Thursday, September 18, 2014

A June Eve

    June 24, 2014

I made hamburgers tonight on the stove and ate heartily even though I was not in the mood. I have felt a slight inanition coming over me from eating more healthily and moving about a lot. I was glad to fill myself up again and then settled down on my rug and read the concluding chapters of Jane Eyre. I was having trouble focusing because I wanted to run badly, and before the sky went dark; not because of any fear of blackness but because it is more romantic at the edge of twilight and night, when the last bit of blue sky blends with the ascension of the moon and creates an oily ocean blue. I left my book and opened the curtain, revealing a crisp and long gravel driveway. The drive addressed my want for action like the Church addresses the inner gong went off, sanctioning my plan's commencement. The rain was only a sprinkle and there was just a little bit of light left above the silhouette trees. I left and ran at an even steady pace down middle path, towards Old Kenyon.

I thought of reading; why it matters to me, how what occurs in a book is always there, and what a consolation the fidelity of an author is. I was in good spirits. I moved down the hill toward the train and was pleased to note how calm and strong I was. I felt as if a metal rod were running through me head to toe, making me look and move as upright as I felt in mind. But the wind began to pick up as I was on Zion, and the lightning grew more frequent. Out here in Knox County the farms are so expansive that visibility is comprised of unusual breadth. Though the storm was far, vision told brought it to my side. I looked North, toward Howard, and saw a pink strip cut the sky and leave a mark of color throughout the clouds. The sensation chilled me. It mixed with the flowing stream beside me, an outshooting of the Kokosing, which boiled with frogs, and the myriad of lightning bugs around me, which stirred my view of the road and grounds into one sparkling plane. No cars passed. The road was dark and vacant, the wind hollow. At the massive incline my breath was even and strong; such a healthy girl was I, I knew, in myself, as a firm truth. My body was physically prepared for the route I had intended. I had been right on that account. But my nerves were struck, chaffed and burnt as if lightning had struck not my body but my intended plan. All of a sudden I knew, "I am not absolutely safe."

Visions of Jane being guarded, of frail beautiful girls needing protection, of the rightness in them being cared for-- their innocence honored, their fears soothed, came over me. I became split in mind. My opinion of myself wavered. I kept up the steady jog away from Kenyon, a solid 7 mph trot- that was no matter. It was now the two sides of my personality clashing. One told me I must go on, and ignore the ominous foreboding of these expansive, incongruent, hilly roads where abandoned houses creaked and glowed in shattered strips of flashing light. That side spoke of the savior, and His courage, and all He weathered on Earth. She was masculine and proud. And the other side said something else. She pleaded for grace, and reminded me of the small white house in a grove of pine on the side of Killduff. In my heart, the minute my mind's eye drafted the place for me, I knew it was my destination tonight. It would be brave to make it back on my own, despite my conscience. It would be braver to ascend the road of humility and ask for help. This was also, I thought, a chance for me to put real faith in humanity. I seized it, obeying the latter childlike voice I loved and wanted to be victorious. I rounded the last lone bend where wild flowers and reeds intertwine, rising up one either side  of me like the Red Sea. By day these weeds, in their freedom, captivate me and remind me of my woods back home; by night the raw products of nature seemed uncaring and unfamiliar. Visions of the Middle Ages came over me. The Pioneer days of America. "Did you know that Mt. Vernon was the home of George Washington?" I said aloud to myself, for comfort. I chuckled; hearing myself ask questions that drew upon already existent reservoirs of knowledge.

The reeds on the bend scratched my legs and my curly bangs clung to the side of my sweat-covered face. I knew of other houses, a friend's from Kenyon nearby, but reaching him would take just as much prideful tenacity as returning home by foot. In the surrounding globe of black that seemed to circumscribe the whole country, there rose a gathering of yellow lights. I held them in my gaze, now about a half a mile North. I was truly shaken. Animal noises rose, the scurrying of feet, a huffing and puffing, which I imagined belonged to some kind of snout, the oddness of an old CRV driving past me and parking up ahead by the river, as if waiting to have a word with this small gazelle of a girl traveling on a wave of flimsy moonlight. But bear in mind, dear reader, my poetic imagination was not the source of my hesitation, of the pounding of my heart. I truly felt these roads were not yet home to me, and they had not yet earned my confidence in them, nor I their peace and protection. I had lived here in Gambier a mere week, though I was excited to marry the place & people in heart and mind in the months to come.

At such a fork, one comes to see how much they value themselves; what kind of love they have for themselves. Was I a mean, harsh, bold lover? Did I make commands, dramatic gestures, daily drills that could not be sunk without embarrassment, reproach, lament? No. I was a pliable, simple, smart girl. And if I felt it best to ask for a ride home; if I wanted to trust the people of Gambier to take care of me in the name of God on whose Providence I depend, here was my chance. I knew stopping was not selfish-- a sly plan to receive divine favors-- though it did cross my mind. I genuinely yearned to continue my route, my legs and lungs, fueled by the heavy meal, begged for flight. But the urge was broken down, it being the more prideful, and I complied. "Almost there, almost to the white house" I thought, and allowed my shy sensitive aspect to take the helm and bathe the roads in with tender faith. Even the moon, hidden behind the brooding clouds, seemed in favor of capitulation, confirming that I should seek to be comforted rather than made boastful. Though paradoxically her advice made me love her even more as the companion she is to me, and by her side I wished to remain. But she was hidden, and the environs remained the same.

I remembered old days of running in high school. How there was always a destination. Always an endpoint. But how oftentimes it went just as tonight did... the endpoint developed spontaneously. It developed because one learned along the way where one needed to stop. That is, where love calls us to fall into love's warm arms. I reached the door. I stood in the dark, preserved in my indecision. A figure in a floral blouse fluttered past the window; an archetypal wife. The screen door was fastened open, and I could view the entire interior of the house. I stood silent and reverent. The wind picked up, another bolt of lightning lit the countryside, and rain began to drill downward. I examined the singular prospective road-- dank and unlit-- and then turned to the warmth of the Killduff cottage at my feet. A dell laptop lay open on the table. A wide staircase told of quiet, furnished rooms, of lives lived. "Common, Kelly. Trust them." I whispered. I wanted to so bad. But... I could make it back. I know I would. I knew the route by rote. But how would I feel the whole time? Unnatural. Like a superhero. I wanted to be human.

I knocked on the wood door frame, the door already bolted wide open. A kind man came to greet me, with deep eyes and a friendly mouth, which quickly folded upwards into a grin. I fumbled out many words at once, expressing my decision to go on a lengthy run-- a usual for me--but the strange circumstances of the night, and my conscience counseling me to stop at the closest house. My tone betrayed such amazing integrity. I felt I had not heard this particular quivering voice since I was 18, hoping to gain admission to Kenyon at a belated interview. Dependent on passion and candor was I then, when most students gained admission by assertiveness and prestige, and so was I now, wet and pleading for a small gesture of kindness. I was unafraid to betray an honest sense of brokenness, which carried its counterpart faithfully by its side like the dualism of a Dostoevskian character. There, next to the obvious poverty, was strength, purity, and wisdom locked in my eye.

The gentlemen demanded none of the explanation I offered, and merely encouraged me to enter his home. He introduced me to his wife Nancy and showed me into their living room. It turns out Dave was just getting ready to go visit a friend at the hospital, and would be able drive me home. "Ah, he too is shaken, for his friend. The hour for me is the same for him" I thought, as I observed him enter the kitchen, and finish cleaning the dishes. It was as if he was ready to meet me. And indeed he was, in more ways than one. "You work at the Deli don't you? We saw you there." "And walking on the sidewalk with your headphones!" Nancy added, "and we kept thinking how much you resemble an old friend of ours. But she is much older now..." Her and her husband shared a kind glance, and continued conversing nostalgically, as if to give me a moment to myself. I relaxed, now recognized and reeled into more pleasant associations-- the Deli-- than stark roads and a romantic heart that roamed companionless, which, reader, I love truly to the bone! But I have many aspects, all worthy of devotion.

"Yes!" I replied, regaining my usual sense and fervor as the warmer associations flowed. "I have just begun work there. What a coincidence that I have already been present on your minds!"

It then occurred to me, standing in their living room, scratching the ears of their fluffy tarrier, that I was in their home. In their home? Part of me, the stubborn independence I had fought, couldn't believe it. But the soft side was pleased, and guided me toward Dave who was motioning to the back door. We walked down the dark gravel drive which resembled my own drive, a few miles Southwest. I climbed into his black old fashioned sedan. The leather seats felt like they were made decades ago... the ridges were long and deep. I was not wearing a shirt (I figured the rain would justify such scantiness) and the skin of my shoulders clung to the material. I forwent thought and rested. I was blended wholly with the gift. I told him where my apartment is; he knew the roads and confirmed the way. Zipping automatically down roads that by day I doted on, admiring their natural beauty, he guarded me with his stillness and focus, and like one heading toward the gallows, who pays attention not to the beauty of the lane that lines the way, I headed towards my haven, making no effort to recognize the sanctuary of Gambier's back roads which palled in comparison to my home, where a cool shower, a cup of decaf coffee, and long sleep awaited me. Dave was my sanctuary, no longer these roads; or at least he was the road to it. On the way, I managed to say only what was real and necessary. I told him of my search for a church,  my parents' military deployment, the fulfillment of my lifelong ideal of living alone, and the admiration I hold for my mother's running. "I am inspired to prayer on my runs, just like her" I said. "And it is God that has always given me the courage to take bold action." His tone changed, acquiesced to my narrative. He said, "Oh, then you are a follower of the Lord? I am so glad."

The conversation following brought us just close enough-- as though we were cupping our hands in the same well to drink from the same source-- that he offered to have me stay with them for Thanksgiving. I was not surprised. I had intended on going for a serious run, to accomplish an athletic feat, certainly on God's grace and God's strength. But God didn't just give me the strength to run. He gave me the strength to reveal my heart to someone who was prepared to listen. At such forks, when the harder, humbler path is chosen, over the intenser, the prouder, the more raucous-- self-respect and fidelity is sure to result, as it did when I saw my childish aspect prevail. Such self-respect is sure to bless the rockier road, at the first instant it appears, and for the many months to come in a new place, a new life, a new Kenyon, a returned Kel.

Healthy I am, not only in muscle and bone, but in character. I soar, I broaden, I churn and swell... there being no guide but God, no permanent voice but my youngest heart, and my elementary necessity. Reader, I do not make bold decisions because they appear bold. I do what is natural for my soul and has always been. I give it the real food it desires. And when I go far, I always find my destination. A resting stop. Where I may take a breather and again gain insight into just how far I may set my mark once more.

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