unusually humid again. Among the roots of the grass I see many bright drops of water sparkling. They remain from the sprinkling early this morning. In the dry heat normal to this place, they would long since have evaporated. The ozone layer may be thinning, but, here, at least, the atmosphere is fat. I feel the weight of it as much as I feel the heat. Walking through it makes me think, oddly, about pudding. I don't want pudding. Let a breeze come up. I'd much prefer a cooling sorbet.