delicious air

by bam

when it comes, comes rushing in on sound of leaves quaking with unbridled twitterpation, shaking with the shimmy that is the north wind dance, it is pure hallelujah.
you go to bed at night, hot, sticky, like one buttery popcorn kernel to another. you go to bed, if you are my boys, half naked, as little cloth against the skin as you can get away with without your mother clucking tongue and rolling eyeballs. you go to sleep upside down, head down where feet most often are, because you have turned your self around, positioning as if on military mission, to get the most possible breeze on a night when the air is not moving, is saturating, is maybe one dew point away from pure precipitation.
you finally fall asleep because the molten air just makes you throw up your hands and surrender. so you surrender to your sweaty dreams.
but then, some unmarked moment in the night, the rushing comes. the hot still soup that is the air is stirred. cool winds blow in. as if a cube of ice was plunked into the bowl of too-hot soup, before you burned your tongue. just before you choked on your own hot breathing.
it is the holy blessed cold front. it is delicious air.
air and delicious have sat side-by-side in my vocabulary since i was just a wee little girl, and my mother would lift her arms, and her blouse would flutter–finally–and she would proclaim the air, “delicious!”
and so i learned. air, like biscuits and fudge and buttercream frosting on your birthday, can be delicious.
it might just be a phenomenon particular to these parts, here along the western shore of lake michigan, that great good lake, down close enough to where it turns and heads back up to the fruit side of the lake, over there in michigan, the place for which it’s named.
it might just be that here, nestled all around chicago, the city that loves its lake, the winds blow long and easy over all those miles of icy water and by the time they come to my house, by the time they swoop in unannounced through the screens, well, heck, it’s as if the winds had taken a cool bath. and, generous after all their travels, they share what they’ve acquired, they share the cold-lake souvenir.
they swirl and twirl and fill our rooms, our every pore, with what can only be winds worthy of rejoicing.
God bless the wind. God bless the puffy cheeks that blow the wind from up where cool is king, that knock the southern winds back from whence they came, where they can spend the summer baking cotton fields and making huckleberries ripen on the vine.
thank God for delectable delicious might-i-have-another-helping air.
growing up–and still–my mother, who studies clouds and reads the signals of the tree leaves, would announce, as if the house were catching fire, “cold front! get the windows.” which was clue to us, us who had been schooled at the foot of a cold-front watcher, to race around to every blessed window on the north side of the house, and usher in the almighty refrigerated winds that would finally break the heat that had us grumpy, maybe, and wishing we could perhaps strip off our skin. if that would cool us even one degree.
now, you might by now be shaking your tousled head. you might be saying, fools, why not crank the air conditioner?
well, for the most part, we were raised to think that all such artificial coolants were for the birds. or the weak. we toughed it out, with fans and windows letting in or keeping out the air that had been handed to us. as if God was up there shuffling the weather deck, and we got the ace of hearts, or a lowly two of clubs. and then we did what needed to be done until the shout went out, “cold front! get the windows.”
i’d have to say, in my blessed mother’s defense, it is not such a bad thing–it might even be a fine thing–to grow up paying attention to the wind. to grow up understanding that the air comes in flavors, and one of them, at least, is called delicious.
it is as if the wind, and the air that fills your lungs, is there quite boldly to remind you that just when you think you are at the end of your hot sweaty slithery rope, something mighty might be stirred, might come rushing in.
and in a flash, a flash that has no blinking lights, no blaring siren, but simply a sound like water over rocks, a quivering of the white underbelly of the leaves, you are delivered. from hot to cool. from barely breathing to sweetly taking in the lung perfume.
once again, the world reminds us, there is hope, and it’s coming in off the lake. crack the windows. crank the fans. it is ours to suck right in, into our rooms, our lungs, our soul.
the air’s delicious, and it always comes.

is there anywhere else out there where, without much notice, the winds can change, the hot-baked air can stir and suddenly you find yourself standing in an air bath? anyone else keep the windows cracked, even on the hottest nights, in hopes that while you sleep the wind gods will blow your way, and you’ll wake up needing to wrap yourself in at least a sheet, if not a blanket, like both my boys seem to have done during the sweetness of last night?

p.s. happy blessed birthday sweet andrea, a soulmate i bumped into on a cold and windy corner, and knew right away, would be a friend for life. how lonely would it be without another old mother down the block? although of course, to me, you are a young’n’. you’ll always be.