The Pebble

The sun had teased me from my bed. I slipped on sandals, and with my wife still gently snoring, slipped out of our trailer into a Renaissance Sunday morning.

It is too early for most of my neighbors to be up and about. They are still still warm in their beds, not ready yet to begin drifting slowly toward this morning's sunlight. They are missing something, this day. The sky is painfully clear, the air is sweet, the bird song is welcoming me to join the world, be part of it, live.

I have joined. I am on our deck, nude save for my sandals, and every inch of my body is soaking up this marvelous day, drawing it in, making it mine. You cannot draw a day into yourself with clothes in the way. You cannot stretch your arms to the sky and summon the day to envelope you. I reach into the sky, straining upward, eyes closed for just a moment to help me find the center, the heart of this day, and I find it, and it flows all over my naked body. I am not a religious man, no gods chatter in my private world, but this is a religious experience, alone, nude on my deck at the opening of a Renaissance Sunday morning.

But I am not alone. I suddenly have a companion, a small bird that has landed on the railing of our deck. He moves with little starts, like an ancient silent movie. Two steps toward the large naked human. Stop. Cock the head. Has the human moved? Why is it so pink?

We contemplate each other. I think of his brain, which cannot be larger than the tip of my smallest finger. Is there joy within those few hundred thousand cells? Wonder? Any kind of thought or emotion? Our eyes seem to meet. Are we sharing this morning? I decide that we are, and tell him so, very softly. He has no apparent reaction.

Our trailer is not on level ground. There is no level ground at Renaissance; some trailers have an end jacked up so precariously high that you have to fear for the inhabitants. This is a mountain, and we are adjusting to it, not the other way around.

Our deck starts off at ground level, but at it's other end is raised up perhaps a foot or a little more. This is nothing; by Renaissance standards, we are flat level. But it does mean that our deck has a high end and a low end.

The bird has now moved toward the high end, making his way along the railing, stopping now and then to peer down into the flower boxes. I think I can move forward without frightening him, and I do so.

There is a pebble on the railing where the bird has just moved away from. I can see it now that I am closer. I pick it up, and examine it. An ordinary pebble, worn smooth by how many million years of rain and wind. Varicolored, a composite of different materials that I cannot identify.

How does a pebble get on to my railing? The tides of Renaissance have brought it there.

People walk about here. On the way to lunch, or a swim, or to visit friends, they flow by our deck, nod or wave, and often stop to chat, to invite us to some party somewhere, to tell a joke, to just say hi. Sometimes they step up onto the deck and sit, sip a beer, eat some snacks, but more often they stand outside, leaning on the railing. It's a good place to set a drink, a good place to draw imaginary pictures with earnest fingers.

Sometime yesterday, someone standing there placed this pebble on my railing. It was probably not a conscious thought: while making some point to my attentive ears, perhaps their eyes fell upon this at their feet, and some subconscious impulse caused them to bend and pick it up, toy with it in their fingers, and then absently place it down where I would find it now.

I rub it between my fingers. Smooth rock becomes smoother as the oils and dead skin of my fingers join with microscopic irregularities and fill them in. This is not one way; small pieces of the pebbles surface will also coat my skin, too small for me to see even as a stain, but if I smell my fingers, something new will be there. It is an exchange, this Sunday morning. The pebble and I exchange our molecules, become part of one another. At least until I wash my hands and the rains wash my scent from the pebble.

Across the field, I see Breakfast Bob is up, and outside setting up chairs and cleaning his grille. In a few hours a few dozen of us will meet there for pot luck breakfast. My stomach reminds me that this will be appreciated.

It could have been Bob that placed this pebble here. A dog could probably sniff at it and know the facts. I bring the pebble to my nose as though some ancient part of my brain will identify who held this stone before I have, and send my conscious mind some hunch or intuition.

I laugh at myself, and stepping to my left, toss the pebble into the woods. I hear it settle into the leaves, hidden from human eyes. It could have lain on this mountain for a million years before someone elevated it to the railing of my deck. It may lie still under an ever thickening blanket of leaves and soil for yet another million. Will any of me be held in microscopic crevasses? The oils and skin will break down into simpler forms, I think, but will I still be here on this mountain on another warm summer day in an unimaginable future?

Oh, but today is enough. The pebble may have seen the passing of dinosaurs, and will surely see the passing of me, but I have this day. More people are starting to stir. There is Jack, standing in the doorway of his trailer. He shakes his head at me, conveying a wry question as to why two fools like us are up so early. Breakfast Bob is banging something. No doubt this will drag more sleepy heads into the heady air of this perfect Renaissance morning.

I decide to go wake my wife. She needs to be part of this day.

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