First Sarah? And BOOKS

I was still (always) trying to understand the meaning of Sarah’s death.  It reshaped my life.  I went from utter and unconscious trust that life would always be wonderful, to a total shattering of that trust.  I never did regain it.  So I wondered if seeing the first time Sarah and I were connected would shed light on the issue.

By now I’d developed a technique for going into a different life experience.  I would sit quietly (usually in bed), and feel the emotions of the question or issue I wanted to examine.  Then I would visualize bubbles floating past me, in my mind’s eye.  Keeping the emotion of the question in mind, I would emotionally compare it to different bubbles floating past me.  In a way it was like matching color swatches.  In another way it was like matching a musical tone.  I was looking for a bubble that “felt like” the issue I was examining.   When I found it, I would look inside.  The bubble would actually contain images that, once I entered it, enveloped my consciousness.

So this time, wondering how and why Sarah and I have had these repeated experiences of losing each other, and wondering how and when this started, I found a matching bubble and stepped in.

Imagine the grass unmowed (Yorkshire Dales)

I stand on a hill of knee-high brown grass.  I hear the ocean below me and smell the salt mist.  A small hut (the word “wickie” comes to me), barely taller than a grown man at it’s thatched peak, is built of sticks and mud.  Its dark brown color stands out against the light golden browns of the grasses. Irregularly shaped, a full grown person could lay down inside with length to spare, but going inside is only for food or sleep.  The brown walls, earthen floor and smoking fireplace make it a miserable place.  On the brightest day you can neither see nor breathe easily inside.   A handful of children play around it.

My bent and haggard mother pushes a cloth aside and sticks her head out the doorspace of the hut, calling me.  There is little life left in her eyes.  My father is “away”.   He usually is.   His job keeps him away for months and sometimes years.  As far as I’m concerned he’s pretty much a stranger.   I am much older than my siblings, and one of my jobs is to walk the hills around our home looking for wild food.  When I’m home my task is to keep the children occupied and out of the way of my mother, who spends most of her time sitting at the mud hearth before our “high tech” suspended cookpot.

I have a secret reason for liking my assignment of roaming the nearby hills for food.  Only two small grassy hills away is a cottage with square-cornered walls, a wooden door, and a window opening.  The floor of the cottage is raised above the ground, unlike our earthen floor, and the front door opens above the ground making a handy seat for the man who lives there.  The best part is that the man has a Book.  It’s huge: as long as my arm and as wide as my forearm.  It has beautifully decorated wooden covers and a big metal clasp that keeps it closed, almost like a box.   One day I’d passed the cottage and discovered the man reading aloud from the book, so I stopped to hear the amazing stories.   Ever since, I would time my foraging to take me to his house when he was reading.   In my small little world, these stories were intoxicants, making me think and see things I’d never thought possible.  So I’d sit there, as quietly as possible, for as long as he would read, and then slip away without a word.

One day I went to the cottage and he wasn’t there.  I waited and waited, but he didn’t come back.   I really wanted the stories, so I went inside and picked up the book.  It was heavier than I expected, and I had to bring it outside to see well enough to try to open the clasp.  I thought of it as a magical thing.  When the man opened the book, the story popped out so he could say it.  So if I could open it, my theory went, the story would pop out for me, and I could say it too.  Besides, these stories were a great way to keep the children quiet.  They would sit for hour, entranced by the stories I’d heard from the man with the book.

As I was struggling with the clasp, I heard the man screaming and yelling at me.  Grabbing the book, he started hitting me with his walking stick, screaming “HERESY!!! HERESY!!!,” thrashing me some more.  “Women can NOT touch books!”  More blows from his sticki.  “LEAVE NOW and never come back!” By now he’s chasing me, screaming his last invective:  “You are an abomination to God!”

Running, stumbling and moaning more from grief than pain, I fled, weeping, heartbroken.  I realized he thought no more of me than of a stray dog sitting at his feet.  He had no idea I was understanding him.  (Many years later I read that most people were unable to “read silently”.  Of the few who could read, those who read to themselves would read aloud until sometime in the late middle ages. Anyone who could comprehend the written work without speaking was considered a magician.)  He thought he was reading alone.

But his stories enlarged my world.  The thought of life with no more stories broke me.  I ran to my mother, telling her my great tragedy, but she looked up from her smoking fire and said “Silly girl.  Of course girls can’t touch books.  It’s against God.  Put it out of your mind.”  So I ran off down to the shore, feeling the bathos and self-pity of disillusioned adolescence.   Walking through the shallow water, making my way around the stones, I thought “Wouldn’t they all be sorry if I died.”  –and a riptide pulled me out to sea.

The image ended.  My question wasn’t answered.  What did this have to do with Sarah?  I asked if I could go back and look again and found myself hovering over the shoreline.   My body was found.  I was buried.  Where was Sarah?   And then I noticed the smallest child.  I’d never really paid attention to him or her–couldn’t even remember if it was a boy or girl.  But days went by and the child wouldn’t speak.  I checked again and again, and the child had utterly given up speaking.  I was shocked to see what a huge impact my life and my great disappointment had on a little being I only barely noticed.