Units of measure

Units of measure

Currently the wind is buffeting and whistling around my house, making sounds you would think were unrealistically produced by a special effects department if you heard them in a movie. Rushes and puffs, sustained thin sounds, drawn-out breaths that slowly crescendo, howls, stuttering shhhh-shhhh-shhhhs, weird gusts that can only be described as swirls.

I am sitting in my teensy home office on the second floor. It has two windows, one of which looks out over the small roof peak that is centered over a deep front porch. The space is perfectly positioned to amplify that howling-around-the-eaves quality: it juts out from the main body of the house over the porch, an architectural choice that produces an overabundance of proximate corners around which the wind can whistle. My desk is tucked under that front window, with a view into the middle third of a maple tree — a ringside seat for the antics of squirrels who chase each other over the porch roof. And the incredible orchid in the picture here sits on the corner of that desk. It has chosen this week to begin re-blooming. That very flower was still a bud yesterday morning, and its opening feels like a gift.

Lest you assume the word “teensy” is an exaggeration: this office has a curtain rather than a door because a door opening into it would mean there was no room for a comfy reading chair. The whole is a small, square, blue, light-filled space, exactly one-tiny-radiator-plus-one-side-table wider than the desk.

Writing that last sentence has abruptly reminded me of a day when my son, then about four, carefully studied his feet as he walked down the stairs. He walked more and more slowly, staring at them, and then finally stopped entirely, about three stairs from the bottom and said conclusively, “my feet are one mouse sideways smaller than the steps.” I don’t think I said anything (I don’t really remember; it was a long time ago), but I’m sure my face registered confusion. He looked helpfully up at me, and then tucked his feet firmly against the riser to show me that his toes didn’t reach the edge of the step. Then he measured his slightly-cupped hands just a few inches apart. “One mouse,” he said, as if he were holding the fragile thing, and then he turned them from vertical to horizontal as he added, “sideways.” Indeed, his feet were almost exactly that much shorter than the steps were wide.

Anyway, I wanted to write this morning about this incredible orchid, and its new pal which I retrieved from my campus office earlier in the week, when I made a trip to get all the things that I might need for teaching for the rest of the term. Our house faces south, and the orchids love those windows. Nearly all of them have re-bloomed, some more than once — but the one on my desk is the champion, growing leaves and adding roots, in a frenzy of happiness. I am hoping that this window will resuscitate the other-office orchid, which has always looked slightly wilty. I am hoping that working for the foreseeable future at a desk under a window that is framed by a pair of orchids will feel hopeful.

I am hoping that the sunshine, and the flower that promises many more blooms, and the prospect of my outdoor garden waking up, and the view of a streetscape in which neighbors chat — six feet apart — on the street corner despite the buffeting wind will feel sustaining. I am hoping that I will keep remembering there are other units of measure than hours or stock prices or infection rates. Units like percentages of orchid buds that open on any given day. Units like types of wind. Units like mice sideways.

I am hoping.

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One thought on “Units of measure

  1. Love this. Made me cry, as always, though I think I might start measuring everything in “sideways mice”.

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