Yesterday while sitting on the train, I thought of other days that have been hot and muggy like this in Provo; days from the 70’s. Days of longing.
The second year that I lived here, we lived at a place close to the Provo River. An extension of the hospital stands there now. But in that house there was a magic. Coming home from the old Woolworth’s downtown, I ran through the back screen door into the cool of the kitchen. The house was adobe brick and therefore able to stay fairly col even on 100 degree days. The grass under the walnut tree was soft and tall, begging to be trimmed.
To the west, the clouds were deep grey. There were faint rumblings that you could hear if you really listened. I ran into my bedroom and opened the shutter style windows to let in the approaching summer storm. I didn’t have long to wait.
In a few moments, a large clap of thunder rattled the house, sending my dog off barking. A gust of wind blew through the windows, lifting the white linen curtains like angel wings. This is what I waited for…the deep rumblings and brilliant flashes of lightning splitting across the sky in a wizard wand arc. The old cottonwood tree looked neon green against the blackened sky. It was living up to it’s legend of being the devil’s tree the way it glowed in the half light.
I couldn’t resist. I ran out of my room, down the back door stairs and out into the back orchards past the outbuildings. A feeling of expectation was burning in my chest as if I were meeting someone in the field under the overgrown apple trees. Thunder and the blinding flash of lightening wove an electrical sonata with the wind as it moaned through the trees by the river. There was no one else there…not a sound but the rain beginning to fall hard and stinging on my bare arms.
It was wrong, but I lifted my hands to heaven embracing the wildness about me as something tangible, unaware of the danger of lightning striking me. Instead it hit chose a distant cottonwood several yards away, blowing chucks of wood and leaves in all directions. The air smelled singed. And yet something was missing….
Drenched to the bone, I stood in the middle of the orchard, my skirt plastered around my ankles shroud like. It wasn’t cold, this rain. It was warm as a lovers kiss. Something had happened in this wildness, mud and yellow grasses sticking to my toes that I squished into the mud, pushing them deeper and wiggling out. Staring down, I could see them now, black, glittery coated with silt from the canal, filling into the crevices of my toe nails.
It was the first time I really felt alive here. The first time I was aware of the charge in the air that is the spark of life, death, lust, and magic. How close it real is to us and yet so elusive.
Shivering, but not from cold, I walked carelessly through the trees. The smells of apples and rotting peaches mixed with the fresh rain and the swampy water from the river bottoms. My eyes searched for movement. Nothing. I was sure I was being watched, but from where. My mind went back to some poetry I had recently read of lovers lying hidden in the grasses under the fruit trees. Maybe he was here. Someone handsome, hidden and dark with eyes like the night…a gypsy soul like my own. My heart beat furiously as a branch cracked and I turned and fled back through the wood gate, sure I was being followed by the man in my imagination. I didn’t slow until I was back at the house, standing on the pavement, panting and laughing hysterically at my foolishness. My grandmother looking at me through the window, shocked at the sodden mess I had become and that even I was out in it.
She got me in the house, gathering me in a towel, asking me what was wrong with me running out in the storm…telling me that it was dangerous in the river bottoms and orchards for a girl alone. I said nothing, letting her rumple my hair in the towel.
The window sills were wet, rain had spilled down the blue rose wallpaper. Shutting my door, I locked it and shed my wet cloths in a heap. Lighting a pillar candle, I sat it in the window, the flame growing in the now still evening air. Sitting on my floor, I lit the little brass incense burner filled with wisteria incense that I had bought that afternoon at Woolworth’s; the little black cone sending up snakes of perfumed smoke that wind around my wrist as I lingered a moment over the match flame before gently pinching it out.
I sat naked, cross legged on the floor and breathed in the night, incense,and melting candle wax, letting the scents blend on my skin where the rain had been. The sounds of crickets beginning the love songs and a dog barking somewhere from the other side of the orchard by the river bottoms where the a few houses edged into the thick brush, cottonwoods and ditch willows. Music played in my head and I leaned back, my hands to the floor letting the night take me.
Where was he, that other half that lived in the mist and magic of my mind…a half forgotten memory I longed for? Stars came out and I rose looking out the window, resting my chin on my hands and looking through the screen into the dark. Did he see these same stars, too? Shutting the window, I crawled under the covers and dreamed of a boy, his face in mist walking me down an aisle of some gothic cathedral I had seen in Trondheim, Norway when I was 9. And in my sleep I swore I heard the faintest of whispers coming from the orchards for me to step out in the rain.
August 2, 2016