Hovering over boxes of mismatched dishes and unused mini appliances, I tried to swallow my anger and disappointment. Jason didn’t show to help me prepare for the garage sale. When I admitted to myself he wasn’t coming, I remembered a familiar feeling of emptiness four years earlier when we moved in. Then I was standing amidst sealed boxes in the same garage, with a scary unpacking job before me. I kept waiting for the familiar rumble of his truck, pulling into the driveway. Jason’s well timed disappearances, such as these, actively contributed to the imminent end of our 15 year relationship.
I shuttled between the garage and the house, ambling through rooms overstuffed with every imaginable symbol of upward mobility, while I struggled to push decorative objects into piles that made some sense. I cleaned, sorted and tagged items for at least two hours. By then my mind and body felt drained from the burden of trying to decide which was garbage and which was memorabilia.So I dragged a lawn chair from the pile of debris and I escaped to the brink of the lake behind my house. I stood there for a moment, and looked out at the houses across the lake, creaked open the lawn chair, took my shoes off, and sat down.
A cold front the night before delivered a hard driving rain, leaving behind crisp clear air — our first relief from the last three months of suffocating heat and humidity. This is how the Summer proceeds to Fall in Florida, usually in October, and usually overnight. One day you are pulling your shirt away from your sticky wet body and the next day you are digging in the attic for your sweaters. Jason and I had a special term for this event. We called it “The Day.” By the time August rolled around, we’d be saying things like “Do you want to make a money bet on when ‘The Day’ will come this year?” And, “When “The Day” comes, doesn’t it make you feel like you just got out of weather jail?”
I slouched into my lawn chair and sighed, so glad to get out of that stuffy garage. The air was chilly and breezy, but the sun was warm and drenched my surroundings in a light that seemed to bring out the best in even this, the most contrived of suburban settings. The air tasted clean; I took big long gulps of it, trying to put out the fire of sadness in my chest. The wind blew lightly across my face and snuck into my shirt, giving me a shiver. The coarse damp grass under my bare feet poked through my toes, and I could feel life teeming under my feet. I envisioned armies of ants, beetles and worms, making their way home from work.
As my body and mind comfortably sunk into my surroundings, I feasted on the hard evidence of nature’s triumph over this ‘planned community.’ This lake, originally a retention pond intended for runoff, was heaving with life. I listened to insects buzzing and snapping, and an occasional fish or two leaping out of the water and smacking down in a splash. A turtle’s nose appeared and disappeared every few minutes, breaking the surface of the water, then gently submerging again. A bright green tree frog was clinging to a branch of an oak tree that had rooted itself under water. Invisible critters were creating tiny disturbances right at the brink of the waterline, and submerged mollusks were sending little bubbles of oxygen floating from the murky bottom, making faint pop pop pop sounds erupting at the surface.
Even though this peaceful scene lay right before me, I couldn’t resist the mental image of the awaiting rubble in the garage. What had I been doing over the last four years? Instead of spending more time out here, I had been working too hard to acquire the objects that were now for sale in my garage.
I was just about to spring up and take my folding chair with me when I saw an object skimming along the surface of the lake. I squinted my eyes, wondering. A small shadowy critter was leaving a very impressive wake, ripples that aggressively ruffled the serene water. What animal that small could possibly be making that kind of disturbance in the water? My curiosity was aroused. I went into the house to get my binoculars.
I groped through boxes and bags for binoculars, annoyed by my re-emersion into the chaos of the house, and surprised at how frantic I felt. I was afraid my little friend would disappear in my absence. With the binoculars in hand, I raced back to my lawn chair and panned the lake. I spotted the creature and my jaw dropped open.
In the round frames of the binoculars was a bright green ficus leaf turned upside down on the surface of the water with it’s stem sticking up. A dragonfly was perched on the end of that stem, her multi-sectioned body a variety of iridescent colors beneath her clear lattice wings.
She balanced herself effortlessly, and seemed poised and self assured. She was motionless for a moment, and then, she abruptly started up her wings and hung onto the stem, using the leaf as a kind of surfboard, pushing it in front of her, and steering over the surface of the lake. She was a dragonfly on a jet ski.
I tightened my grip around the binoculars so that I could follow her twists and turns. She was just darting about as dragonflies do so well, only this one, a living engine of self propulsion. She didn’t appear to be going anywhere in particular. I don’t think she was searching for food, or trying to get home in the rush hour. She just seemed to be having fun with her new found invention. She sped around for a while, then stopped to check her surroundings, shifted her long sleek body in all directions, looked about with her gigantic eyes, then fired up her wings and zoomed off again.
The wind picked up, enough to stir branches, making the water chop, and gently blowing a few locks of my hair back. I began to feel revived and exhilarated, as though I’d crawled onto that leaf with her, letting her steer while I let the cool air wash over my body. The dragonfly became my captain, and together we pushed forward under our own power, exploring new territory and tasting the freshness of the new season.
I spied on her musings for a few more minutes and then felt done. I knew I wouldn’t come back to this place again. I took several long and deep breaths, drunk in
the simple beauty of the lake, said goodbye to the dragonfly, and put my shoes on.
Dragging the lawn chair behind me, I pictured myself dialing up the Salvation Army on the phone.
“I was going to have a garage sale tomorrow, but is there any way you can you come and pick up all this stuff this afternoon?”