So everything’s ajar. I know you know what I mean. It has been one of the toughest winters for our family. Wet madrone doesn’t burn. Neither does wet mildewed madrone. Or the rotted centers of tan oak trees. But it is what we have, my husband and I denying the light rain sheening our coats, his rusted chainsaw blade, the dank rounds splitting themselves for us on the 200 yard roll from the upper hill down into the yard. If you cram an arm load of kindling in and get the stove hot enough, something eventually burns. I spend the week weathering the keen fungus stench that greets my nose every time I rummage under the tarp. My son calls me back to the deck rail to show me both the slim half inch grey-black marbled snail he’s saved as well as the glittering spit arc of the tiny refugee’s trail.
To the sound of the hail descending on our skylights at 3 a.m., I fight the jade zone of my 40s: a new vague dread that the chestline’s going dromedary, the recipes more savory in the next kitchen over, the grey choking out the auburn in my hair, a growing anxiety that my poet’s fastidiousness for lighting on just the right way to say it might serve me better in the courts of the underworld or if I could afford a magnificent charger and a velvet cape to wrap around my shoulders. Except I live in the woods and I know better. What prowls around in the dark out here is best left unidentified and free to wander while I sleep.
Predators aside, worse than wet wood is the thought that the bank might not work with us (after a year and a half of losing our paperwork, they gave us a no verdict on the government home loan modification program), that even this spongy, wet heart of tree is something we are renting from an establishment that could take it all away. That my husband’s been working two jobs in two cities for naught…that the colossal effort to raise the kids alone in his absence will not pay off since we just may not be able to turn the house over to them in their futures.
But friends near and far have been reminding me to stop the noise in my head. Duane says Beauty is free (attributing the statement to Barbara). Bonnie says Read Byron Katie. Sandy says Stop by my studio to see Rapunzel (and other sculptures in process). Elizabeth funnels me CDs brimming with chanting. Lydia pours me never ending coffee in her kitchen, shows me the petite purple purse hearts in her yard to get me out of my head, sends me home with dry wood. Jerilynn sets before me colossal bowls of beef stew. Sydney ferries my daughter to and from, takes her an extra night or two to lighten the load of three children. Aunt Rose brews me cups of strong Irish tea. Dad and Robyn take the kids, Friday after Friday. Beauty is free, and the tiniest of omens have come to my rescue.
Like this one, that came shortly before we got news we’d not be getting help from the bank… I’m sitting across from my husband on our first date in months at Coffee Catz, crying, a miniscule envelope containing a high dose Ibupren between our steaming mugs that was doled out by my periodontist for a surgery I survived that morning. My husband glances down, asks quietly, What is that, the key to your heart? I can’t even muster a smile.
But sitting across from his blue eyes, I notice I’m still absolutely in love with him, and so, I stop my complaining and he has the kindness not to go off about how hard he's had it earning money in two cities with two full-time jobs to pay for a home he barely gets to visit. We part ways—he to call the bank and negotiate, I to pick up our daughter from her violin audition.
Later, when my girl and I stop by The Legacy, run by an all-volunteer staff, where you can walk in with a quarter and walk out with an elephant sized ball of yarn (and if you don’t have a quarter, you can walk by and find a yard or two of fabric from the free box), my daughter picks out an innocuous rubber stamp along with a bag of plastic greenery and flowers for a movie she’s planning to make with her friends and says, Mom, what does it say on it?
I hold up the tiny rectangular stamp. It takes some squinting, but I make out the light pink raised outline of a key, the old-fashioned skeleton kind, bordered by the words, Here's the Key to My Heart. I laugh. And buy it, along with a tiny cardboard heart box with lid (also going for 25 cents)for my husband.
At home, I sneak down to my cabin, cut out slips of paper and write on them all the things I love to do with my husband, starting with the simplest and of late, most impossible to have, Spend time with you.Further reading: Loving What Is, Byron Katie Further Listening: Any of Snatum Kaur’s Chanting CDs www.snatumkaur.com