Feed the Window and Water the Kitchen 2
This post is a continuation of the previous post. Please read that one first.
The instructions were detailed and clear, which did make my responsibility simple. Todd had been right on that score. Her property couldn’t have been very large as it fit in the neighborhood with everyone else’s average-sized backyards. But, like her house, she had created some magical way to make it feel like its own secluded oasis. I found it through a portal off the kitchen. I hazard to call it a door since it was more of a series of openings between flora, first trees similar to the ones that made the shelves, then thicker and thicker trunks until I swear I walked through one. Each cleave in the plants was offset to the one before it so once outside I could not see back inside. I’m not sure at what point I left the structure of the house. This portal led to a stone labyrinth path. Quiet contemplation seemed a fitting way to enter a garden oasis. I saw a path curving around the outside of the labyrinth and other options around the yard, but it seemed sacrilege to skip the meditative path on one’s first visit.
I stepped on the entrance stone and took a long deep breath in. Gratitude for this house sitting opportunity steadily filled me. I knew this experience was going to feed me something amazing. It already had, and more was coming if I just opened myself to it. I caught myself. I was assigning expectations already, building my hopes up. So much for a meditative practice. I huffed a laugh. Just walk, I told myself. If I looked around me my mind would try to guess what bordered the labyrinth- was it a vegetable garden, or a garden bench surrounded by flowering perennials, and was that a tree house up there in that oak? Turned out it was all three but for now I needed to look down and watch my feet if I wanted to get the most out of this walk. At first I tried to keep my mind on my breath but then I decided to surrender to where my mind wandered. Wasn’t trying to control it just as counterproductive as dwelling? I thought about the photographs in the circular frames upstairs. How the windows to the view on her residential street were just the same kind of peek into another place, just to one’s immediate reality. But the photographs were a peek into her, into what caught her eye, not only to take the photograph but also to print the picture large and frame it on her wall. What struck me about all the photos was how they captured light. Was she obsessed with bringing more light into her life? Did it represent God to her? Was she trying to show how the light got in? I suddenly became acutely aware of the sunlight on the stones around me. They shined like gems and almost burnt my eyes. I closed them for a moment, teetered from discombobulated equilibrium. I fought the urge to bolt from my spot. What was I running from? My own thoughts? Was the sunlight illuminating something I hadn’t wanted to see? I couldn’t open my eyes; I couldn’t step forward. Anything seemed too much. I stood there for what felt like an eternity. I felt an emotion physically manifest in my stomach then into my chest. It was welling up bigger than I could contain. This force pushed through my shoulders, up my neck, over the top of my head and exploded out of my eyes as tears. I audibly wailed as I released this surprise flood. Buckled over I collapsed to the ground. My mind was not thinking, my body only doing, releasing, wailing, exploding. I rocked back on my next inhale, opened up my arms to open up my lungs, gasping for air. Folded back in again, pulsating with each sob I succumbed to the ground, spent. As I huffed and puffed in a pile my mind searched my body for any last ounce of energy. I didn’t know so much pain had been inside me. Unable to move my body I searched my brain for an explanation for this outburst. It was empty. Whatever it was had escaped me, literally. After a couple of moments I stood up with ease, stretch and continued on along the path.
By the time I reached the center I recognized that I was dancing a bit in my step. I went with it. I shook my whole body from side to side, shot my arms right and left, let my hips wiggle. I even started to laugh. I hugged myself and spun, dizzying myself but caught myself before I fell over. I had fallen in the direction of the way back out so I boogied my way along. I literally completed the rest of the labyrinth in dance steps, jiggles and lungs. My body guided the way and my mind had nowhere to wander. It couldn’t have been more meditative if I had tried. I had no idea where all that emotion had come from but upon exiting the labyrinth I felt lighter than ever and entirely uninhibited.
Six weeks later I was half way through the session of my cooking class, was singing daily in her studio and had had social engagements every night of the week. I still had not found a picture of Todd’s sister anywhere in the house, but I would be finding out exactly what Penelope looked like soon enough. She was returning the next day. I was so anxious I could not fall asleep. Would she like me? Did I do an okay enough job with the house? What had Todd told her about me? What did her voice sound like? Would I like her as much in person as the projection of her that I had created in my head? “Go to sleep!” I kept telling myself. “Enjoy this last night in the leveled bed room with Gemini and Oscar curled up next to you.” My utilitarian apartment was going to feel so empty and dead after this stay. I had gone to my place a few times during these six weeks, only to use my painting studio. It did still serve well for that. I could splatter paint everywhere and not worry. I could empty my mind and let it fill back up with abstract images of sites I’d seen at Penelope’s house. She had become my muse, or more accurately, her house had. Fish skies and shrubbery walls, plateau beds and musical caverns. I felt more alive at everything I did. I was feeling especially alive, and awake, right now. “Sleep!” I ordered myself.
Before I knew it I was jarred awake by the sound of footsteps up the tree trunk stairs. I gasped as a woman appeared in the room I was sleeping in. It took me a few breaths to remember where I was and that this woman could be the one in whose room I was sleeping. My shocked expressed quickly glanced from her to my watch back to her again. Damn it! I had slept in. I had planned to be dressed and downstairs by the time she arrived, sipping my tea with these dirty sheets in the washing machine. I looked up at her, wide-eyed. She looked down at me, softening her eyes into a smile.
“Good morning.” Her voice was confident and sweet without being condescending. I heard a tinge of sensuality in it but I may have been projecting.
“Good morning.” My voice scratched to usefulness. “Uh, sorry, I must have overslept.” My mind was gathering up the sheets, my body was not willing to move from their comfort.
“I understand, I’ve done that many a time myself in that same bed. Sucks you in, doesn’t it?”
“Ha. Ha, yeah.” I didn’t know what to say or do. As my brain was coming into focus I was realizing how much more radiant she was in real life than in my head. She had wavy dark hair and dark olive skin. Her bare shoulders showed her strength and her hips shared her curves. The smile she could not seem to wipe off her face beamed with the whitest teeth I’d ever seen. Her eyes glistened with the clear spirit of one who knew her worth and her way in the world. When she looked at you, though, you knew she felt unconditional love for everyone. She was substantial but not heavy, happy but not bubbly, calm but not boring.
“Take as long as you need, I’ll just be unloading my car. Glad to see Gemini and Oscar are doing well.” She kneeled down to pet them both. I’d never seen anyone pet a turtle before. I fought the urge to reach out and caress her hand myself. Who pets a stranger?! I needed to wake up and get my wits about me. I watched her leave the room and couldn’t help admiring the shape of her silhouette.