Janet Belding

Dissecting the Atmosphere

The kitchen windows are milky and slightly askew.  Dead mayflies hang off the pocked screen.  I never seem to have the energy for plucking wings out of torn mesh or scrubbing aging glass. Pointless really, when the view is that of the house next door.  Blurry clapboard is always better than the clarity of algae stains and a kinked hose tethered to a spigot. Behind me, the worn darkness of the early evening.  The shadowed furniture is antique but not valuable.  Heavy glass cabinets and knickknacks belonging to the dead come with their own antique dust.  Yet there are no ghosts peering out from anywhere in the house.  The mirrors waver with the lack of pallid faces.  Standing at the sink, I feel the dank air through the jut of the windows.

The day started, as from the first day, with the sunrise. Today, specifically, began clear with an edge of haze, the air becoming heavy as the day wore on.  Before the clouds even materialize, I feel the thunder as intimate as if it were a rime of dirt under my fingernails. Here the storms roll up over the mountains. The ridges intensify the temperature exchange between rock bearing cool air, cloud cover. And the heat rising up from the valleys.  There has always been mystery when the sound and light would arrive and fade and arrive.  At night and stealthy, rolling in from the west, gathering energy.

If my cellphone were charged, I could watch the weather blow up on radar, but I’m here without power since the last storm came through the TV and fried the wiring.  I am now living off the grid.  The imminent threat of a super cell goes largely unheralded.  The rotary phone on the counter doesn’t ring; the fire whistle downtown stays silent. I hear the torrents sliding off the glass. Rain mists through the screen and the cracks and the flashes turn the street into a brief X-ray. I go upstairs to my childhood bedroom where the view is much clearer.  For the lady next door, all weather is transactional. Some aspects are more terrifying than others. She hides in her bathroom, puts a red votive candle in the window, as if petitioning Thor, more likely a prayer to a saint or to Jesus himself.  Honestly, for me, that candle is more unsettling than the storm.

Tomorrow, as the water still gurgles into the sidewalk drain, I will pack my things into a few boxes, call the estate people and a realtor and leave my number and a key.  This is progression, not crescendo.

Janet Belding

Janet Belding grew up in Vermont, where she was not a snow lover. She moved to Cape Cod in 1979. She finds the atmosphere here inspiring, even as traffic has increased over the years. She enjoys hiking in the woods, gardening, and reading. She has been published in The Field Guide, Poetry Magazine and “Sky Island Journal.

  • Dissecting the Atmosphere