The most important lessons he taught were in those moments when he was absolutely silent, the smile across his face shouting across the background din of everyday life, his eyes wide with a sort of childish awe that I had long since given up as adolescent.
The child sees everything for the first time regardless how many times she has gazed at what we adults are certain is the same scene, a pure iteration, hears each call of the cardinal as a never-before-heard song, not the now boring chorus of a too long repeated lyric, its melody now painful.
His lessons too easily slipped away, as he did a few years later, mourning a poor substitute for memories that eased into the damp ground with him, but the smile of my granddaughter at seemingly everything and nothing, her laughter at the squirrel inverted from the crook arm of the bird feeder defying the shield below to stop his constant thefts, the giggles at the clouds filling the sky with characters I could not hope to see, brought him back, and with him the joys of my childhood long suppressed.
I want the sky to be that certain crimson tinged with burnt sienna and cinnabar, but today winter is holding sway and the sun sneaks off behind the gray wall from which it only peeked, and left the day one of grayscale where intensity replaced beauty and even the cardinal opted to stay high in the spruce, offering only an occasional glint of red. We come to expect this, it is a season of colorlessness, and the only question is whether we can hold out until spring returns the full pallette and nature takes up brush again.
She wants to know why the oriole we sometimes see in the park never visits our backyard feeder. I remind her that she isn’t usually here, only visits occasionally, but she says that I would have told her if I saw one. She says I got excited when I saw the one in the park during our walk. She is right, of course, I would have told her but all I see at the feeders are finches of several sorts, doves and wrens, and when he wants particularly to be seen as he often does, one cardinal who is far less interested in the seed than in having a perch in plain sight, and when he knows were watching, upthrusts his fiery crest and spreads his wings. I tell her cardinals are such show offs. She is seven, laughs and says yes they are, just like grandfathers, don’t you think.
This morning, as I do most mornings, I took my paints and painted the sky blue. Today for some reason, I opted for Cornflower, it seemed to fit my mood and the neighbors cat, after considering it for a few moments seemed to agree with my choice, though she suggested tomorrow might be better served by either Carolina Blue or Iceberg, but if I don’t sleep all that well tonight, I suspect I will just go with Cool Gray. The Cardinal says anything darker than Dark Pastel blues is unacceptable since it takes away from his beauty, but that vanity aside, it takes too long to sweep aside the clouds to do the second coat the brighter blues all demand.
Tomorrow, in all likelihood, the park will still be there, we will still be walking there, the Austrian Pines will still stare down at us on the path, and the cardinal will flash by, his cry for attention in a red blaze. Tomorrow all this will likely happen as it did yesterday and last week, and yet nothing will be the same, nothing, nothing at all.