The Speaking Sword

Friday, October 7, 2022

The black of October nights envelope my home. Where there are gaps in starlit skies, trees blanket me from the rest of the world.

To the west and north, a mix of pines, maples and cherry trees separate my neighbors and me. Once in a while I might hear their voices or the hum of their lawn mowers. By sight I only recognize a glimpse of the horizontal lines in their roofs.

I turn back from the window. The sleeping face of my Wise Mum is outlined in the gold colored reflection of the fireplace glow.

She breathes deeply in an easy rhythm. I smile in the darkness as I see her smile in her dreams. For once, all seems quiet and gentle. And consistent. I would have reprieves of such times in the past, but they would disappear as a flicker in the wind.

The night’s peace settles in my mind. calming me, allowing my thoughts to drift. In weeks to come, I could expect to look out upon snowflakes dotting the blackness of the yard. But now October gets me used to the idea of long, long nights and cold, cold gusts.

Wally stirs slightly. He too had been dreaming, perhaps chasing chipmunks or barking at the sounds of a distant delivery truck. (As he ages he seems more and more interested in letting the trees know about the arrival of such vehicles). As he sleeps, an occasional yip interrupts the quiet room.

Poesey does not stir. She has been curled in the lounge chair for hours. The television program is reduced to a mumble. Even the air feels kindly.

I smile again maybe due to the urge to say my prayers and add a special one for such a night. We are well. We are safe.

After changing from my work outfit into a one piece hybrid loungewear (a middle of the road head to toe sweatshirt fleece contraption) I add one more load of wood to the fire. It crackles in response.

Maybe it’s the time of year, but I find myself retracing through my memories. I revisit moments with the loveliest people whose lives had intersected mine. I had been lucky to have been graced by those dear souls. Even though they no longer walk the earth, I revisit them. My father especially.

Opposite the fireplace, my books adorn the wall. They make me smile too. “I need to read more,” I scold myself.

Before I choose a book, I stare at special objects which rest among them. My menorah stands above my head, next to holy books, angels and a porcelain miniature nativity. Portraits of my son are nestled on the shelves.

On one of the lowest shelves, a sheath guards my collection of cookbooks. It’s an everyday object to me, however to a visitor it might be intimidating. Within the sheath lies a sword although none of the weapon is visible.

Most of its length lies behind the largest books in my library. I believe through the years the sheathed sword slid on the shelf as I periodically dusted or placed a statue nearby. My family all knew it was there but we went about our lives.

But in the middle of this night, with thoughts of my father, my eyes caught its shape from across the room. I remembered the years in which it was carved and the years in my life when I forgot its existence.

In the 1970’s, my mother and father both belonged to an art group. Not only did they paint, they carved. My mother caned chair backs and seats in lovely, old-fashioned patterns. I remember our upstairs apartment kitchen which became a workshop outside of meal times. Buckets of water lined the floor’s edge, each with reeds clothes-pinned in circles to soften.

My father carved and sewed leather. I remember his project for me was a true leather hat, in a hippie, flower girl fashion. He seemed rather intent on making sure I had that hat. Part of our duplex’s yard was an old barn shed. Our corner lot was huge with mature oaks and pines bordering the house to the north and west.

Tucked to the east, between the apartment and the neighbors, stood the shed. It was no place to work inside, but we could store bicycles, rakes, shovels and all the rest of our gear. Plus my father could store his projects.

With my hat, lie the leather pieces of what was to become the sheath. I held the sheath now in the soft glow of the fireplace. The leather has been tanned but the years had softened the baked brown color. It smelled of silent, gentle years.

My hands traced the carvings which protected the sword. “An owl,” I could my father explain only by the drift in his voice. “A rose,” he continued.

“Fish and trees.”

Last, he had flipped over the sheath to show me the last. I had discovered him carving one summer evening as he sat on the back stoop.

“A boat on the water.”

As far as I knew, the sword had never been used. Never had it gone to battle nor had it threatened a living soul. Never was it meant to.

But here it was, a weapon among my books and the family portraits.

“Thank you, Papa.”

Love, kisses too…tbd.

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