When the air is clear and dry, I don’t notice it, the air I mean. In September I notice instead the light, the way it falls shadowed on the drive next to the catalpa tree, or the way light inhabits leaves, along with their veins and squatters. I notice also the steady rasp that floats in currents and waves from the poplars by the pond. I stop, for that. I hear the screech of blue jays at Bishop the farm queen for being who she is, for they are who they are. I note the sun, the way it butters the meadow in its season of goldenrod and lace. I see white moths flaking the air, and countless, nameless flyers barely visible to me. I take note of the wind, the sensation of hair rising and falling on my neck and forehead as I watch sumac leaves rise and fall around swallows spiraling up. Sometimes I notice a stench, when a dead raccoon has begun decaying, and turkey buzzards circle down to commence their beautiful role, out of hunger, then preen for thirty minutes, later excreting what has been cleansed in them before delivering it back to their Earth.
But air? When it is July and humid I notice it, for then I lag under the oppression of moisture. But this substance I breathe in September, that would kill a glinty, sunny fish, what is it to me? Am I mindful that it is Life? When someone asks, If you were stranded on a desert island and could have just three things . . . do I think of air? The toupee of smog that hovers over Los Angeles where we lived when the children were born is a visible reminder that I live free and unhindered in a sheer garment that alters itself to my movements without scissors, stitches or darts. Without its molecules carrying vibrations to me, I would not hear the sounds of leaves, cicadas, birds, a stick snapping under my foot, a loved one speaking, or the strings and winds of Fauré's Sicilienne. I sleep, I breathe. I chop, cook, eat, I breathe. I read, write and speak, I breathe. I touch, smell, hear, listen, and I breathe. I walk and run, I breathe. I feel, I love, I breathe. I fall and ache and cry, I breathe. I think. I breathe.
And what do I give to this air that gives me the infinite and portable floor, walls and ceiling of my life? An exhalation: Thanks.
Post script: Today I messed around with GarageBand and recorded myself reading this piece. If you're interested in hearing me read "The air down here", go here. I prefer my voice with headphones.