summer redolence

Words and photo by Alice Zheng, Columnist
(550 words)

In the height of summer, the air is warm and redolent with memories of the past. The sun rains down the energy of fire upon the world. Everything is crisp, bright, sometimes dry, and always full of light. The heat makes me feel closer to all the feels. Years upon years of it pressed against each other like layers of sediment.

All those old selves are now long dead and gone. Yet bits and pieces remain, occasionally sparkling in the sun. I have but to reach out to take a core sample.

Swaying on the water, white sail flapping in the wind, oars dipped in blue.

Walking the uneven cobblestones of some old European town. Wrapped in a traveling cloak of dust and thirst and wonder.

Sweating in a stifling, airless house. Praying for wind and a hint of coolness. Splashing water on the face and neck for the tenth time in an hour. Feeling hot again as soon as the water stops running.

Heart racing, skin lit up under a dim light.

Beer in hand, waiting for a free concert in the park, standing next to a boy I barely knew.

The sound of ocean waves, smell of salt and sand and campfire.

The bottomless pit of loneliness.

Lying in the park, open bright air, bees and butterflies and dandelions, staring into the brown eyes of a lover for what we both knew to be the last time.

Wandering alone in an empty house, half drunk, wondering if I'll ever feel happy again.

Walking through the long valley of shadow, dying of heartache.

Endless, sleepless nights. Till the first rays of an unwelcome sun pierces through the curtains to find red puffy dry eyes unwilling to face another day.

Long hours of meditation in a small room, the sweetest ecstasy and the hottest burning fire of the inner world.

Sitting on a hard chair as close to the fan as possible, in as little clothes as possible, typing away into a computer.

Pool tables and pinball machines and the hands and shoulders of my love in a dive bar.

Even earlier, young girl, big city, summer internship. Dancing under the fading light. Grassy lawns and museums. Wine and art and loud music. The freedom and anonymity of the metropolis.

Walking home alone at midnight, tears streaming down my face, young heart torn apart not by love but by need, a fact I would not understand until much much later.

Sitting in the backseat of a taxi, window open, wind brushing against my face, driving across empty city streets, bowled over with the smell of nostalgia in a home long lost.

First love, all the confusion and surprise and delight and drunken joy.

Down and out, exiled in a new country. Buried in piles of novels to escape the reality of fear and unease and shame.

And my first, most favorite memory of childhood: lying on a small bed underneath the window, a thunderstorm outside. Cool wind blowing through the soft curtain, silky threads of rain falling on my arm. Falling asleep but not. Straining to decipher the murmur from the room next door, between my older sister and her best friend. The tantalizing mysteries of growing up. The refreshing night wind. The newness of the world. Innocence. This is summer.

Alice Zheng is an author, photographer, meditation practitioner, and senior research science manager at a large e-commerce and cloud computing company in Seattle. She is a recovering perfectionist and over-achiever. Her life's mission is to be a bridge: between science and spirituality, between technology and business, between the inner and outer worlds. Alice shares glimpses of her quest for more beauty and ease as a regular contributing columnist for Lucia.