Sacred Spaces

“I could offer you a warm embrace”

We set the air conditioning in our house at 80 degrees during the summer, and even then it’s too cold for me. Since our equipment is almost 20 years old and wasn’t high quality to start with, we have an elaborate system of shutting the vents in the rooms where I do most of my work and allowing the coldest air to funnel into and fill up the bedroom my husband is using as his office. Maybe it has something to do with my growing up in Alaska where the below-zero outside air temperatures in the winter and violent wind speeds often posed an existential threat to my scrawny self without an adequate coat, but I won’t ever grow tired of stepping from a frigid interior space outside, into an Austin world that is much warmer and more humid. That contrast—a months-long experience here in Central Texas—always gives me a thrill of delight. There may or may not have been a few times I have stepped back inside and out again, just to revel in the glory of it. Last week here, the heat index was about 104; yesterday, it rose to 109. As often as time allows (and at least four times a week), I soak up the heat of summer by walking a route that’s 4.6 miles round trip; I hardly ever see other people, unless they’re one of the few passing in a car or on a bike. The sidewalk is on a rise, open to the wind, the sky, and the sunshine, and traveling it always lifts my heart and centers my spirit. A week ago, I set out for my walk from the dry coolness of the house and was immediately enveloped by an almost steamy heat; the words of the Bob Dylan song came to me: “I could offer you a warm embrace, to make you feel my love.” Saturated with gratitude and an overwhelming sense of benevolence, I continued, noting dark clouds gathering and rolling along a line from the north and cars driving toward me with wet windshields, headlights on. Sensing that I couldn’t cover my usual route ahead of the weather’s speed, I turned around at the halfway point, and arrived on the front steps of our home just as the furious gusts of wind that are at the leading edge of a storm front hit. Two minutes later, southern rain poured down, with the thunder and the volume of the water sounding similar to a squall earlier this season. Perfect walk. Perfect timing. Perfect moment.