Pictures and the other thousand words

There are always the big things you know you’ll miss, so in a sense, you have a chance to prepare yourself, or at least to tell yourself “I saw this coming”; things like a fresh off the line Krispy Kreme doughnut, watching your dog run (as I swear dogs are meant to do) all sleek muscle and bounding legs.

So I think it’s the small things that would devastate me. The things I didn’t see. The things I didn’t think to store up a fresh hoard of memory and sensation about. I might see my last Earth sunset, and say, “This is the last I’ll ever see.” And then I’d store it up, commit to memory as much as I could the play of light and color, the slow encroachment of dusk’s mellowed color, and I’d memorize my loved one’s–their faces, their voices, the silly quirky things they say or do–the way their nose wrinkles when they laugh, the way they spread their feet when they sit.

But the small things, like birds in the morning and the sound of snow….those you can’t prepare for. I remember when I lived in the South and Midwest, how much I missed them. Mourning doves coo differently in the South–a strange syncopation of the oo-oo-oos I grew up with in Yankeeland, or the ‘birdy birdy birdy’ call of cardinals outside my window right now. I’d miss that.

And when I lived in the South, I ached for the sound of snow–not the wet darts of sleet, which was all we got down there, but that dry plush whisper of a sky filled with snowflakes.

Every place has its own sounds: I learned the bullroar of a tornado in Oklahoma, as I learned the howl of a cat-5 hurricane in the South. I learned the laugh of mockingbirds in the South. The arp arp of sea lions on the shores of California and the scent of cypress.

Pictures, they say, are worth a thousand words, and I’m sure I would have pictures and memory, but no device on Earth that I know of can capture the other senses that matter to us–no recorder can catch that snow sound, the way the sky turns pink and bright in a midnight snow, doming the last bit of sunlight in it. I think these other senses–the hot smell of pine needles baking in the South Carolina sun, the salt and sea of Montauk, the vixen scream that woke me up, heartpounding, my first summer here–are the ones I’d miss the most, the every day background noise that we often don’t realize shape and color our lives, until we move from them and feel, even when surrounded by all our STUFF–our books and music and movies, etc–strangely out of place.

Longing for Gravity


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