No air is sweet that is silent; it is only sweet when full of low currents of under sound—triplets of birds, and murmur and chirp of insects, and deep-toned words of men, and wayward trebles of childhood.
— John Ruskin, Unto This Last (1862).
I’ve had the flu, perhaps even the swine flu. Felt more like a goat than a pig, braying and hacking. And the sound effects don’t stop with coughing. On each inhale, I made a noise like a rusty metal door hinge, and upon each exhale my lungs crackled like cellophane. Yesterday, I spent the day in my recliner, next to the strategically placed vaporizer, sipping that nasty licorice-tasting tea to sooth my throat and watching a marathon of Bridezilla on basic cable.
There is simply nothing like watching Americans behaving badly to each other to sooth a fevered sick mind. Somehow, watching spoiled narcissistic trailer trash with their French-manicured acrylic claws and those knife-thin eyebrows that look like you drew them on with a Sharpie made me feel smug and superior, which was at least some comfort in my time of sickness. Which teaches us, children, that no matter how bad we are, we can take comfort in realizing that there is probably somebody else out there somewhere who is worse.
Watching with me, Tech Support Guy theorized that perhaps it’s only the fat chicks who manage to look so small-minded and so badly raised. Unfortunately, I couldn’t agree with his fat chick theory. I explained that when you have reality TV, you have reality-shaped women. Alas! It came as a complete surprise to him that there are so many fat people out there in America.
My favorite remembered line was the one spoken by the bride-to-be as friends separated her from another drunken guest at her “bachelorette party” the night before the wedding: “Hey, you’re upsetting my rabbits!” who, sure enough, in their wire cages on the floor of the living room, appeared to be agitated by all the profanity-laced hair-pulling goings-on before order was finally restored and the gals made up over Marlboros and Bud Lites.
Meanwhile, while I’ve been hacking up a lung indoors, the weather outside has been amazing, even for paradise. Imagine if you got a weather menu each evening and selected the weather for the following day. Sunny, with temperatures in the mid 70f range, with puffy white clouds skidding around the sky and light breezes blowing the leaves around like they were applauding the weather. And the smells. Unlike a hot dry summer in the desert, there has been marine moisture in the air. I had simply forgotten about how good growing things smell, and how all it takes is a bit of humidity to make those smells of fresh life fill the air. Eucalyptus trees with their menthol always in the background, the foliage of a tomato plant, with its smell that somehow encapsulates every childhood garden memory, the fennel seeds smelling like Italian sausage. Even the mint underfoot everywhere in back smelled somehow fresher and more grateful this morning than I recall.
Although it’s not like I was on my deathbed or anything, I feel that magical second-chance feeling an invalid gets upon returning to the world of the living. The birds are singing sweeter, the air is smelling fresher, the sunshine is glowing softer, and my metaphorical rabbits are all calm and snuggly in their cages.