After one day with low humidity (Wednesday), it’s back to being almost unbearably close & sticky. Even thinking seems too great an effort. Frustrated, I lean back in my chair & turn my head upside-down, gazing at the ceiling until floor & ceiling trade places. How clean & uncluttered the house suddenly appears!

Outside in my garden, a monarch glides in & lands on the butterfly weed, orange rhyming with orange. After a few minutes it lifts off & lands on the budleia’s purple torch. Stained glass wings sail rather than flutter. Thanks to its larval nursing on milkweed poisons, the monarch is able to save for transcontinental journeys the energy it would otherwise have to expend on chaos – the typical butterfly strategy for evading capture.

Up at my parents’ house, a red-spotted purple clings to the kitchen screen door handle, dusting the knob for thumbprints. Its wings are tattered & faded, with three large holes torn out of the bottom edges. I picture the phoebe diving for the dark abdomen & coming up with a beak full of dry leaves. Close, but no cigar.

I’m peeling my first ripe peach of the season. The stem gone, I can see into the center where the halves of the pit have pulled apart. I hold it up to the light. It glows like the sun’s own chapel, golden yellow. But as I cut the flesh away, a mound of mold appears in each hemisphere of the pit, in size & color identical to the clumps of dust that gather in the backs of closets & under the bed.

As I walk back down to the other house, I think: closeness is something that alternately attracts and repels. Here the cockleburs, there the tear-thumb; here beggar ticks, there raspberry canes. I duck my head to dodge a wasp, swipe ineffectually at a mosquito.

Back at my writing table, I stare at the ceiling some more. This is like doing the back stroke – the only style of swimming I enjoy. Once or twice each summer it’s fun to go to some little lake in the mountains & bare my fishbelly-pale skin to the too-close sun, ears under the waterline, kicking & sculling just enough to stay afloat. It’s so quiet under the water. And the sky looks more & more like another, fully inhabitable world, so clean & uncluttered.

The peach was delicious.

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