I wonder when it was that nature became an escape. Admittedly I just spent the past half of an hour on a comfortable couch in my living room. I stared at this screen with my cursor blinking to remind me I had a paper to write. Well, I wish that were all. I have two more to go. My mother came inside after tending to the lawn and sending my little sister off to her father’s. She took up her place on the other end of the cushion, bringing to life her own screen and against the advice of her doctors, putting her concussed brain through LED fueled torture to keep up good relationships with someone on the other side of the ionosphere. Our combined hands harmonized the mechanical tapping of plastic buttons, measuring the rate at which our brains were formulating and articulating ideas. Plastic over time equals progress.
The balanced quiet was interrupted further as her boyfriend came home and flipped on the television. More LEDs pervaded my periphery. Bang. Bang. Bang. “Penny?” Bang. Bang. Bang. “Penny?” Bang. Bang. Bang. “Penny?” I stole a glance up at the screen. The woman was rubbing her eyes as she opened the door of her apartment in confusion. “Yes Sheldon?”
I gathered my belongings and tiptoed up the stairs to my bedroom. Fighting the temptation of my favorite show took more effort than the comfort of the couch was worth. I would find solace in silence. I would finish my papers; I would sleep tonight. I felt a stir in my pocket. Instinctively, subconsciously, I reached for my Android and swiped right, then down, clicking it to light. A potential college roommate had stuffed a message in a bottle and cast it into the virtual sea, surely with high hopes of it landing on the shore of another mutually bored and college bound teenager. At least, so Facebook’s notifications had implied.
What would have been a healthy dose of curiosity instead metamorphosed into claustrophobia. I couldn’t get away. My mother shouted upstairs for me to yell at my sister on her behalf. She should have been doing homework. So should I. I found her on her iPad in bed and relayed the scolding, internalizing some of its moral. Then casting my phone somewhere into the depths of my sheets, I booked it outside.
And here I am now, sitting in the bed of my neon blue 1994 Ford Ranger with chilly toes and a stubbornness to not return indoors to retrieve shoes. Though still in the driveway, I have managed to escape the buzz: my mother’s reminders of the dishes yet to be done, my pile of books waiting to be researched through, the vibrations of the world knocking on my pocket, begging for attention. Hood up around my ears and sun setting on my pale fingertips, it’s almost as if in the openness of the yard, I am invisible.
I noticed upon sitting down the massive Norway maple, stretched out and comfortable in its tightly wrinkled bark. Before rational thoughts took over, I imagined it as the lone wolf tree in a field, its summer leaves shading a herd of sheep. My yard could easily have once been a farm back in “the day”. Back then people built shelters to escape the weather, to escape nature. Despite reveries of my suburban home once being a homestead, I remembered Norway maples were a city tree, planted for its ability to tolerate our human tainted air. It must have been planted long after the past tenants moved out and Ford’s like mine moved in.
I still fancied its neighbor, a now barely budding silver maple, providing lumber once to build a house, to provide some lucky family with refuge from the elements, from nature. It had coppiced into five trunks, providing excellent sitting space between its hydra necks. But perhaps, like similar unfortunately placed white pines, its initial destruction was the result of a merely cosmetic cut. It shaded the windows improperly. Its remains would be scraps in the bush rather than a mantel above the hearth.
The sun and temperatures have sufficiently dropped and the robins who had sung so sweetly for me before now tease “Pa-pers, pa-pers,” reminding me the mystery will remain unsolved and only pondered for now; the mystery being, of course, on which side of the drywall home really is. It seems to me now an ironic switch. A last savoring glance to acknowledge the passing week of the daffodils and then back to buzzing for me. Reluctantly searching for my previous resolve, I’ll take one last swallow of fresh air, of nature.