I'm in the mood for a story. I wish I had a happy story to tell.
Today I ate an apple on the sunporch. Outside the windows, maple blossoms glistened brilliant red against the blue sky under the afternoon sun. Today a stiff wind roared, chilling the neighborhood, but in the sunporch all was quiet, and almost warm. Schubert saw me and joined me, hopping up on the other old-fashioned, flea-market chair, a bit surprised at this bastion of sunshine opening to him after it had been closed off all winter. The apple was mediocre, but it was an apple, prettier than tasty, and then gone.
Some purple crocuses are on the cusp of blooming. Tomorrow, if it doesn't snow, I think they'll open up their simple faces.
Last night I heard owls outside my bedroom wall. They hover in the edges of our neighborhood fairly often, and I hope they are keeping the mouse population down. The low vibrating thrum of their hooting thrills me, such a gentle, sleepy, exotic sound.
Owls, crocuses, apples on sunporches, these are the pieces of my life, sounds and pictures and flavors, all underlined by the yeasty smell of Schubert who is overtaken by fungal infestations and supposed to be bathed twice a week, but usually only gets bathed every 8-10 days. Currently he is sleeping, curled smack atop a pillow on the futon, and Shawn would have my head for this, because that yeasty smell will be imbedded in the pillow if a guest needs to use it, regardless of how fresh and clean the pillow linens might be.
Normally I keep these pillows up on top of the back of the futon, and there are a couple of "dog" pillows for Schubert, laid out along the seat, dark purple like my impending crocuses. However, the other night a violent thunderstorm awakened us, and Schubert was traumatized, so I brought him here, into my little study, and pulled the futon down into a bed. We huddled together while the lightening flashed and the thunder rumbled and the wind crashed in the trees outside. I did this more for my sake than for his, and in the end we both survived without even descending to the basement.
I don't have a happy story, but I have a sad one. This morning, after feeding, medicating and walking Schubert, I brought my coffee upstairs to sip in bed. I set it on a stack of books on my nightstand. I have two stacks of books on my nightstand, and additional books, notebooks and pens piled on the stair step that came with our elevated bed. This stair step is not safe to step on, because of all the stuff on it, which has a tendency to slip around. Thus, I must vault myself over this step and onto the bed, rather than climbing up as would be intended. Today as I vaulted, the back of my foot caught my full coffee mug as it tottered atop the lower stack of books on my nightstand. The result was a very sad splash of coffee across many books, including vintage copies of The Horse and His Boy and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader from my childhood. It also soaked The Problem of Pain, also by C.S. Lewis.
I sopped it all up with hand towels from my bathroom, carefully wiping off all the books and fanning their pages out to dry. Then I started a load of towels in the washer; this was on my list of chores for the day anyway. Eventually I got back to bed with my coffee, which is admittedly quite the oxymoron.
This afternoon, while there was still sunlight, I spent some time reading The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. I wanted to hold it and love it a little, and assure myself that it was dry enough to stack back into a pile. The volume is crumbling at the seams, the back binding almost non-existent, the pages falling out. But, oh my, what a writer. I am more in awe every time I go back to read C.S. Lewis. His details, his craftsmanship, his technique, his finesse with characterization and voicing, the way he shows you what is happening instead of telling you, the way he designs a plot that works out from so many angles, the way he ends every chapter with a cliffhanger. I am a simple woman and I love children's literature. C.S. Lewis and my gluten-free chocolate cake recipe: there's enough pleasure and delight for a lifetime.
When I was a child, these books delighted me, but now that I am an old woman, they astound me. The symbolism moves me to tears, but so does the familiarity: old friends acting and re-enacting my favorite stories. To read a chronicle of Narnia is to long to write a book of my own, but also to quail in the consciousness of how good these books are, and how mine could never attain the same excellence or eloquence. At least I can soak in his artistry.
Do you know? When I was a young girl, at the Anoka Public Library, picking out a book to read, I automatically looked for books written by men, because they were better than books written by women. Also, books written by the British are better than books written by Americans. (These are obviously generalizations, but as generalizations they are quite sound.) Books by British men are the best. I am not sure whether I prefer American male writers or British female ones (John Grisham is better than any of the Bronte sisters, while Frances Hodgson Burnett surpasses Nathaniel Hawthorne). At any rate, books by American women are dead last. What am I? An American woman. Here again is perhaps a clue to why I do not get that novel out. I'm already pretty sure I wouldn't want to read my own work, given my demographic.