The Vision Quest
On the seat next to her are a couple of books she's picked up at the library, Celine's JOURNEY TO THE END OF NIGHT, then some interviews of poets about their craft published by the New York Quarterly. This is the extent of her planning for the camping trip. She's heading north up Route Four to Livermore Falls and then on.
It's been three days since she's moved out of the house, its memories of married life, raising a daughter and the divorce, and she's still in mild shock. The veil had lifted exposing a painful reality, and she didn't like what she saw. Friends and acquaintances seemed a million miles from her, still in the old way of being. Everything they said belonged to a past she no longer inhabited.
Throughout spring, when she knew she had a sure buyer and steps were being taken, she began to look at maps and drive to different areas of Maine trying to find a likely area to move to. She's been across America but she doesn't know her own state well. The wilderness up north, the Great Allagash and Baxter State Park are a fantasy land she's always heard of.
She found a log cabin in the western mountains; a small, secluded house presently occupied till the end of the month, so she's camping out till then. She's not sure what attracted her to the cabin except that there were good vibrations. She considers it a stroke of luck finding it.
She stops at Lake Wasookeag and parks her red sports car, Felinas at the rest area near some picnic tables. Alone, she strips down, puts on her swimsuit and bathes in the lake. Afterward, she makes a supper of French bread with radishes, scallions and some cheese. A family comes to the picnic area and chooses a table far from her. Good. The solitude feels right, even necessary. She's decided to spend the next two weeks exploring Maine.
There must have been a million crickets at her campsite off the highway outside of Monson, but peaceful and secluded. When fixing breakfast, she realizes she's poorly equipped to camp out, a last minute decision. She has no sharp knife or utensils and has to use part of a nylon stocking as coffee filter.
On to Greenville, the last outpost of civilization, to stock up on equipment. Every other building is a great wilderness outfitter. Two banks refuse to cash her check, but the A & P does so readily. It takes a while to get all the things she needs and she leaves Greenville at one thirty in the afternoon without coffee filters.
The great northern wilderness and Lilly Bay are up ahead. She spends the night at a gorgeous spot across from the water, but she has difficulty falling asleep when it gets dark and there is nothing else to do by 8 PM. She spends hours tossing and turning. On this night something comes to her tent. She can hear its rhythmic panting.
By morning, she's gotten into the camping mode, losing her city ways grudgingly. Breakfast consists of scrambled eggs, burnt toast and coffee -- all delicious! Afterward, she heads for Kokadjo traveling a private logging road, dirt, wet down to control dust. Felinas gets caked with a half inch of mud clear up to the windows. The road comes to an end at a forest gatehouse where a woman takes down her plate number and asks where she is going, and how long she plans to stay? The woman wants to know where she's from. They chat for a while and she outlines her plans. She had wanted to head northwest and on to the Gardner-Debouille public land area, but the old woman tells her most of the trails on her map are privately owned logging roads and she won't be able to gain access to them. She will have to take the northeast route where she can visit Baxter State Park for the day. The old woman writes it down in her log book. That's good; I'm not going to die in the wilderness unknown to the world.
Baxter State Park is a long ride through rough country, but beautiful. The southern part is dominated by Katahdin, every turn in the road brings her face to face with that mountain and there are several camping areas. When she heads up the narrow dirt trail it becomes wilder, unspoiled. That's when it happens. She's going along, about fifteen miles an hour when she sees a bear scamper across the road in front of her, a black bear.
Jesus! I wish there was someone with me to share this experience. Surprisingly, she's not frightened. Rather, she would like to be a bear too, to go tumbling and running in the woods with it. Her Hollywood image was of creatures who stood on hind legs and roared menacingly, not this shaggy black ball scampering on all fours. This is surely an omen. When she first started writing she had terrifying dreams about a bear who came crashing through her safe middle class life wreaking havoc, its powerful claws tearing into walls, destroying all in its path.
No sooner has she parted with it when she comes round the bend and sees a doe and her young one in the middle of the road. The fawn takes off, but mother stays to examine her. It's as if I've stepped into another world. On leaving the park, she speaks to the ranger who estimates the bear's age at two or three years, a young buck. "It's rare to spot these bears," he tells her.
Come evening, she camps about three miles down an old logging road, a short way from Patten, off Route 11. She has an eerie feeling being there; psychic forces are at work. She takes a walk on an overgrown, abandoned road, finds some raspberries, eats several handfuls, then runs for a half mile.
After she's set up camp and had supper, she sits on a rock thinking about the underworld and how hard she works to keep it down, to ignore it. But still it's with her and pierces her reality when she least expects it. She thinks about psychic energy; she can feel its presence in the rocks. It occurs to her that her mind is obsessed with "relationship," that her life revolves around her relationships, and perhaps this is so because the world is too fearful otherwise. It holds unlimited possibilities -- chaos.
It's been a long driving day. She crawls into her tent and falls asleep in short time, but is awakened in the middle of the night, freezing. She tries to rearrange her sleeping bag, puts on her chamois shirt and wool socks and then the damn tent falls on her. Full of dew. Her sleeping bag and even her clothes get wet. She gets up and goes to sleep in the car.
A scary dream awakens her: she's pursued by people whose faces are wrapped in gauze and she's asked for identification, her driver's license with a picture, but she can't find a picture of herself without others in it.
In the morning, she discovers the car has a flat tire and the battery is dead. She thinks to walk to the highway, but for some reason she's a bit apprehensive. Once there, she decides if she has no luck after flagging down five cars she'll go back and maybe there'll be enough juice in the battery to get it going. Number four car stops. A man with soft, curly grey hair greets her.
They look at each other for a moment; he's OK. "My car's parked a couple of miles down this road," she explains. "I've got a flat tire and my battery is dead."
He nods. "I'll go take a look," reaching over to pop open the door on the passenger side of his automobile, he motions for her to get in.
Once the tire is changed and the car's running, he hesitates . . . as if not wanting to part with her. She tries to explain the trip to him, but her explanation lacks clarity. It doesn't matter, because she can see he has understood the nature of the adventure she's embarked upon and he wants to share a small part of it. This service he's rendered will suffice him before he reenters the every day world of his life in Patten.
It's back to Route 11, pouring rain. She heads past Eagle Lake toward Fort Kent and Madawaska, to the very tip of the Maine border, then down through French country, Presque Isle, Frenchville, Van Buren. The terrain is very different here, miles and miles of flat land, potato fields and sugar beets. She listens to French songs from the Quebec station just over the border. The farmhouses are great two and three story structures. She loves the large open porches and half buried potato barns.
When her daughter came back from college, there was a strange look on her face when she arrived at the house. "You gotta get out of here, Ma," she told her in an ominous tone.
And so she's left her dead house.
She's not well. It started in the morning. She feels dizzy, weak, stomach is sick. She decides to spend the night at a rest area and information station in Houlton. She doesn't want to be far from help if she needs it.
She awakes the next morning not feeling any better. The camper parked next to her moves back and forth. At first she thinks it's her dizziness, but no, it's the wind blowing. What a job trying to make coffee with the propane stove! It takes forever getting the water up to boil.
She spends the day in the parked car reading some poetry essays, Levertov and Rukeyser. And some of Celine's book, a tragicomic, stream-of-consciousness story from a rough and tumble guy. The Levertov article was written in the sixties. She takes a righteous stand, belittling the rich kids and their experience at the ivy league school where she taught.
She was more impressed with Rukeyser. Still, she finds very little of substance concerning craft in both interviews. Before she knew very much about poetry she used to read Whitman, Dickenson, Poe, Bly. There was no plan to it, even later when she read every poet she heard of. Had someone asked, Have you learned anything from it? She would have said no. Perhaps there is a subconscious plan. She finds that a poem writes itself if it is true. But how to arrive at truth? For her, it is learning to be quiet, learning to listen.
During her year of waiting for the house to sell, she realized that from the beginning what most interested her were the words. It was her reason for entering college. She had wanted to learn the words to speak her soul, and more than that to free her from the constraints of the identity imposed on her. She had wanted to master those specific words that are used to imprison and shackle the defenseless, and she's done that. Yet, she realizes this isn't enough. She wants to be able to touch people with her words.
She fixes herself a big breakfast the next morning with a pot of coffee, some stir fried carrots, onions, potatoes, and a couple of toasted egg sandwiches with cheese, a sure cure for what ails her. I swear, on my death bed I will be eating five course meals. Afterward, she takes out some fruit for her midday snack straightening things out in the car, and goes out to wash up in the rest room.
Driving down Route 1, she thinks of spending four days in the woods fasting, as the Indians do. A vision comes to them from the experience and it shows them the path they must follow in life. Usually an animal or bird is part of the vision and is adopted as that Indian's totem. It's incorporated in their name.
She wants to do this. She's thought about it this winter, lying in bed at night thinking about starting a new life, wanting guidance for a new direction. This fast may not be easy to accomplish. She's got to find a place where she's not going to meet up with people. And then there's the queasiness, she feels somewhat better today, but still in the bathroom, the room started swimming when she exerted herself.
To her left, off the highway, is a winding dirt road which she decides to explore. Rough going, some fresh tire tracks and many old apple trees along the way. she drives for a mile through woods and when she comes to a clearing, she parks the car and continue on foot. The area is fresh mown grass, flowers, and vegetable gardens. Oops! She can see an old man working among the pole beans. She's in someone's backyard. But another inlet leading to the gardens opens and she goes back. Mr. Shey introduces himself, tells her he is a retired railroad man. He wears one of those striped engineer hats and looks like Santa except he hasn't got the beard.
"This is a beautiful area, Mr. Shey. The vegetable and the flower gardens are gorgeous. You must have worked a long time to accomplish this."
"I have time. This is my private corner," he tells her with a wink. And it is that. No one traveling Route One would suspect there's an Eden behind the woods.
They chat for a while and they are silent too. She's a bit uncomfortable, but she trusts him. They lean on the hood of his truck and she notices he is inching close to her. She don't know what to think of it, but she doesn't have an urge to move away.
"How would you feel about my camping in the woods back there?" "I wouldn't mind at all."
"I'd like to stay for four days."
"That's fine. Come," he motions, "I'll get you some vegetables for your evening meal." He gets her corn and tomatoes, some cucumbers and beans. Then he takes her for a walk beyond the clearing to the woods in the back.
"You can get your water from that stream," he points down beneath a stone bridge where cool, dark water runs through a winding path of rocks. "There are three miles of woods beyond this, and then a couple of lakes -- all of it uninhabited, and miles and miles of woods beyond that." He leaves then, his house being way back on Route 1.
She immediately sets out for the woods. There are many trails and she walks quite a while looking for just the right spot to set up her tent. Luhren takes her clothes off along the way. Back at the clearing, she lies naked for a couple of hours, sunning herself and reading another essay. Erica Jong speaks about getting published and what it meant to her, that talent isn't enough you need perseverance too. How she knew good writers in college who never followed through and weren't writing anymore.
Later she has her last meal, cleans out the ice chest and gets rid of the perishable food. She packs the things she will need for her four days in the woods and sets out.
It starts raining during the night and by morning it is pouring. The tent leaks badly. Everything is soaked, her sleeping bag and all her clothes. Then all of a sudden a loud roaring noise; sounds like a motorcycle. It's Mr. Shey coming up the road in an all terrain vehicle. So much for four days of fasting, solitude and peace.
"I got worried that you got lost in the woods."
Reasonable assumption; there is some responsibility about her camping in his woods, and he doesn't know her.
After he leaves, she puts up a clothes' line and hangs out the sleeping bag, her extra pairs of socks and her hat. But it's no good because it continues to rain on and off all day. She's miserable, no place to stand or sit, rain, rain everywhere. She's cold and there is nothing to be done about it, everything is wet. So she sits inside the tent on the plastic air mattress with the rain coming down on her and all she can think of is home, but there is no home left, and of food. Food, food, food, vegetables, eggs, thick sauces, fresh fruit with cream, cakes and pies.
She gives up at five PM, brings in her wet sleeping bag and turns in. She's beginning to get sick and has a bad headache.
Cloudy, overcast second day. She hangs the sleeping bag on the line with little hope of it drying, then she cuts some pine boughs and fixes herself a place to sit down. Later she takes a walk, but it's hard going. She's weak and tiring easily. What’s more, her sneakers are getting soaked, so she sits around most of the day. The food cravings seem to be gone, but the headache continues.
She notices when she closes her eyes that the imagery is vivid. She sees wild, crazy pictures, wilder than dreams. She tries to see if they make up a story. They don't seem to. Do they reflect momentary feelings? She doesn't know, they're so outrageous it's hard to figure them out.
Mr. Shey drives up in the afternoon. "It's gonna be a cold night, about 30 degrees," he tells her.
Oh gosh, that's discouraging! Well, I'm going to have to do something about it.
He tells her his daughter is coming up from Connecticut this evening which he's looking forward to. After he leaves she gets to work preparing for the cold night by cutting some pine boughs to put underneath the air mattress, figuring it will put her that much higher off the ground and maybe she can put some on top of her too.
Five o'clock and she's exhausted. She checks the sleeping bag, a few wet spots otherwise it's fairly dry. But the real luxury is that her woolen socks are dry. There is a towel and a pair of shorts in her pack. She wraps one around each foot then lies down.
It takes several hours till she falls asleep. All of a sudden, she's awakened by the sound of the all terrain vehicle.
Jesus! What is it now?
"Hello! Hello!" Comes the impatient voice outside. While she's in the process of opening the zippered screen, then the zippered flap the voice, irritated now, says, "Hey! Hello!"
She get things unzipped and there's a young man with red hair sitting on the vehicle. "You must be Mr. Shey's son," she greets him.
"No, I'm the grandson." He asks what she's doing way the hell up here.
"I don't know."
"You don't know!"
At this point, she closes the tent's flap. He can't start his all terrain vehicle and mumbles something about it. His penis has wilted.
Good! I hope he gets stranded in the woods overnight.
And now she is ill, violently ill. Her stomach is going crazy. She keeps wanting to throw up; surely it can't be food. She spends a long miserable night.
Fairly warm third day, but windy. After she awakens, she forces herself to go outside. The sound of that wind is oppressive. Weakness is causing her to totter. She walks to her spot in the sun and is warmed. The tiniest field mouse, no more than a biteful, comes to check her out. Then many birds park themselves in surrounding trees, sparrows mostly. They're starting to trust her presence.
She hangs out the sleeping bag to finish drying and sees Mr. Shey driving up the path for a visit.
"I'm really impressed with what you're doing," he tells her. Marvel and affection are written all over his face.
She nods, "I feel the same way about you. You're a kind, gentle man with a trusting heart. I enjoy these visits."
"I do too."
It isn't that they talk so much, but rather they seem attuned to each other. She feels at peace when she's with him.
Before leaving he gives her the weather report, "It's gonna be a cold night, but warm day tomorrow," then he starts his machine and heads out.
Her energy runs out at three PM. She tries to stick it out till four but at three thirty she decides to turn in. She puts on her two pairs of socks and sneakers. Tonight, everything is dry. The minute she lies down the vision begins. She sees a man dressed in a phosphorescent robe. On his chest is a scroll with calligraphic writing on it. It's a map. From each side of the man's throat grows a young tree, both reach up to form the antlers of a deer.
This man is a sorcerer who gives off a cool, glowing light in the dark. His identity, worn on his chest, are the words, beautifully written. It serves as a map to guide others. Indians have visions of animals, she has one of a sorcerer. She understands the vision is guiding her to the world she knows but dares not acknowledge or speak of. It's the underworld, the world of chaos, without boundaries that she glimpsed on the logging road.
The vision continues and she sees jaws, the open jaws and teeth of what appears to be a fish or alligator. A Batman with his mask, several Batmen snapping their long fangs. Then it is eyes, a face with an eyeball wet and slimy. A hand reaches in to pull it out, it turns into a little fish. And next it's a face that looks like a mask, the right eye is missing.
This part of the vision is the other side of the coin; the life without identity, wearing a mask, rapaciously hungry, without sight or wisdom.
* * *
She awakens at nine am on the fourth day. A coyote came close to her tent during the night and sang her a lullaby. It isn't her puny energy it crooned to but that great feminine power in the sky. Tomorrow morning she'll be making her way down to the clearing and the gardens. She's concerned about her ability to make that trip with full pack, the tent and her sleeping bag.
The day is warm, full sun. She sits quietly for a while and writes in her journal. Afterward she takes her clothes off and sunbathe but she can only stay for a while, she's exhausted. At noontime she crawls into her tent. Her mood is peaceful, the forest has an order that induces this. She finds that she doesn't think very much, it's more intuitive. In the city her mind spins and spins until at times she wishes she could remove her head to get a rest.
On this morning when pissing on the ground she noticed a rock with a small natural puckering hole in it that looks like an inverted belly button. Turns out it's an old Indian scrapper used to clean hides and such; fits perfectly in the hand. Whoever made it shaped it in such a way that it looks like a fish with the belly button pucker as its eye. When she leaves here she'll be driving through Indian territory, the Micmacs. She had wanted to buy herself something, the scrapper is much better, made when Indians roamed America, Children of the Earth that nourished them and this simple tool a part of it.
She thinks about that first day in the gardens with Mr. Shey. She could see that although her work is there, she doesn't want to go back to the city for a long while. It saps her energy just to maintain balance in all that craziness.
Her daily visitor comes over at three thirty. She crawls out of her tent and stands for a while but finds she can't sustain it and goes to sit by his side on the red machine he disdains so. "It's my son's," he always points out. They have a long visit and talk about simple things, about nature and animals, the habits of certain birds. It's ending and both feel sad. She confides in him about her fast and vision quest. "I suspected you were doing that. I could see there were no cooking utensils here. I wanted to bring you a sandwich several times."
She smiles at this offer.
"I'm truly amazed you've done this and stuck it out."
She doesn't know why she's not afraid in the woods only that it's a fact. She tells him about the coyote that came to her tent in the night. "I hear them in the evening from my house. They travel in packs. That's how they hunt." He doesn't warn her or try to coax her out of the woods because he knows she is free and treats her with respect.
"Will I see you tomorrow?" she asks, pointing out that she'll leave around noontime.
"I won't be able to come in the morning. My daughter's visiting and we'll be going to church. But why don't you stop at the house when you leave?"
She can tell it's important to him, he wants his wife to meet her. But she doesn't want to do that. What with the grandson's visit she figures she's being thought of as a curiosity at his house.
At night the visions are of women. She sees a sorceress in a long white gown. The woman wears a crown that springs off her head and is structured into a triangle, richly decorated and with lights all around it. Then come a series of pictures of one woman. It's a friend back home, a woman who's lost her power in the world. She appears soft, feminine, happy, not this woman's way for many years now. She is hardened and emulates men's ways in the cities.
In the first scene, she wears a wedding gown but hides her face. When she does show it, there are small tree fungi all over it, and also on her gown. She wears another wedding gown in the next scene. It has a bluish tinge and the crown of her veil is encrusted with large bluish pearls. She is walking at the edge of a cornfield.
The last scene depicts the bride sitting at her vanity, radiant. She arranges her face and hair. There follows a series of pictures of women, all beautiful; one is a painting of a woman holding a yellow flower, a living, moving painting with red, red lips. The flower is presented, it is live.
The sorceress with triangular headpiece brings unity and light, warm light to her. She shows her the way to become whole through the example of her friend who is transformed and given a new identity by becoming part of the woods, the cultivated soil, through solitude and refinement of the soul.
And she understands, the beauty of woman ultimately is the flower she presents to us, not the way she appears.
* * * *
This is the morning! She crawls out of her tent, makes her way to the blackberries across the path that she's been eyeing for the past four days. Their tartness grab at her throat and Ishe retches. She drinks some water and sits in the sun for a bit and rests.
Then she starts packing for her trip down, making everything as compact as possible. The plastic water jug is emptied and she latches it to her pack. Bedroll is tied so she can carry it like a suitcase. Only the tent is cumbersome. Although it folds up compactly and slips in a pouch, the pouch has no handle.
She gathers the pine boughs she had cut and uses them to repair part of the path that is gutted and collects water. Slowly and rhythmically she make her way down never stopping once all the way. She can see the clearing ahead. She starts to cry -- because she is glad? -- No, confounding human nature, she is sad to leave the woods.
Felinas waits faithfully. Her breakfast consists of herb tea with honey and she has an orange to eat. Throughout food preparation she scurries back and forth through the gardens and fills her cooler with vegetables as Mr. Shey has advised.
The sun overwhelms her and she sits in the car to rest. She pulls out a crisp, clean sheet of paper and writes a poem to Mr. Shey. She includes a note and picks some goldenrod and black-eyed Susans that she sticks in the scarecrow's hat.
Back on the road, tooting wildly as she passes Mr. Shey's house, she drives by the Indian reservation and is overwhelmed with sadness. They have now become the Children of Government. They live in identical brick houses all in a row, all facing the highway.
She turns the radio on, wants to get acclimated by degrees, but finds she cannot listen to hard news. A plane crash has occurred in California killing fifty people; and over in South Africa thirty Blacks have been murdered for refusing to leave homes after being given eviction notices. This information is given in a rhythmic, singsongy way. No feelings, hard.
Click! She shuts the thing off.
Around five o'clock she decides to stop at a store and get some supplies, then find a place to bed down for the night. Oh god, what a shock she encounters when she steps into the store! She's lost her way of being in the world. Stimuli bombards her from all sides. Words! Letters! Signs! Exhortations! She feels like an African bush woman suddenly transplanted to the Grand Central Terminal. Against the back wall is an ice box with butter, she gets two sticks and makes her way to the counter. She want to protect herself from all the stimuli. Furtively, she looks at the counter girl as she slowly counts out my nickels and dimes and then she runs out.
Once outdoors, she make a quick assessment of her physical appearance. Wild hair which she sticks beneath a straw hat to no avail. Her body looks emaciated. A normally slender woman, this weight loss makes her look anorexic. She can finally say without equivocation that she has a flat abdomen. And her inner thighs so long a source of concern at the gym, the skin just hangs from them now. What's more she hasn't bathed in five days.
She stops at another store, makes her way to the ice box; there's that Wine Cooler I like. As she reaches in to get it a young man comes over and says "No Ma'am, you can't take that."
"What have I done?" she jumps back. Seems they don't sell wine on Sunday in this town. She's completely unnerved and mutters something about getting ice.
"Yes," he tells her. "You can get ice."
She quickly makes her way out of there too. Eventually stopping at two other stores, each time gaining more composure. Her walk becomes slower, sexier. People's looks are less strange when they see her. She keeps driving and driving but can't seem to find a place to bed down for the night.
Finally around seven PM in desperation she makes her way to a boat access and launching area in Searsport, a big lot, tarred with marked lines for parking cars, big overhead lights, potted flowers and a picnic area with corrugated metal tables, grills and a tiny lawn. But the view is stupendous, ocean all around, about twenty five boats moored in the water, some with sailing rig, a long, large wharf where people are coming back from boat trips.
There's much activity in the lot, cars pulling in and out. Some just come for the view, others are going home with their catch. Two women and a young boy in a beat up car pull up next to hers. Mama and her girlfriend, sitting to her right with the window open, are discussing LOVE. The kid's got an enormous ice cream cone in one hand and a large drink in the other. She watches him playing for a while. He finishes his ice cream then throws rocks at the sea gulls. She has to fight an urge to push him over the rock edge he skirts and send him hurtling into the ocean.
At bedtime, she parks under the big light next to the camper trailer making sure all doors are locked.
Morning sun streams down on her; people are bustling through the parking lot. She sits up, again the outstanding view. She notices people are less frantic than the ones she saw in the stores yesterday. About fifteen of them are fishing off the sides.
She makes her way to the corrugated metal tables and starts coffee. An old woman comes to greet her and offers chitchat. She acknowledges her and replies briefly, trying to protect myself, to control incoming messages. Something happened to her in the woods -- I don't want to lose it, don't want to go back to being crazy in the world again.
She sits with her coffee and begins to write. The old woman and her husband take the table next to hers. They are having lobster. He unfolds a lawn chair facing the sea and cracks open a book, A pampered man, handsome, lean, full white beard. His wife faces corrugated metal and begins her attack on the lobsters. She works steadily and quietly save for an occasional query about her husband's well being. She speaks with an accent too faint to distinguish. The morning passes like so. The man removes his tee shirt, nice, well proportioned chest. He sees her watching and struts a bit. She's amazed at the amount of meat the old woman has managed to extract from the lobsters. Everything's been pulverized. But, she didn't save the tomalley -- an out-of-stater.
It's time to head home. She charts her route and heads inland. The closer she gets the more anxious she becomes, not wanting this time to end and bracing herself for the ride into town. She would like to go immediately to the cabin, but doubts that it is ready yet.
She decides to go the Silver Gym, take a shower and afterward get supper, hoping staff is not present so she won't have to chitchat. Again the violent shock as she enters; hard black iron strewn in long rows on the floor, heavy black iron machines everywhere, and the whole of it set off by mirrors all around reflecting it twice and three times over.
She passes a body builder and his girlfriend on her way to the locker rooms. Both give her the once-over and disdain her. Three weeks ago she was a peacock strutting this floor. She still remembers the combination to her locker and the door opens to reveal an electric blue body suit with stripes, smoke colored tights and salmon pink leg warmers hanging there.
She packs everything up except the toiletries she will need for her bath. The shower lasts thirty five blissful minutes and afterward she blow dries her hair, puts on a dress and heels examining herself in the mirror. I look good, my face is strong.
Chinese dinner at the Jade Fountain, she sees hardship in the faces of people around her and she remembers the glib comment made by a visiting celebrity. "A depressed mill town," is how he phrased it. Two fortune cookies inform her that her outstanding trait is versatility and the way of the heart is the most profound way to speak.
She heads for the cabin, stopping along the way to pick up a bottle of champagne. What an incredible sight it is when she gets there! A big bouquet of wild flowers with oak leaves sits on the picnic table, several smaller ones in the house. The place has been all spruced up and polished.
She sits quietly outdoors for about fifteen minutes taking in the white tipped, blue mountains, the lake, the tall pines. She lights the outdoor fireplace that's been prepared with newspaper and kindling. Then she becomes frenzied like the lobster woman and brings in the things she had stored in the pump house, hangs all the bedding, area rugs and pillows to air out, puts all the food supplies on shelves, in cabinets. She decides to leave the office furniture and equipment for another day. She is too weak to move the filing cabinet and desk.
She proceeds to the car, uncorks the champagne bottle and pops it against the front door. Then she completely unloads the car by firelight, bringing in the vegetables from Mr. Shey's gardens. She washes them up and cooks the beet greens so as not to lose them. It's four o'clock in the morning, everything's straightened out and she hops in bed. In the still and quiet she is aware she has entered the chaotic darkness of her life, her new home. She begins to cry, deep heart wrenching sobs, and she does not stop for a long time.