It’s not summer, but it might as well be. The days are oven-warm, green and damp and choked with leaves. The magnolia grandiflora are in bloom—giant evergreens that explode with foot-wide flowers and dwarf the other trees.
Soon we will have been here for eleven months. Here feels a lot like home: four walls holding steady when so much else has changed. I quit my job. I sold my mother’s car for scrap and bought a used, blue ford with bluetooth and a fancy radio. We’ve hung pictures, driven nails into the walls, and filled the pantry drawer with staple grains. We’ve strung a paper lantern with a solar bulb out front. Magnolia the miracle dog is now a few weeks into her new regime of isolation (on trainer’s orders)—blinds drawn, other dogs avoided, fed kibble-by-kibble until she acclimates to calm. Were it not for the robustness of this life, the sweet dirt smell of growing season, new friends, and rosé on the porch, I would almost join her in it.
But a man has gone to jail. A man who loved my mother. A man my mother loved. Two weeks ago, I stood in the Palm Beach County courtroom and voiced every angry thought I’ve had the chance to crystallize. He stood there in his suit, beside his snake attorney, and he listened. When it was his turn to speak, he told the court that he expected neither mercy nor forgiveness. I promised both. And when they led him off to serve his sentence, I cried for him as much as for my mother or myself.
That afternoon, the Florida family met for cocktails on the dock. Her dock. A place I never thought I’d see again, but now cannot imagine leaving very far behind. The water was that perfect tropic teal, the sun mild, the twilight long. There, if anywhere, I realized the gift it is to be outside, alive and at the water’s edge. In the evening ocean wind, salty with the smell of boats and fish. How easy it was to feel her there.
Here we are in the season of bright sunlight and open meadows, barbecues and biting bugs. As much as I would like to hide here where it’s shadowy and cool, I am determined not to shrink inside. I will save my darkness for the page, for the quiet hours at the desk in highest heat. I will open up my lungs to humid morning, cricket evening, and the wide glare of this summer. And I will write letters to the man in jail. Because he’ll need them in his isolation, in his silent summer.
Whether the dog or I will ever overcome our demons is a matter for another season. The leaves and vines and spider webs and heat encroach. Today, she sleeps; I write. We walk. It can be that simple.