Monday, April 27, 2020

Digging Up Dark Tales

When she sets out this morning, the sun is shining, there’s a blue sky with no clouds. Leah wears her emerald parka, and warm gloves.
Almost immediately, though, the clouds move in and the breeze stirs up. The thick grey clouds feel like February gloom, not the soft sunny springtime of April.
But Leah continues uphill, moving as quickly as she can. She needs to walk. She wants to peel away the bad feelings when they arise.
She is thinking about the photo her sister texted her yesterday, a torn brown snapshot of her great grandmother, Clementina, holding an old-fashioned purse. A young child sits beside her.

Leah is thinking too about what her sister and her cousin told her when the three of them talked on FaceTime.
Poor Clementina. She died at the age of 56.
And is it any wonder.
The stories. Such sad sad stories about this woman.
Leah stops, takes a sip from her water bottle. Gazes over the wide open acreage. Swivels around to look west. In the distance there are still vestiges of snow on the ski slopes. The mountains have a blue  hue.

Often this is where Leah turns around. But not today. Today she is going the long way around. 
This morning as she woke up, she realized that the frozen feeling was back. “Congelato,” she whispered. “Mi sento congelato.” 
She told her husband: “It’s like I’m numb, completely numb.  I can’t feel anything. And I can’t even think about writing when I feel this way.” 
He reassured her. He said, “You’ll write again, honey, don’t worry.”
As she starts down the farm road that heads west, Leah realizes what’s bothering her. She’s of two minds. She loves writing about her ancestors. But she is feeling haunted by what must have been unbearable heartbreak for her great grandmother. 
She doesn’t want to use her imagination to go down that painful road. She doesn’t want to flesh out the stories she learned from her cousin Pat and her sister Holly. She doesn’t want to begin to relive the agony that Great Grandma Clementina had to endure.
Two trucks come by. A woman passes her going the other way on foot, leading two gigantic dogs. 
Leah takes a right on Prospect Lake Road. She thinks about the fact that she’s written hundreds and hundreds of stories. Many of these stories have been terribly sad. So how is it now she is so reluctant to relate dark tales?
She keeps walking and finally she is back to the narrow country road where she lives. At the corner, a gigantic backhoe is ripping up the earth, digging up rich dark soil. Two huge piles of dirt are getting bigger. 
A new house is going in next door. 
Leah stops a moment and stares at the clawed-up earth.
That’s when it hits her. She’s scared. And maybe a little superstitious.
Her book is about real people – her own family—people who faced devastating sorrow in their lives. How does she tell these stories without absorbing their sadness? 
And what if somehow she stirs up something dark in the present? She cringes at the thought.
As it is, the world is upside down with the pandemic. Is it really the time to be resurrecting old disasters?
She hurries past the ripped-up earth and reaches her driveway. As she gets close to the house, she picks half a dozen daffodils.
Inside, she puts the daffodils in a small glass vase and fills it with water.

She goes into her study, and picks up her journal.
Suddenly she knows what to do.
She will tell the stories in Italian.

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