The sky is a solid mass of unwavering grey today. Aptly fitting for Ash Wednesday. There's no relief of rain. No promise of the parting clouds. Like the whole Earth is in mourning, clinging to its pain. A type of ashen twilight that will last eternal.
Rescue Kevin lays in the bed of leaves outside the door napping in the cool. He doesn't mind the sky at all. When I ask if he wants in he stretches, rolls his eyes in apology that he finds his bed more satisfying than my company. Eventually, Summer will arrive and my company in air conditioning will be much more in demand.
That grey sky today.
Somewhere there are lovers holding hands and making promises I hope last beyond the next full moon, the next low tide. The breathing in and out of this planet. That they have loves made out of storybooks.
Yet, somewhere too, there is an old person sitting all alone, looking out the window, hoping someone will ring the doorbell or their phone. A delivery perhaps from a sweetheart who has remembered them from old times past.
Last night I drove to the store and a firetruck rushed past it's siren wailing. The coyotes began their high pitched wails in response. I noticed how far they were up on that ridge beyond the river. I wonder where will they go now that we've come and inch by inch are taking everything. Where will all the wild ones go?
Today collides two events I've spent a lifetime observing. An unlikely paring of Valentines- that day of kisses and chocolate candies, and Ash Wednesday, that day of ashes and repentance.
Grade school was made for Valentines. We made those silly little envelopes and taped them to our desks. Then we went around dropping tiny envelopes in one another's mailboxes always hoping that our secret crush would choose that one large card in the pack that said something special and cryptic like - Valentine I Swoon for You. All the rest of them said, you are sweet, kind, my friend.
Being raised Episcopalian Ash Wednesday held a special significance. We went for ashes to be placed on our forehead in the form of the cross and the priest said, Ashes to ashes, dust to dust in a somber voice and then continued down the line - From the dust you came and to the dust you will return.
That this day falls on Valentines this year is simply Southern gothic perfection. I can consider the wages of love and repentance, sweetness and loss, in one swift hand.
The wind blows unrelenting. The fingerbones of the trees waving against the dismal sky. A lone crow calls out.
Perfect Lenten weather.
Perhaps tonight the sky will clear and lovers will find stars above them as they thread their way through streets to dinner. Or their love may cast its own bright light in all the darkness. Then, so be it. Let them drink and celebrate their lives bound together.
My life found more ashes than I expected but also more love. A kind of general love that meets the world beyond the walls of my cynic heart. This love - it leaps over me. Makes way for itself in spite of my comments and asides. This wild love knows something fierce. Something more akin to forty days than heart-shaped papers. A love born in deserts, surrounded by space and darkness, wilderness and wild.
I've longed for such I do confess. In times long past. A willingness to lay down myself, become another. A partnership of perfection. Eternal kisses, forever bliss.
Now the rain comes, it hits the glass in large drops unrelenting. Look. The sky finds relief after all. At least something moves, something happens.
For years I've seen in other peoples eyes, this one here and that one there - a type of kinship. Knowing another soul ar first meeting. A fast friends type of thing, brushing lives with a stranger in a line or some odd place. A mechanic shop. A bar. A bank. A struck up conversation. Not a romantic kind of love but that of just the sameness of being human. Man, woman, child. An understanding. When there is nothing left but craving understanding. It is a - see me. Hear me. Please before I break.
Forty Days. The Lenten Season. A valentine of words. Love and loss. Renewing and remembrance. It is the Yin and yang. The balancing of moon and sun, dark and light.
Love, sometimes a sacrifice. Eternal and Divine on scale of God as man or just a tiny act. A little bit of time. A coin. A rose.
Whatever love looks like for you today I hope that you find it - a greater love, a deeper love, an older love, a newer love, first love, last love or the soulmate that you seek.
The rain is steady now. It's become a small downpour. The driveway is washing away down the road. Kevin takes me up on a dry towel and a bone. We've come together to celebrate what it means to be alive in this life. Up on this hill. Watching the rain fall while voices of all manner whisper through this night, 'I Love you' and 'ashes to ashes, dust to dust.'
So this is how it began.
I had turned my foot (twisted, fell, yanked, near-bout broke so it is worse) at the book event in Florida in February. Said foot has not healed some saying because I keep using it, don't stay off of it, go up and down stairs, chase grand baby, and travel. Some may be right. In spite of all that - It was time to travel yet again and this time to the Grand Hotel to speak at the wonderful Winsome women event. Friend Virginia Dixon was traveling with me as companion and she can testify to the fact that what I say is the bona fide true-true. Not fictionalized one bit.
It began in Nashville where we flew to Detroit, jumped in a rental car, drove five hours to the Grand Lakes, boarded a small six-seater Cherokee, survived the wind drafts to land on the Island of Mackinac, where we boarded a horse-drawn carriage to travel to the Grand. I ain't lyin'. And, I must tell you it made my gypsy travelers heart happy, but not my foot and ankle that had grown a little hobbling weary.
After speaking twice the first day of our arrival I was more than a little hobbling. The Grand also has lovely staircases everywhere. Many floors. And the place you need to be is always two floors away from where you are. Virginia has been ever, ever so kind and made left an ice bucket for me by the door after dinner so that I could ice my foot to prepare for the next day's events. My perfect plan - soak in a hot tub with an ice bag on foot.
I ran the bath. Went in the bathroom and locked the door. And, I told myself I was being a little paranoid since I was alone in my lovely room (the J.K. Suite), and the hotel room door was locked. But hey, better safe than sorry. I climb into the tub with a new paperback novel (Light Between the Ruins) and breathe deeply. And in less than five minutes I hear the sound of someone opening my hotel room door.
This is exactly why family members in Tennessee wish I carried a gun when I travel. (Nevermind the logistics of all that flying with bullets.) So here I am soaking in the tub, foot iced, and I hear someone moving around in the room. How Ironic, I'm thinking. Here I am working on a mystery novel and I'm in the middle of one titled, Murder at the Grand Hotel. It's such a great title. But now it's never going to be written because they are going to kill me.
"Hello?" No response. "Is anyone there?" No response. Surely, this is it. The killer in the book usually doesn't answer. I listen, hoping the creaks and sounds are coming from above me or next door. It's an old hotel. Sound travels. But no, they are coming form the other side of the bathroom door. I look around the room. I have a hairdryer and a bar of soap to protect myself. Then there's a knock on the bathroom door. I come out of my skin as someone says very softly, "Did you call us?"
Call us. I'm thinking, who is us? Who are they pretending to be? Did someone call and report they were stuck in a tub and couldn't get out? Have they confused me with someone else?
"No! No! I didn't call you." I wait. Silence. Then movement. Then the sound of the door to the room closing. Which I realize is exactly what they pretend to do when they want to trick you and kill you in the movies. They close the door. Then they wait. I tried to out wait them. The water grew tepid. Then cold.
I got out, wrapped in the robe, (thank you Grand, Thank you , Winsome Women. I need the robe.) And I cracked the door open. No killer waiting. Just a turned down bed. Chocolates on the pillow. And, a prayer. Really. A prayer. On a card. For a peaceful nights sleep.
Book title . . . Killing Her Softly.
I did not eat the chocolate.
(Thank you Winsome Women for an extraordinary event and for your great sense of humor in trying to treat this Southern Writer woman with an overactive imagination, with such kindness.)
Thanks so much for reading, liking and sharing with friends.