COMING TO MY SENSES
There is a scene in my second novel, FROM SILT AND ASHES, where Yussel Gitterman tells his grandchildren that the Almighty is merciful. His fifteen-year-old grandson, who has survived the violence in Eastern Europe, lashes out. “When we light candles for the dead, it will start a bonfire. How can you call that God’s mercy?”
Yussel, who is blind, answers by pressing his hand over Lev’s eyes. He then challenges the boy to see his surroundings with his ears, nose and skin.
“Tell me what you hear, Lev.”
“I hear Bayla and Evie’s giggles.”
For a moment Lev stood still, bit his lip and cocked his head. “Kreplakh’s (dog) snoring under the sofa. Tikvah’s (infant) bawling.”
“Good, Lev. Now what do you smell?”
“What do I smell?” Lev’s voice scaled up an octave with each word.
“You have a nose?”
“And it works?”
“All right. All right. I smell…mm…sponge cake and apple pie. Coffee. Aunt Cate’s lavender perfume and Uncle Wolf’s nasty cigar.”
“You see, Lev, not all smells are pleasant. Not all sounds are sweet. But…we are alive. That, my son, is God’s mercy.”
For the past couple of weeks, the weather in our area has been, to say the least, wet and gloomy. Although the rain is much needed, day after day of grey skies has had me digging holes in my outlook.
Inspired by my friend, Valerie Davies’ blog https://valeriedavies.com/2017/03/26/simple-pleasures-they-may-not-be-what-you-think/ and thinking about my book’s passage, which is one of my favorites, I’ve decided to take Yussel’s challenge.
I exercise at least five days a week—sometimes less, sometimes more. More often than not, depending on the weather, I walk to the fitness center, a little over a mile away. This way I am able to do both weight bearing and aerobic exercise.
To some, swimming laps might seem like the penultimate boredom. Not to this Spanish Dancer. The gurgle and swish of the waves is music. I note the difference in watery tones as I vary my strokes and the way the water billows when I exhale. As I flip-turn like an Olympic swimmer to change directions, I’m weightless, buoyed by the current. Unlike an Olympic swimmer embroiled in a race, I take my time when I somersault and enjoy the patterns the ripples make. As I suspend for a few seconds I note the way the water blossoms overhead.
Once showered and dressed, I’m ready for my mile trek home.
Spring is upon us and splashes of color are everywhere—bright yellow Daffodils and Dandelions—Redbuds and Dogwoods, stunning against a Payne’s grey sky. I fill my eyes with them.
The scent of charcoal from someone’s fire the night before hangs on the breeze. Exhaust fumes and a hint of cigarette smoke taint the rain and grass scented air. I wrinkle my nose. “Not all smells are pleasant.” As I near home I breathe in the scent of hyacinths from a neighbor’s garden.
Crossing a bridge I, listen to the voice of the water as it flows over rocks. Although I don’t know one bird’s call from another, I can tell that there are several different species singing their arias. Robins, geese, crows and owls are among the few I recognize. A lawnmower starts up in the distance. A rooster crows. Two dogs bark as I pass their turf. A chainsaw grinds and a rake scrapes the sidewalk. “Not all sounds are sweet.”
I am happy to be alive.