Coffee cup in hand I see the rumble of the near thunder put a ripple across the top of my dark brew and reach to steady it in the rattling saucer cradling the base. I take a sip to keep it below the lip and walk up the steps to the upper level.
This old house has sheltered her share in century. I know the paths of those who lived here before. I left the footprints on the back concrete step, might not need the pictures buried in the box under the kitchen window. I imagine what I will never know about cousin Roxanne and the gentleman from May Lane. I find such satisfying relief for my leaving this little town squarely set on the empty part of the state it landed upon.
Like a smear of a piece of fried egg dropped on a summer dress Knowlton South came to be when the hand of a far worse storm of ’58 tore a hole in the levee and left the lower half underwater and access forever closed.
Cut off from the main street grocery, the bank, the feed mill and the catholic church with its brick rectory and that white haired priest with a housekeeper, and the Dillon Bank, Knowlton South grew a little unsteady in her focus, propping itself up with more taverns than industry on this side of the bridge but it also turned the storms debris and the sediment into wetlands and in the last thirty years created a nature preserve with stands of birch and poplar and pine and the marshes into vistas of beauty unheard of and sometimes unappreciated by the teenage crowd growing up fast and loud in Knowlton North until those times when young couples need a destination and find themselves driving across the bridge to park and touch and taste heaven.
Today, in the greyness and shining air of the eye, I am surrounded by willows bending, the long tendrils of her greens brushing the ground as she bends and sways in a macabre dance under the weight and winds of the pelting rain.
Work is suspended in this attic retreat as I check the weather on the tracker and listen for the siren sounds to know whether to take my coffee to the basement. For now I am at the center of the pattering splash on my rooftop as the rhythms of the storm emerge.
There are periods of driving droplets, drowning out the tick of the clock that counts the aging minutes of my bones and then there are periods of stillness when I draw my eyes from my screen and search through the pane to see if she has passed, hoping she will remain and continue to swathe me in the silence that only comes from nature forcing an entire village inside to wait for it to pass.
Contained in walls merely made of two by fours and particle board and tar paper, no brick, no cement, just common pine, we are protected from the wetness and from the peering eyes of those who want to disturb the silence of my world. They would not call it disturb though this is precisely what it is. They all know about the dementia. They all know mother’s booming voice and her sobbing hysterics and that raggy bathrobe. They know and they stop in with desserts and casseroles and Ms. Helt, with her mason jar full of sour milk she has been saving, quite necessary for chocolate cake starter. They drop these gifts in trade, very generous exchanges, offered in gratitude and as barter to somehow keep my kind of disturbances behind sugary sweets and happy endings, a little dam built up around this old house to contain us, truthfully traded to spare them the same.
I am not distracted by the crackling of the timbers as the house faces the assault from all four corners. I imagine I have three years or thirty to seek shelter knowing this town brings back a little more silence than when I lived here as a child but it has learned to speak a new language each year when one of its young returns home, which is what we all long to do, full circle round trip ticket we hold on tightly to the leaving stub, lest it go missing, at least for a little while or so we tell ourselves, until we get caught up in the summer parade or the simplicity of a walk through neighborhoods where we once ran, barefoot with popsicles formed in tupperware shapers , my two braids flying behind and mother shouting in the way expected, “Heed the five o’clock church bells and be back for supper. I don’t want to hear you screaming outside the bedroom window. I’ve got to sleep.”
Storms always bring the once-young back to Knowlton. One way or another.
Old houses and storms, show me the secret room behind the bookcase and let me explore the letters and the treasures with the dust just a distraction and the silence a welcome peace.
#for Reticent Mental Property.