The Hundredth Meridian

Sunday Summer

In June, the sun gets up about the time the pollen release ends. Keeping the bedroom window down in the early morning hours is a simple preventive for hay fever that requires only getting up around 2:00 A.M. to drop the window. It's easier to take a pill the night before and forget about it. And another at 6:50 when the alarm clock goes off, an hour and a half before Sunday Mass.

Wakening with hay fever is like swimming up from the bottom of the sea with leg irons attached to your ankles and wrists—and then the sinuses begin flowing. Clutching a handkerchief, I went to the kitchen for a cup of black coffee (lactose gums the vocal cords) and a cough drop. I showered, dressed in coat and tie, looked over mv music and the day's readings, and began a warm-up—not much of one, because the vibrations make the sinus flow worse.

At 7:30 on a Sunday morning in June, the wide streets of the town were deserted beneath the old cottonwoods in their fresh, new leaves, overhanging the white picket fences. Beyond the shade the trees made, the morning was textured like a canvas, and water sprinklers caught the sunlight and flung it out in long, windup pitches, throwing wheels of waterspray across the small green lawns bordered by purple lilacs growing close against the gabled frame-and-stone houses. The sky was cleanly blue and the asphalt surfacing smelled fresh and clean as the newly watered earth. I parked outside...

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