The water-glass windows in the 100 year old homes that align my bike route contain almost imperceptible patterns of undulating waves, formed during their production in turn-of-the-century glass making plants. As I rode by, the beautiful imperfections refracted infiltrating light and sent out magical, miniscule rainbows when the early morning sun hit them at just the right angle. The Willamette River surprised me with a surface just as smooth and enchanting.
In fact, the entire morning was shrouded in mysteriousness. But it only dawned on me in increments. The first oddity was a new lightness in my bedroom at 6:30 AM, due to daylight savings time, no doubt, but also represented in a feeling of lightness in my body. My shoulders felt strangely normal, unlike the past two months of waking to swollen tightness and discomfort. My intestines were at peace – gone were the typical reactions to my daily prescription and poor digestion. My skin was warm as I lay there nakedly enjoying the feel of soft flannel sheets and the tawny heat emanating from my own personal heater, my husband. His smooth skin touched me at places – his arm thrown across my waist, his legs intertwined with mine – and connected me to something plain and visceral, yet representative of an emotional grounding that maybe had been missing in the past. I awoke feeling well-rested. I felt good. After two and a half years of a gradual build-up of the opposite, the sensation was disorienting.
I lay there in bed, slowly noticing and taking in the change. Another anomaly: although it was November, the house was warm. I was able to turn back the blankets and rise from my resting place without so much as a shiver. I didn’t hunch my shoulders against the chill air that would usually bite at the back of my neck this time of day, this time of year. I walked upright, leisurely, naked, to the bathroom. I didn’t even need slippers as I stepped onto its shiny tile floor.
The sense of otherworldliness continued as I easily dressed, ate breakfast, took my pills and gathered my things for the day. The family was on auto-pilot. There was not a hitch. Both daughters calmly took care of themselves, without bickering or fighting, getting out the door easily on time and in good cheer. The newspaper sat squarely on the door mat, greeting me with thankfully benign headlines. The neighbor cat who sleeps on our front porch accepted pets without biting. The yellow leaves from our Tree of Heaven floated down gently and rhythmically. The day glowed hesitantly grey, but promisingly.
I kissed my husband goodbye – his face was pleasantly smooth from a fresh shave. The absence of disagreements and negative interactions between us over the past few weeks seemed to culminate in the kiss as a new symbol of simplicity for our relationship. It was easy to kiss him, to be genuinely concerned for his recently hurt back, to wish him a good day and mean it. This day, suddenly, was a day without resentment or struggle between us. Goodwill and the simple courtesies of a life shared had, overnight, replaced less noble motivators of the past.
On my bike, the ride to work felt as though it was aided by an invisible hand. I glided along effortlessly, circling my legs in a rhythm that brought pleasure, not strain. The sky, while full of high heavy rainclouds, somehow also shone brightly, giving the day a luminosity like underwater fluorescent creatures that mysteriously glow in the deepest of reaches. The humble yet solid design of the neighborhood, with its 2-bedroom bungalows and small, unkempt yards, welcomed passers-by with its damp but genuine hospitality. Fifty-foot deciduous trees slowly bathed the streets, leaf by leaf, in hues of auburn and gold. The peacefulness permeated residents who stepped calmly through their morning rituals wearing raincoats, although it wasn't raining. Moms walked tussle-headed kids to the school bus stop; high school students crossed the street in ones and twos at the crosswalks; café patrons sipped their steaming paper cups of caffeine.
There was no wind. As I pedaled closer to the river, the stillness became clear. The silver surface of the water looked smeared on, like a finger painting done with oils. The texture was luscious instead of choppy, clean and beautiful like a young salmon, gliding and melding slowly with the surrounding colors, without sharp edge or frayed border. Car traffic was light. A quietness gently filled the space between buildings where typically engines clanked and droned. People along the way seemed relaxed. No one hurried. Even the bikers were less aggressive coming up the incline to the Hawthorne bridge.
The plethora of harmony awed me, yet disconcerted me. It was in the air and in the water, on the faces of the people I passed, and on my skin, in my bones. Why was today different than any other? I thought, “Today represents a new normal, a relaxing starting place for peaceful healing within me and around me. I have turned the corner and am getting well.” I also thought, “These signals are the quiet before the storm - harbingers of a raucous, tumultuous time to come.”
Today is November 6, 2012 – election day. I am curious to see if I was right.