I open my study window to a blessed breeze and birdsong. The ferns scorched by heat and drought whisper a rasping refrain.

Memories of open windows waft in with faithful, faultless voices of robins, redwing blackbirds, mourning doves, and numerous winged creatures I cannot identify.

I sense the health and comfort of this place–welcome the compelling scent that summoned John Muir and other naturalists into the wilderness.

After hours spent before a computer screen, I’d rather tie my walking shoes and talk with trees along my country roads. However, memories linger, insist I stand and listen to Nature’s music–inhale her fragrance.

I see myself a child in first grade, circa 1955, lost in a maze of halls in my new, huge school in Detroit. On the verge of tears, I chance a glance into a large, sunny classroom. A wide beam of sunlight slants through a tall glass and shines upon a student’s black hair. Isn’t that my sister Linda? Why is she sleeping in that room?

Linda and her classmates nap on separate reclining wooden chairs. Unlike my room, her class is large with windows almost up to the ceiling. Although it seems strange to see the students sleeping rather than writing at their desks, I feel a little jealous.

The room smells fresh and clean, and quiet enough to hear a pin drop, as Mom would say. She knew a lot about pins because she sewed our clothes and hers.

After school, I ask Mom if Linda slept in a classroom with many bright, open windows stacked on top of each other.

“Yes. It’s a special class for children with sicknesses.”

“Is Linda sick?”

“Yes, with asthma. The fresh air and sunlight help her breathe better,” Mom says.

“Sick children need to rest during school?”

Mom smiles. “Sometimes.”

I wish all classrooms were like Linda’s. Doesn’t every child need fresh air and a bright place to learn?

But I don’t care about naps. I’d rather run outside at recess and feel the breeze in my sweaty hair as I did in the backseat of my father’s Chrysler with my face out the window. I’d close my eyes and taste the air–pass miles and miles on long summer drives from Michigan to Kentucky.

Until Mom spied me in her review mirror. She declared I’d fall overboard.

I hear the ferns rustling and remember my mother in her declining season when I shared her care with my older sister.

Mom sits in the recliner by the front window in our living room and watches the days go by. When I lift the frame, she hears the robins sing.

“Just listen to that pretty bird,” she says.

Dear Reader, I pray to find myself in my declining years sitting
in the same recliner by the same open window. I’ll listen to the pretty bird.

And in July’s blessed breeze, I’ll recall when I lapped the air like a dog in the backseat of my father’s Chrysler.

Contact Iris at irisleeu@sbcglobal.net.

Editor’s note: Iris’s writing and farm life was the featured guest in a Make Meaning podcast. It can be accessed at https://makemeaning.org/podcast/episode-80-iris-lee-underwood.