Today I drank from the spring cup - an action which sounds mundane enough, but, let me assure you, has real repercussions in my personal life. Choosing the spring cup when the outdoor temp is thirty-five degrees Celsius and the indoor environment is damp with Lysol and flu, is an act of actual courage. It is, indeed, choosing to hope.
Of course, the spring cup is one of four. They’re coffee cups, Norman Rockwells, and duplicates of the set I had when I first moved away from home. Each has a depiction of a season and a boy with his dog – you’ve seen this, right? - and in the spring, the boy is already barefooted. He’s pouring cough syrup for the poor little dog, who has his head covered and is sad-eyed with the flu. Yes, like the rest of us.
Possibly because I’m a farmer’s daughter, I find myself extremely affected by the seasons, and I tend to mold my life around them. I read books, choose music and socks and movies, all according to the time of year, and it’s always felt to me as though, by doing so, I exert just the teensiest bit of authority over that which cannot be controlled.
Ah Lord, how we’ve longed for spring this year! So long, now, since the snow felt magical or the cold invigorating. No, we’ve descended into this quagmire of germs, mud and discontent. Apathetic, lethargic, peaked, we cry at home and squabble on facebook.
Hope is the color of Springtime, the shimmery, lacy green lighting the hillside all the way to the top.
Does anyone choose their room color according to season? She sat on the floor in the middle of her decimated dining room and thought how it didn’t matter what anyone else did. Nobody existing on her budget should be drinking twenty-dollar mail-order coffee, either, but here she was, consuming it daily by the gallon. Because, well, coffee.
But back to the dining room.
Or, rather the ruin of the dining room and its much-anticipated rebirth.
The room caught the light, which was both its saving grace and its undoing. Because, while the sunlight polished the piano and glowed in the cupboard glass, it also highlighted the water stains in the old wood floor and the dismal condition of the ancient paneling.
And she could have lived with that, but the same sunlight warmed the outside walls and drew the snakes, who nested in the hollow spaces between the studs and sometimes dropped out where the paneling gapped.
A thousand memories fisted together into a big tinsel ball that smells of evergreen, cinnamon, and life. Marvel the Mustang! I must’ve been, what? Four or five? I never forgot the moment, the joy, of unwrapping that gift. I rode that silly toy all the way to the corner – a quarter mile away - in the snow.
Midnight mass, Mom in her long fur coat. She sang . . . well, yes, like an angel. That voice issued from that small person like Gabriel himself commandeered her soul and everybody in the church went still to listen, and to stand in awe.
The year of the pink Barbie Cadillac, the year of the flu, the year of the lost Christmas tree.
But here – there is this, and this is, after all, what I need to write about.
I was driving home with Keith Whitley playing on my iPod, and he had reached his last song – his best – before I realized October had passed. Tell Lorrie I Love Her is November music, straight from the grave to your heart, where it leaves teeth marks. Golden October is in tatters; summer’s sunlit memory has faded again into gray reality.
Keith Whitley, of course, is irrevocably dead and Lorrie left to mourn.
We laugh at mortality on Halloween. Brave behind our masks and paint, drunk on chocolate, wine, and our own audacity. We are benign ghosts in bedsheets, vampires with blood-tipped fangs, stiff-legged zombies – our dance is set to the glorious tempo of gentle, sparkling fall.
November calls us to sober up, chills us to the bone with unforgiving winds and skeletal trees -darkness, always, a mere breath away.
Wiccans preach a thinning of the veil, now – something you can almost see, as though the sky is smeared in charcoals, and beyond it . . . maybe? Can you discern? A hand reaching for you? Leave an empty seat at the dinner table, then. Set out food and wine.
Pooh! Hocus Pocus!
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