Teri Orr: Summer in full…
The evening was so still in my neighborhood it was downright otherworldly. There was no breeze … no cars moving. The normal chatter of children was absent — they must be away in camps. The birds weren’t singing so much as conversing — a tiny song here, a tweet — a note — doves cooing. But the cackle of magpies was nowhere to be heard. There was only one group of neighbors on their porch having a quiet dinner but every soft word was drifting to my yard. I took a phone call but it seemed invasive to talk outside — like I was in the neighbor’s living room — so I finished the call inside.
And then I went right back outdoors.
I looked around in my little corner lot as I stood on the back porch and it was a bit like Wild Kingdom. The squirrels were playing tag on the top of my fence posts. A potgut (or several) was popping up from under different places of my back porch. A few plain colored birds were at the feeders. A baby bunny — from the family living under my neighbor’s yard porch — hippy hopped over to eat my grass for dinner. Okay, so maybe not Wild Kingdom … maybe more like peaceable kingdom. And somewhere in the previous few days all the hollyhocks had popped open, raspberry, pale pink, deep red and white. Seeds my friend had shared with me. And those tall stalks against the fence were a kind of victory in bloom after years of trying to get them to take hold. Between the hollyhocks, the lavender bushes had bloomed too. Deep purple and deep fragrance and it was a thing of beauty.
Somewhere the “cheet cheet cheet cheet/zeez zeez zeez” of the neighbor’s sprinklers went off. But the human voices had ceased/maybe gone inside and the pale barely bluish gray sky had colorless gossamer cloud pieces stretched out thin. I threw together a salad and by the time I returned to the porch, the sky was ablaze. The pale bluish was now a kind of turquoise and the clouds were coral and the sprinklers had ceased and the world was eerily, blessedly quiet.
It was a full sermon in a sunset.
In the summer my work life is more complicated than the winter. We compress all our performances into about two months. We don’t have a home of our own to leave our things and decorate and secure our stuff. So the work day of a show day is especially challenging and long — oh so long. And the days leading up to the show and the day after can be stressful and tiring — for all the staff, regardless of their position. When I come home at night and the bunny runs from the under the thatch of the pine tree and the badger/marmot/woodchuck(?) wiggles to get under the wood porch and the humming bird dive bombs past my head to hit the feeder and I find the package the UPS guy had put in the not-so-secret place for me … it is all a combination comfort and escape. My life, by day, is very, very noisy — physically and emotionally noisy.
The quiet of my cul-de-sac is seductive. I make excuses not to leave. I enjoy my extended living room with the green grass carpet and my fabulous plicker furniture (which is plastic — of course — made to look like wicker — so much more durable).
My flower bed is an actual cast iron bed that was once a real sleeping bed in the Miner’s Hospital — when it was a flop house. I bought it for $10 at a kind of garage sale when they were moving the building from up by The Resort (there was only one in the late ’70s) to its current spot at City Park. My son, who grew to be 6-foot-3 slept in it all his pre and teenage years. We spray-painted it fire engine red. When he left for college, the bed went to the garage to live. Then I saw in some magazine someone had “planted a headboard” and separated the footboard about six feet apart and used the space in between as a flower “bed.” I pulled the bed out from the garage and planted it in the yard. Where it has remained now for about 25 years. It has since been sprayed purple and the clematis and some hollyhocks all wind around it and the wildflowers re-seed there.
There was no traffic just stillness this night and then finally in the indigo sky — a sliver of moon shows up — low in the sky — followed by an ultra bright star so low and so close to the moon it looks like a movie logo and you expect a young boy to appear, fishing off the saddle of the semi-circle moon.
But it is all real — the scent of all the lavender bushes in bloom, the mint, the oregano, the rosemary, the catmint bush — my senses are on high alert on this quiet, still night — this is the fullness of summer — exactly halfway now through the calendar year. And most likely about three weeks away from the always shocking — first leaf of fall.
Tomorrow there will be noise again — barking dogs and giggling children and cars passing on the road and somewhere construction and the return of the cackle of the scolding magpies. But this night, this surreal still night needs to be remembered, inhaled, set to memory, for its beauty and stillness and natural calm. Summer in the city, tiny Park City, is a gift to be embraced each summer Sunday in the Park…
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the Park City Institute, which provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.
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Columnist Tom Clyde has been unable to nab a ski reservation so far, so instead he’s catching up on all the important animal-related news going on in the world.