A small ant scurries across a scrap of a piece of fake-blue plastic, a remnant from a yogurt container. The blue stands out among the other colors that surround the cedar bench on which I sit. I’m a seasoned warrior in the Million Mile Club which means my visits to the airport lounge are frequent and free. But it’s not easy. I’ve been advised to find quiet time. I’m not about to quit, so I come here to turn the engines off and get my prescription filled.
This day, the sky is that grey that makes it seem low; there’s a sound like rolling thunder. A plane, unseen, rumbles through the clouds high above my head. On the street a scooter screeches by—louder than a murder of crows. The bench is dwarfed by a nearby stand of giant trees of differing species. All are old ones; maples, firs and elms; giant cedars and hemlock. There are several birch, and one ancient oak. Their falling leaves create an abundance of confetti in shades of persimmon, ochre, and buckwheat. Some have settled on the grass near my feet. A few retain a faded hint of green, with center veins—sprawling dark lines—their edges laced with brown spots of seasonal fatigue.
I have a friend who likes to say “There ain’t no easy road.” Well, it’s fine for him to say it. He doesn’t have an oncologist telling him he needs to reduce his stress. When you’ve lived your life like a race car driver, you don’t like surprises or ruts in the road. He’s got that part right.
Overhead another plane approaches, following the same path as the one before. This one on the same flight path is less noisy as it travels across the grey expanse of clouds. On this passage, there’s high probability that one of its passengers will break his or her mileage record. Add a new one to the Million Mile club.
On the ground in front of me, I notice a bronze plaque, a dedication embedded into a semi-circle of cold concrete. I stare for a while.
May your song always be sung.
Voices, and laughing carry through the air. There is a faint bass thump of rap music. They are the sounds of amusement, visitors ascending the stairs in the observatory nearby. Two feet in front of me, a leaf floats down from the oak tree, dances in the air for a second, then disappears. Like a whisper, it becomes part of the carpet; grass speckled by countless fallen leaves. The air, benign, touches the bare part of my head and the back of my neck.
A bird sings insistently somewhere above the trees.
Another plane flies over—this one, closer.