After I drive away from the school bus stop, I follow the red glow of three pairs of tail lights on three trucks chugging up the hill. We all climb steeply under a canopy of bare branches glazed with ice in the pre-dawn. Pleasant Valley Road and its neighborhood are hard cast in frost today, from cloudbanks to road banks--everything is gray and misty; silver and crispy. I arrive home safely and pour out the reassurance of the morning's dark-to-bright coming onto Morning Pages.
Releasing my random thoughts onto paper ropes them in and plugs them into slots, pulls them together and places them neatly onto three pages. I know today I will be normal, I will experience joy again. The grief of the past two months is beginning to fade in intensity. I think about the one good thing my daughter's father gave me--her--and not the bad things, not the heartbreaking intensity of his addiction, not his steadfast desecration of the gift of life. His death and permanent absence are beginning to sink in further than mind deep...our family photo has a dead man in it.
While drinking a pint of fuming coffee, I put on my makeup and trawl some hair products through hair which is tangled and wild, matching last night's dreams of running, running and searching, searching, but why and for what? The explanation for what I dreamt is as evasive as the morning is in-your-face frigid. What matters now is that my mind tunes distinctly to new thoughts and feelings awakening within me; today feels special and there is nothing like a fixed face and caffeine to begin the restorative process.
The man volunteering at the Friend's of the Library store is friendly, like always. Usually, I go in silent and remain silent, wrapped in the mysterious world of books, their covers and interiors, their familiarity and strangeness, not wanting contact with the outside. Today, I reach out to him first because I feel good without knowing exactly why. He asks how I am. "Wonderful," I say, because it is amazingly true. When I pick up a red leatherette copy of Roots and exclaim, "I can't believe my mother let me read this when I was only twelve," he guffaws and replies "What a great story it is." We discuss Kunta Kinte and Alex Haley; literary deceitfulness and scandal; guilty actions and subsequent consequences. Then, in a weird twist, he recommends I read The Alienist, and I practically grab it from his hand before he's finished describing the plot, because I instinctively feel it will be an intense, gripping read, and this is the most that I require of a book.
My pile of books on the counter grows, and my conversation continues with Mr. Friendly. I've been reading Literary Trips and today want to find a book by D. H. Lawrence so I can check out exactly what went down with those scandalous stories of his. Mr. Friendly ponders my request for his recommendation of which D. H. to read first. He's torn and confused, (all those Lovers) then instructs me to read Lawrence of Arabia to learn about D.H. the man first, and I'm stunned--they are the same person??? The 44-year-old D.H. dead of tuberculosis is also part and parcel with the man I've heard ripped and raped his way through Arabia? My host corrects himself. Wrong Lawrence, what a relief, and shortly afterwards I'm further relieved when I have enough money to payŚwow, ten books for nine dollars! Then there is the joyous relief of making it unharmed to my car on a busy street (more trucks, driving too fast) with two bags of books intact and a huge amount of anticipation for delving between all those hundreds of pages.
In the afternoon, I drive in the opposite direction on Pleasant Valley Road to reach the school bus stop once again. Everything has thawed into gray and brown now, except the mountains. I park and gaze at their snowed-over mounds resembling Hostess Snowballs, right down to the coconut flakes. I recall how pretty these mountains are during summer (and how Snowballs melt in my mouth), with their patchwork connections of farmed hills, treed hills, clear-cut hills and purple horizon hills. It's been hard lately not to see them as dead white monuments trapping me, a destitute inhabitant, in the bottom of the cold valley. Hey, I'm surprised to find I don't feel trapped, I feel better, good, great, because today dawned beautiful for me.
When a person first peeks over the highest mountain in the lowest valley like I did today, and sees that yes, beyond here there is more and more to see in the distance, then if we, you, I, take this knowledge and mount on wings to fly up and away and out--well then, we are, you are, I am flying. There's a choice; either I give up again today because it's too hard to make my best effort, or, on this day I spread my wings and take off like there is nothing ever going to stop me. Flying and soaring suddenly seem real and attainable. Even if I fall back briefly into despair, I know this flight outward and onward from emotional hell can be successful. I know again that life does go on for me because I am alive and because I have a daughter who is alive, and even though someone I loved and hated has inexplicably died, my decision to live is completely akin to knowing that I will go on, and on some more, recovering enough to pick up moments of happiness as often as I pick up books, to seek experiences which bring newness of heart, and lightness of being.