Summer Begins

I hadn’t wanted to go. An evening out on a Tuesday? It would have been easier (always) to stay home, and I am a willing servant to the novel. It’s quiet work, and at this point it means stepping carefully and lifting heavy stones to gather soil underneath them, adjusting their alignment, standing back to gaze at the whole. My head and heart, it would seem, are bound to small acts like these. It’s best to have no interruptions.

And then there was Bill and the notion of the Passion Pit concert balanced perfectly in his open palm. Do you want to go? “We should go,” he said, and almost every thought that came was Why– when this in my mind is so demanding?

But if 23 years have taught me anything, it’s that Bill’s ideas are trustworthy. And so I found myself in the crowd at the amphitheater, home to four of the five Carolina HopeFests– also Bill’s idea. I was surprised by the pleasure of this familiar ground: the damp and vibrant smell of the lawn, the way the sun sets behind the stage, over the lake.

But I wasn’t wrong, was I? My original skepticism was emboldened by the wait: an hour and a half. What could they be doing? The concert was supposed to begin at seven. We bided our time with pizza and sipped wine on the deck and decided separately that Cult, the opening act, was quite good. I like her voice, I told Bill, and he agreed. The summer evening–North Carolina surprising us in June– was not hot; the wine was smooth. We walked down to the lake and then bellied up to the fence around the pit and talked. Cool air sprang up around our ankles; the sky darkened slowly overhead. I was glad to be outdoors.

Before we saw them, we felt the crowd swell with sound. Passion Pit took their places on the stage in the din of the communal roar, and then from the stage we heard it: the music introduced to me in the comfort of my kitchen, Bill bringing it home with him because he withholds no good thing from those he loves, whether or not I think I want it.

By the third song we couldn’t stay on the deck– our company there was entirely too refined, so we found a place on the lawn. There I rediscovered one can do some significant dancing in a seated position: shoulders and torso and head all engaged. Next to me, Bill was hearing and noting what I’m never given to notice on my own: who is singing and who is playing what; the effective use of recorded tracks; names of songs that, for me, have served merely as background to fixing lunches and the morning commute.

It was all we could do not to stand to our feet. We were reaching to the band with our arms outstretched. Told by security not to lean on the fence, daunted by security not to enter the pit, we rode it out, dancing seated with the other sitters on the lawn. And then came the encore and finally everyone was on their feet. Bill was doing his characteristic dance: tight and controlled, intent; and I was my bouncing, head-shaking mess, our arms again in the air. They were playing “Little Secrets” and we were singing along, “Higher and higher and higher!”

How could we name it anything other than frenzied joy? All of us singing and dancing, while over and before us the lights combed vibrant pillars through the smoke that poured down from the stage. We left the amphitheater elated. Summer crept toward us from the woods, all crickets and hidden places, but for now we were part of what was still dissipating into the sky. What is it about a concert, Everett once wanted to know, that makes you like the band so much better than you did before?

I started thinking these things on the ride home, even as Bill navigated our car through the traffic and out to the highway. I grabbed my little notebook and began to write it down, seeing dimly and wanting to write while the memory was still clear: this gift, like so many others, brought to me by my husband.

“What are you doing?” he wanted to know. Writing, always writing. But he wanted me to put it away. Look, he said. We were out on the highway now, the light pollution diminished and the sky clear.

It was that sky he was after and my seeing it. Lift up your head, he might have said, for another of the gifts I don’t want you to miss. What was it? What could be more important than this– the record of this night and the way the joy broke over us both?

Well, just the moon, Love. Slender and silver, riding there in the sky. See.


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