Encountering Grace ~ Chapter One
Sable had a peculiar twang to her voice; it was part English, in intonation, and slowed in long vowels like a forgotten magnolia debutante. She was often misunderstood, like any woman in a foreign country would be, still demure but secretly blunt only to the best of friends.
How she would tell one of her many yarns, depending on who she was talking to. In her best tales, she added occasional made-up composites of words, like griephop as a noun to describe an irrational arrogant snob or inowoom to describe a childlike woman. It served a purpose as far as her personal philosophy was concerned: “God gives only so many words a day.” She wanted to make the most of each day’s vernacular blessing.
I was walking around town one evening and saw her sitting on her porch. Her house faced the railroad track. The sun was setting and her rocking stopped as she looked up in awe into the melting gold light enveloped with brush strokes of crimson indigo palette across the horizon. She was entranced by its splendor and so still that even the breeze thought she was invisible and missed ruffling her hair in the wind. I approached her quietly so as not to startle her in her meditation. Sable’s peripheral vision was as sharp as an eagle’s. She saw me coming long before I arrived.
“Hey lady, what brings you out on this colorful evening? I am sure that the magic of all this,” she said brushing her hand across the sky.
“Yes, it is a beautiful sunset. I just had to get out of the house and walk around before nightfall.”
“Well, come on up here and sit with me a spell. I have another rocking chair right here for company,” She patted the chair arm with invitational zeal.
“Thank you, I would love to come and sit here with you.” I moved slowly up her steps into the sacred bubble of her many years on this porch and entered her reverie with silent respect. She handed me a pair of binoculars, her voice liltingly lifted into a much younger timber. “Look over there on the left of the sky. Do you see that cloud all puffed up looking like a cotton boll?”
“Yes I do,” I exclaimed, much surprised that I could indeed see it as she did. “It’s fluffed out and ready for picking.”
Sable laughed, “That’s right, it is the time of the year when all the fields are ready for picking. The sky even knows it. Come tomorrow we’ll hear the planes buzzing through the air raining the musky scent of defoliant, crisping up the leaves till there’s just skeleton stalks poking up high with their big ol’ cotton heads. Harvest is what we live for around here. You hadn’t been here long have you?” She glanced at my face, with a wash of recognition that she knew I was that Yankee girl.
Yes, Mamn,” I said. I’d been here long enough to know that most responses to elders were preceded by a yes mamn or a yes sir. It is an expression we seldom say up North, not because we are disrespectful, but because it is too formal and less friendly and often comes with a connotation of subservience to authority not needed in everyday neighborly conversation. But in the south, it is rude not to acknowledge one another without it.
“How are things going? Pretty different from what you are used to right?
I hardly knew Sable; she wasn’t someone in the circle of the town. The circle was not something I had become a part of myself yet, or if ever, so I found myself telling her things that I told no one.
“The people here are quite busy with their own families, work, and church. I am neither a Baptist nor a Methodist. Oh, I was raised a Lutheran but I am more of a spiritual day walker, I gathered up the parts of all the faiths and embrace aspects of many. I guess that either makes me unique in that or very confused.” I laughed. “And my husband is always working; he has little left over other than to sleep and hunt, so we never seem to go to church much anyway.
It’s not like where I grew up, people do things with their families all the time, take vacations in the summer, go on picnics, swim, boat, and watch TV shows together. I thought it would be like that. It’s not and that is hard for me. I don’t have any friends that I can relate to, and need friends.”
“The circle you seek is larger than what you think and you being an Inowoom, you are easily misunderstood,” Sable said.
“An Inowoom?” I asked.
“That is a woman who is an innocent. She is one of the remembered ones and with no ulterior motives present, just a joyful presence in the world, she is often considered a threat around here. You haven’t been brought here to belong, but to bring belonging to a corner of the planet that has forgotten that the circle of belonging is far wider than they know; you are feather brushed out to the edges where all eventually disappear as one. . Same goes for you too. These townspeople are all bright and shiny for you to discover and understand as well. I don’t think it will ever be easy for you. But you can only be who you are and in time the belonging will take place.
“Look in thy glass and tell the face thou viewest
Now is the time that face should form another;
Whose fresh repair if now thou not renewest,
Thou dost beguile the world, unbless some mother.“
“That’s Shakespeare!” I exclaimed, quite surprised that a rural woman would know of Shakespeare, let alone quote the sonnet so eloquently.”
“I too am not all they would think that I am. I also wear public times with a quiet face. The larger circle brought me here too. It’s of no matter; I have my books to keep me warm and my Garden to keep me green with hope.” Sable’s face suddenly became youthful. I could plainly see her as a young woman of twenty.
“And it doesn’t bother you, that no one knows this very special side of you?
“No, It did when I was younger, like you, I wanted to share all the beauty I found in books. I wanted to show my paintings too, but they are like my children and I didn’t want them exposed to the glaring sun of ridicule, robbed of their brilliance in the twilight minds of others’ criticism. Life here is survival; there is little time for culture. But I see you, I know that you are much like I was back then and you can visit me anytime.”
“I would like that. I write a little myself, some songs too.” I told her in almost a whisper.
“You do, well I would love to read one sometime or hear one of your songs. For all that you do is not in vain, if nothing more than to please your time here with all that you enjoy. Never mind their petty jealousies or lack of not knowing, they didn’t fall from the same star as you, and in that, they can’t be blamed, we are all from different backgrounds of experience.”
Those hours, that with gentle work did frame
The lovely gaze where every eye doth dwell,
Will play the tyrants to the very same
And that unfair which fairly doth excel;
For never-resting time leads summer on
To hideous winter, and confounds him there;
Sap checked with frost, and lusty leaves quite gone,
Beauty o’er-snowed and bareness everywhere:
Then were not summer’s distillation left,
A liquid prisoner pent in walls of glass,
Beauty’s effect with beauty were bereft,
Nor it, nor no remembrance what it was:
But flowers distilled, though they with winter meet,
Leese but their show; their substance still lives sweet.
“These sonnets have new meaning for me Sable; I feel less alone talking with you. I have to go to the store now, but I will return. Can I bring you something from the store?”
“No thank you Miss Inowoom, I have everything I need.”
“I hope to see you tomorrow if I could?”
“That would be nice, I am usually right here.”
“I look forward to it.” I left her porch the same way I entered; pushing gently through a crystalline bubble. The sun was almost gone, the mist was hovering the low roads now, lingering vaporously in mystical wisps, enchanted and truly otherworldly. I thought about ghosts, I thought about angels, I thought about Tennessee Williams; he would have loved this place.