And through that opening....
I hear rain on the leaves of the bean-vines, soft, because most of the drops are blocked by the balcony above. Just some drift in, land on the leaves--I still have to water them in the morning. When the rain starts I wake to the sound and the cool, green rain-smell washes in from the window and over me. Sometimes I can hear frogs breeding in the little pool in the Bird's Garden behind the Mansion or the water-feature in the corner of the Formal Garden inside the white cedar square. Once I heard coyotes calling, a rising, multi-voiced sing-song out in the woods, and the sheep and goats and horses called back nervously and the dogs all started barking. The coyotes ignored them all and sang on.
Could I have hears any of these sounds at home? Well, not the horses, obviously, but the others? Maybe. But I wasn't listening. I tuned out sound when I slept, the hum of the fan or the air-conditioner, the sounds of traffic and my neighbors. I learned not to listen.
I biked into town today during lunch. I don't know why, but I was really craving a Coke. I hadn't had one in months, and I just really wanted one all of a sudden, so I biked in and got one, plus one of those stupid little muffin-thingies you get in convenience stores and a Snickers bar. That was all my lunch, since when I got back to campus it was time for class. And the Coke...it wasn't as good as I remembered. Come to think of it, I'm not even sure I really used to think Coke was all that good to begin with, though I drank a lot of it. I don't know why I was craving it. And then I had the stupid bottle to deal with. I'm not sure I'll bother getting any again.
My Dad's a serious grill-freak, and almost every weekend in the summer we used to have cook-outs, the whole time I was growing up. I learned how to grill a steak properly before I learned to boil an egg. It's like my whole childhood--being outside in the summer just smelled like cut grass and lighter-fluid. And this is the first time all summer this year I've smelled it. It's not that we don't have cook-outs--there's Philosopher's Stone Soup, of course, and there's usually somebody cooking dinner outdoors. It's that we don't use lighter-fluid because we don't use store-bought charcoal.
We don't use lawnmowers, either, though our neighbors do, so we do get that smell. But here the summer mostly smells like...animal dung. It's not gross--it doesn't smell like sewage or anything. It's just a sort of musty scent, not very strong, just sort of there. They use mobile electric fences--they're solar-powered--to move the grazing area around whenever they need to. When they run out of campus to graze I guess they leave the sheep and goats and horses in their paddocks and give them hay until the next time the grounds need to be mowed. They've been right around the Mansion the last few weeks, and before that they were between Chapel Hall and the Dinning Hall, so there's this faint smell sometimes. The chickens wander everywhere--there are two flocks, and each one gets to be completely free-range every other day, so if something does eat them we won't lose all our eggs at once. So add that to the list of sounds and smells--the crowing. It's not loud--I can sleep through it--but, again, it's there.
The summer has been pretty quiet, so far, not a lot of storms, but no serious drought, either. I've heard last summer and the summer before that were terrible for drought, and some of the crops failed. Sometimes I see flashes, or hear a rumble or two at night.
But today--I'd just gotten home from class and I was about to shower for dinner when one of the Ravens knocked on my door.
"Storm's coming," she said, and went on to the next door. We don't watch the weather reports here, but some people are really aware of the sky and can give a pretty good prediction a few hours in advance. I went out on my balcony and peered through the beans and I could see that the sky to the west was all dark. The bean leaves moved beside me, fluttering in the sudden, cooling breeze.
Obviously, I could not shower, but it wasn't my turn to prepare dinner, so I moved my chair to the balcony and watched and worked a bit on my homework.
And the sky just got darker and darker. After a few minutes it was like the sky exploded--pouring rain, lightening, wind. It was really something. And it just went on and on like that. I probably should have gone inside, but instead I looked out through the beans again and I could see the wind whipping the tops of the oaks and hickories and the locust grove we call the Enchanted Forest. My face was wet in a minute.
"That's one way to take a shower," said Raven behind me. I hadn't heard her knock. She had come back to my room. She'd come back to tell me that no one could get out to the Dining Hall to pick up the meal, and did I want to eat leftovers now, or wait until the storm was over so we could pick up fresh food?
"Oh, get out."
"I'd say an hour or three. It's a long storm."
"Leftovers sounds good to me. You know half of us will snack on leftovers anyway, if we decide to wait."
So, that's what we did. An advantage of being off the grid is that we never lose power in storms, but we decided to eat by candle-light anyway. It was nice.