I drove on this weekend morning to catch-up on an oil change that is two months and one thousand miles past due. Recent events warn me not to belabor how much I love the rain, but these soft October rains paint the streets and sidewalks with a reflective first coat. The skies lied: I should have been grabbing for insulated raincoats, but it was unseasonably warm, matching the warmth of golden leaves. The autumn colors glistened above and below. It has been no secret how much I love the rain – the sound upon roof or a tent’s canvas; the sparkle it brings to harsh, dull concrete and asphalt.
About October 2017.
And in Wisconsin, October rains are nature’s natural to-do list. A warm rain this time of year reminds of winter to come. Puddles that a few short months ago invited bare feet to splash in now call out a reminder of ‘where are your boots?’
I drove past familiar sights – small town gas stations and businesses – thinking how lucky I was to still love the rain because I knew nothing of the tragedy of ‘too much’. I do not know what flood waters are nor do I know what hurricanes are. I do not know about coastline surges.
Too much rain. Too much storm. Too much. Such beautiful happenings turn…horrific.
I do not know what it is like, to attend an event….a beautiful event. Then to have it turn..
I do not know.
I do know that with catastrophes, I am fortunate to not know. I have been through many upheavals, assaults and witnessed a bucket load of horrible things but that is in itself the blessing. I can write the words “I made it through.” I am lucky. I get to reduce them to ‘instances’.
The day following last week’s tragic event, I finally made arrangements to attend a concert. It seems to be a habit of mine and one I can imagine carrying the rest of my life that one or two times in a year, I need a live performance of some kind: a concert in any genre, or live performances of symphony orchestras or operas or ballets. Maybe it is the preparations or the travel. The day after last Sunday’s tragedies… I ordered my ticket.
I listened to the remix of this, my Wisconsin woods, in October. A gentle wind flutters the turning leaves – one more breeze for nature’s laundry on the line. Birds blissfully chirp perhaps in a small talk of their own, gathering stories dependent upon time of day and the weather. And from rooms away I hear teenage sounds of the computer.
Instances. I am blessed with instances.
You know, I am the happiest I have ever been in my whole life. I used to wonder a lot about the bad that has happened. There are surely worse possibilities. Again the trump of all trumps – that I even have a life is miraculous biology.
We could hear them, muffled and muddled, their tongues slurping blindly in fervor; their voices rumbling in undercurrents. The woman and the rest and the beast were practiced in their low choirs of insults; a quiet hymn they could hum just loud enough for their prey but soft enough to appear saintly. Although she thought otherwise, the woman’s siren song no longer called to Es but to the beast; their words tethered themselves lowly now not to the ears of innocents but to a beast of which they did not know. The more they chanted, the more the beast swirled. The more the beast swirled, the more they sang. In a storm their own dirt swallowed them both.
We were hypnotized by the sight of dirt, woman and the rest and the beast, now an entire entity of itself. Es did not watch it, but I did. Once I saw an outline of the woman, a darkened shadow against the cloud which she had created. The rest were indistinguishable in her cloud, their figures blended together. For a moment my heart ached for her. Her command of the rest meant she alone must be distinguishable. And it was true. I sadly looked at her darkened outline again. The swirling entity growled. Her features snapped harshly as she turned.
We should have been running away but we stood. Our egos could not let go that we were so easily dismissed. It almost hurt our feelings.
We began to walk away not in victory, not in fear, rather in the resignation of a fight we no longer needed to battle. Plus, we had somewhere we needed to be. The snarls dimmed and the dirt storm calmed as we just walked away. The air was getting lighter. The wind changed direction and we both heard the song which filtered through.
We paused at the first notes. I stood confused at what I was hearing – a melody so out of place. Es looked at me with horror. “She hummed Mendelssohn. It is the same song! She hummed and grinned as I cried.” They had attacked her while the woman hummed the ‘Wedding March’ to Es.
I did not have the heart to tell her it was actually “The Bridal Processional” by Richard Wagner which the woman and the rest had used as their battle cry. Seems to me that either selection was cruel given what had happened to Es.
The winds direction changed again and the air grew lighter still. The dirt and dust cleared a bit more. The blessed fragrance of nothingness. Not a flower nor grass nor dirt nor iron blood. Just air.
As Es turned to look at me, I was afraid to meet her gaze. I was frightened to see in her eyes that life had robbed them of their shine, like sandpapering a glass tabletop. I kept walking but I did not have the stomach to look at her eyes.
She looked at me. I had not looked her in the eyes since she told me of the wedding song which had been hummed to hurt her. Her eyes answered without words.
She had seen it too.
“Yes.” She finally replied.
Over Es’s shoulder it galloped in the field, its black shadow riding through wildflowers. Its darkened, crisp outline gave away the identity. It had stayed hidden when it was beast individual from the woman and the rest. The entity now called upon itself. It could never hide. Anywhere. Its shadows had imprisoned itself with the barbs it had once flung upon the world. If it hummed the bridal processional I could no longer hear it. For some reason I think it did but that would be my imagination rather than reality.
Forgiveness. Es had told me long ago she prayed forgiveness for them, even for the woman who mocked her with the bridal song. She would actually correct herself. “In my heart of hearts, forgiveness was never a problem. What I really wished for, was that G~d would never know what they did to me.”
Somehow I could not imagine a worse karma than that of a shadow-being who only remembered playing one song, one melody meant for an announcement of love but a melody that had been turned into daggers of mockery.
I watched over Es’s shoulder as we walked. The entity, the shadow, slid among the wild flowers and grasses. It never came any nearer. The shadow was a reminder, that the past was not to be forgotten. It would be allowed to become a shadow cloud among the wildflowers. Whether it sang or not, we did not know.
Es turned back to me. I saw there then, in her eyes the score for the Bridal Processional written in the deepest black blue ink irises upon white linen. It was there in that twinkle where there should no longer be one.
In mockery it was given to her, to hurt her. And her soul held onto their laughter. And her eyes? Her eyes deepened with the darkness of their shadows. They had given her their exclusions. They had called her names. They had bullied her for months.
In their darkness they gave her the twinkle of what was supposed to be – not as a sad reminder of Es’s own silent denial, but as a reminder of what should have been but was not. A shadow was now imprisoned. With its own barbs.
Among the wildflowers.
That was Es’s power. The love that was supposed to have been.
Over her shoulder I could faintly see the shadow pause. Es paused too. She pointed to the long open field in front of us.
Es leaned to me, whispering with the deepest of smiles and even deeper twinkle and a bit of a giggle to boot.
Lots and loads of love (because it’s not pie, you know?)