Song Upon a Swing

My daughter was nearly four when she first discovered the thrill of swinging on her own—especially in the summer rain of her happy garden.

Now, it’s just a Tuesday evening. I sit here in the same back yard that’s become more of a jungle, and all is mostly quiet in the neighborhood, no chickens clucking, or lawnmowers whirring, no radios or joking voices from back deck bar-b-ques, no dogs barking—all quiet—except for a distant bass of soft rumbling thunder, and by the look of the gathering clouds, it seems a shower is evident. It’s been two months since it rained, and a bit of moisture would be welcome, like a soak after hours of hiking on dusty terrain. I wait here on my porch patiently, shoulders hunched, anticipating the soft fleeting relief that will come. The smells more redolent now, and layered atmospherically in ribbons of jasmine, rose, lavender, a scent of zinc, of earth and forest floor. The plants pull upward. Naturally. They don’t know about global warming, but if they did, they’d sense that something was off. The thunder gets louder, angry clouds banging into one another, but they will not generate enough rain to quench the thirst and limp lean of the withering trees.

Amidst it all, I strain to hear that high sweet note. A joyous four-year old squeal. It brought such bliss. The finches, sparrows and a new bird I don’t yet recognize—a transplant of different feathers—light on dry blades of grass. The divots in the lawn caused by the old swing set are gone. The set has been dismantled and removed, and yet the roses and peonies line its previous space, still giving off their luminous color. They served her as faithful markers, the bright spots to which she aimed her sweeping toes. She pushed her legs backwards and forwards to achieve momentum, her little arms strong on the ropes that pulled her higher and higher to floating, attaining that swinging level where more energy is superfluous. Catching that moment, she’d sing—a soprano wind chime—steady and clear, her face tilted up toward the summer rain. Every songbird echoed her joy, and I so much long to hear it again—that sound so close—my heart is like a cracked tea cup which fills easily, but is impossible to keep full.

 

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