The first morning, I woke before the others and went out of my tent into the clearing. On the cement tables there was scanty evidence of the night before -- a few tin cups bearing the sticky residue of red wine, a sticky smear of melted chocolate, some silverware that had not made it into the wash bucket. The sky was light, but pale, sheltered from the sun the way a face can be light but pale under a parasol. I stood and let my ears open to the silence. On a day to day basis, I feel like my hearing tightens against the city noises and even to the sounds of my own children. When I find myself in the company of silence I need to relax myself into it the way I might sink down into a hot bath. Staying still and letting my ears open, I heard birds, the rustle of leaves above my head and then a louder sound. Immediately I looked to the sky for helicopters, up the hill to the road for a car, but found nothing. The more I listened, the louder the buzz became. I stood under the largest tree at the edge of the clearing and the buzz grew louder. Bees. So many bees they roared like an engine. So many bees I half expected to see the pale morning go dark, blotted out by their small velvety bodies. It was a little frightening.
But the sun continued to rise and people emerged from their tents. Our children spilled out into the clearing, billowing dust into the air and the buzz was lost beneath all the human sounds of breakfast and teeth brushing and ball kicking. The bees appeared in groups of two or three to lap at the syrup on our plates or land with relish upon a strip of bacon. The storm of bees never came.
I think of this storm now that I am home and the sound of traffic is keeping company with the tap of my fingers on the keyboard. I hear the pages my husband turns in his book and the deep breathing that makes me almost completely certain that my daughter has fallen asleep. We are safe here, safe in the noises of our life. The click and whir of the dishwasher, the cat's claws against the wood floor, the creak of my knees as I cross and re-cross my legs. These noises are familiar and comforting.
The storm of bees never came, but there was something unsettling about the possibility of the storm. This is true of a perfectly pale morning and, in the woods, I found it is true for people, too.