Summer. I stand on the sidewalk at dusk and watch wild geese fly north; crying, crying into dark night. The American flag snaps in the wind, a sharp, familiar noise. When I look back, the V is gone, the night quiet. Ahead of me my husband pushes our one year old son in the stroller. I have lagged behind, tired, restless. Rain brought the end of a humid spell. The day was blue skied, cool with lofty clouds. In the afternoon I scooped up my red-haired boy and whispered in his ear, you are all I’ve ever wanted. It startled me to say that. I pressed my lips to the soft pillow of his cheek. He threw back his head and laughed, then brought his small hands to my face and pressed them into my cheeks. His blue eyes mirroring mine.
Summer. We used to covet night. My not-yet-husband and I. Sitting at outdoor café tables in town, sipping whiskey on ice or cold pints of beer, listening to country bands, acoustic guitars strummed by young men in love. We drove to the beach, it was the only place I wanted. Not home, no, never home. I didn’t want the night to end. Swimming, the moon hung amid the bramble of clouds. Its dappled light fell where the water shoaled and we plunged in and floated face up, bodies freed. Sometimes a lone sailboat drifted at the edge of our swimming cove, and I thought of all the places I wanted to go, and other times we lost each other in the shadow of trees or the darkness of a new moon night but never for long. In the sunlight, our love felt fragile, but not there in the dark, our bodies wet and kissing.
Summer. The loon calls deep into the night. As a child, I slept all summer in the loft of a cabin beside a murky lake. Some nights I climbed into bed between my parents. Their bed lay level with the open window and I on my belly could look out into the night and the lake, could seek the moon in its bed of sky. There in the cold of the lake the loons cried, a fluted howl, an echo that reverberated in my chest, stuck in my own throat, paddled at the rivers of my heart. The call of the loon still haunts me when I hear it, visiting my parents in Minnesota, my son asleep beside me. It’s a beautiful haunting, a way of aching. And like muscle memory, I slip into the intimacy of longing.