I was convinced nothing could be more sacred than the summers of my Brooklyn childhood — when thick, green, winter tights, layered under Catholic school uniforms, gave way to hot-pink jellies, culottes and neon, New Kids T-shirts. We ran wild and free. We hopped fences, sat on stoops, took trains into the city, whiling hours away inside the skeletons of dinosaurs at the Museum of Natural History. We screamed with delight when the forceful sting of frigid water burst from the fire hydrant, soaking us to the bone. Near Coney Island's Boardwalk, we swam, built sand castles and collapsed from exhaustion onto the shores of the Atlantic.
As New Yorkers, we worshipped at the altar of the foreign. I was educated on the world's culture through delicacies. Every neighborhood had its savory dim sum joint and bagel shop where dough was pressed, boiled, then slathered. Bodegas lined every corner. Walking into an Italian bakery was like a religious experience, as doors swung open, moments stilled and eyes instinctively closed to accommodate a massive inhale. Halal and Jewish street vendors sold kebabs, knishes and kosher hot dogs piled with sauerkraut. And on each of those streets, people, of all hues, religions, orientations, abilities and ways of being in the world, populated — a city alive, pulsating a pure energy fueled by the symbiotic heartbeats of multitudes.
Shall anything ever compare to such a summer's day?
I was skeptical when upon moving to Spokane, Northwesterners displayed a similar reverence for the natural world, a fervent conviction of its near perfection. In my initial effort to assimilate and please, I spent time outdoors, hoping for some transfiguration, but I struggled to internalize the connection so innate for many. Thankfully, Mother Nature possesses a supply of patience far outpacing any human intolerance. She perseveres. Waiting until I steadied, she bid her time, unfolding in due course and languid fashion. It's taken eight years for the development of a newfound comprehension, to gain a foothold of understanding that knowledge simply acquired, but not earned, fails to resonate within. Nature's revelations of beauty only unveiled when I made the decision to come of my own accord, unmotivated by others, wholly grounded in myself. Only then was I blessed with the true gift of sight — an ability to behold all that my eyes had looked upon but not seen.
Like countless aerodynamic marvels — scores of sunny, yellow butterflies flitting mid-dance upon the air, iridescent swarms, wings flecked with bodies of teal blues and greens, on lithe dragonflies darting about and death-defying spirals of hummingbirds at play. Smells beyond description, like tree bark bathed in sunlight. The warm, smokey, sweet, woody, indescribable aroma of the earth — an ancient mixing of age-old dirt and rain recycled from the waters of time — combining to create a scent that feels heavy enough to embrace. Color loud enough to astound, like blazing peaches, pinks and purples, the warm pastels that paint evening skies, and the jagged line where stark blue, bespeckled by tufts of white, meet and kiss evergreen pines.
These ethereal summers, though markedly different from those of my youth, create indistinguishable awe. Though I can scarcely help but wonder who I might have been had I grown up here among these rivers, trees and berries, nature calms me, a personification of the patience I need to be at peace with things unresolved. To everything there is a season and time to every purpose under heaven. I now rejoice in the present, in the world that sustains such a rich diversity of experiences for the lives of all her earthly inhabitants. ♦
Inga N. Laurent is a local legal educator and a Fulbright scholar. She is deeply curious about the world and its constructs and delights in uncovering common points of connection that unite our shared but unique human experiences.