I’ve been reading and thinking. Both of these are dangerous activities for the smart person. I know I fit into the smart category–maybe.
In my readings I came across gratitude, seeing, and blessing as a way to open myself to the world around me. Now I have talked about how I have had problems with writing since I have been ill with a variety of things since January.
Also I have been pretty cranky and isolated. It is easy to believe that my world has shrunk to my apartment, dog, and illnesses. Even worse when I do go out into the world, it is at great risk to my health. When I spent four days in the hospital, I had to admit that I needed to be more careful.
It affects my writing as well.
So when I read of gratitude, seeing, and blessing, I was a bit cynical. It couldn’t hurt though. So every day and every night, I say aloud what I am grateful for. The seeing part was a little harder. I needed to see others with how they see themselves in a few years–older and wiser. I also had to do that for myself.
The third act was blessing. I had to bless my dog, my world, my family, and my enemies without qualifications. Do you know how hard that is? I bless you but–. I had to close off the but before it entered my head.
Since I have tried to be more grateful, better see-er, and blessing without qualifications, I have become more open myself. The unintended consequence is that I am writing and editing better.
So on that note, I am giving you an excerpt of the next short novel that I am editing.
The snow came down wet and heavy as I trudged down the dirt road, marked by slashes on the trees. Without those slashes I couldn’t see the road, and I still had to hike a couple of miles before I made it to the cabin. My baby boy’s sleeping breath warmed my neck as I carried him on my back, wrapped in a blanket. With his weight on my back, I tested each footstep. If we fell in the snow, hypothermia could be a problem. I couldn’t fall.
I had been driving down that road like a demon with the snow hitting the windshield. I should have gotten new blades, hell, new tires when I realized that I was heading for the storm. The heater kept a small portion of my windshield clear. I might not have jerked and slid off the road, barely hitting a tree if I had seen the black creature earlier. Now I was walking in the storm and trying to keep my baby warm.
The snow dampened the sound around me. I could only hear the crunch of my own boots. Even the birds and smaller animals were hidden in burrows. I opened my mouth to taste the air. I couldn’t smell or taste anything around me, just wet and more wet.
I reached back and touched my boy’s small foot. It was soft and warm. I felt a quick relief. If I could just make it to the cabin soon without getting lost, we would be fine. I took a deep breath and followed the slashes. Heavy, against my leg was the loaded revolver.
How did I, Nova Tewa, the Diamond Butterfly and obedient granddaughter, get into this mess?
This morning my grandmother and I had been in our small house on the reservation. My grandmother had been making cinnamon candies from an old recipe she got from her grandmother. The smell of vanilla and cinnamon wafted through the house while we listened to Frank Sinatra’ s “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” followed by “Let it Snow.” The speakers crackled.
I put the final decorations on the tree. We had been stringing popcorn all morning to wrap around the tree. The fake green fir tree was in the front window. Grandmother had little red beads, which we strung between the white kernels. This year we made all of our own ornaments because we could only afford red beads and silver fringe.
My little baby boy, only a few weeks old, slept in an antique baby rocker. Grandmother’s father had made it with his own hands and my grandmother had slept in it as a baby. When she had her first child, her father gave her the rocker. Now my own son slept in it.
I was rocking the little one when I heard heavy footsteps march up the front steps. I tensed a little when the knocking began. It boomed against the wooden door. A voice growled, “Open up.”
My grandmother stopped stirring the syrup, stepped to the kitchen door, and motioned to me. I grabbed the baby and ran into the kitchen. She motioned to the car keys and a jacket. I slipped out the back door, laid the baby in the foot well under the front seat.
“Coming, coming,” she shouted at the front door.
Then I heard a crash, and my grandmother screamed. I turned the key in the ignition, and started the car. It roared. I hoped that whoever was invading our home hadn’t heard me. Although I felt my stomach clench as I looked straight ahead. I hoped my grandmother was fine, but I didn’t believe it.
Before the my son’s birth, I would have fought our invaders. I would have slipped out the back door with a gun in my hand and ambushed them by shooting them in the back. In our part of the country, home invaders were not treated gently.
Scenes of mayhem and torture of my beloved grandmother flashed through overactive imagination. I wanted to scream at leaving her.
I almost hesitated. I loved my grandmother but my loyalty had to be to my son. He was too little to protect himself. I must protect him. I felt a primal scream burst from my mouth. I grabbed the wheel and slid as I pushed my foot down hard on the accelerator.
“No, no, no,” I screamed my throat hoarse.
Before I slid off the road, I turned the wheel and I let my foot off the pedal. We stopped. I looked back but no one was following us yet. I slowly pushed the pedal and drove down the road more carefully. I kept looking at my rear-view mirror. My heart beat rapidly. I took a deep breath and looked at the road in front of me.
We were not criminals. We didn’t steal, prostitute, or use drugs. I focused on the windshield wipers as they swished up and down, up and down. The steady sound calmed my nerves for a moment as I drove to a little market just ten miles from our home. I had been here many times when I went to the city to drink, dance, and party.
I parked next to a pump and looked down at my son who was still lying in the foot well in front of the seat. I picked him up and buckled him into the car seat in the back. He didn’t moan or even move. His eyes were closed and his fist was in his mouth. For a moment I felt that surge that every mother feels when they look at their baby. I wanted to snuggle him close to my chest and sing my grandmother’s lullabies.
No time. No time. Another part of my mind beat a rhythm in my head. I squeezed his hand and then shut the door.
I put the fuel nozzle in the car’s tank. The baby murmured in his sleep.
We had left the house so quickly that I hadn’t been able to grab the diaper bag. I would need to buy diapers, food, and blankets soon. This little convenience store only had gas and snacks. I wouldn’t find baby stuff here.
The fuel stopped with a click. I reached for the nozzle and some gas dribbled on the ground. The sharp smell hit my nose and I coughed.
I looked at my back trail. I had that feeling that they were on the road and following me. So, I jumped when the manager called my name. Dave didn’t usually work at night. I felt a growing sense of unease.
“Nova,” he said. “Did you meet your cousins?”
“I must have missed them,” I jiggled the handle of the nozzle as I placed it in the pump. I climbed into the car and rolled down the window. “What did they look like?”
Dave described two men with dark hair, dark eyes, and short stout bodies. He could have been describing any of the men on the reservation.
“Did you get their names?”
He hadn’t. My worry must have leaked through my body language because when he said, “Nova,” he sounded worried. “It’s going to storm hard tonight. Are you sure you should take the baby out?”
No, I was sure. Of course it wasn’t smart to take the baby out. But if I had stayed in the nice warm house, then those men would have gotten us. I wanted to leave. Still, I waited for Dave’s weather prediction. He was usually right.
“How much snow?” I asked. I clutched the steering wheel hard and turned on the car. I turned up the heat, so that the baby would stay warm.
“We’ll be snowed in for days,” he said. He paused. The next words came out of him in a rush. “If you go north, you can stay at my cabin.” He pulled out a key from his front pocket. “Get going. You have a lot of driving to do tonight.”
As I drove away, I saw him in the rear view mirror. He was watching the sky.