He stood comfortably in the predawn quietness and drew the darkness around himself like one of those impossibly-thick hotel robes. I don’t think I even moved; I mean, I was a-sleep! To say this was his favorite time of day would understate its place in his life. Normally, he turned on a lamp or something to provide a bit of light.
This morning seemed so perfect he chose not to insult the easy, soft approach of daylight, opting instead for carefully navigating by the ghostly-blue light under the fresh-ground, perking pot through the still-shadowy interior of his temporary home away from home. At least I didn’t stumble over the bear’s head. Can’t. Isn’t one.
Smiling to himself, he realized again the wisdom of leaving the head off that luxurious, thick bearskin rug. I’m just one more visitor here. Others have found this spot crucial to their own spirit’s recovery. Wonder who the first guy was to trip over that bear’s skull and dance around holding his toes? Or maybe the one who left the rug here had thought it through first, reasoning how many there’d be like me across the years who would be unfamiliar with this place, while being so desperately needy of it?
Granger stood leaning against the inside of the cabin door, sipping from his first cup of hot, fresh coffee. He’d dressed in mountain chic: soft, worn jeans, equally soft white tee and plaid green flannel shirt with sleeves half-rolled up. His feet were toasty in the shearling leather slippers he’d found beside the bed when– How’d he know what size shoes I wear? If he weren’t a believer, Granger could easily be spooked by all the seemingly random indicators that someone who knew him very well had prepped this place for his extended visit.
Grinning to himself, he mentally added a hash mark on the refrigerator door whiteboard of his mind. One more. . . He stood there, sipping coffee, lost in that comfortable place where thoughts go to rest.
Stepping across the wide porch, he tossed the dregs of his now-cool coffee over the edge into the rich, verdant forest carpet. Time for a fresh cup of hot joe, his trademark. Moving easily through the yawning morning’s light beginning to sneak its way through the cabin’s interior, he poured another brimming cup, noticing once more the canister that seemed to glow as if with its own source of light. I need to ask him about that canister.
He’d long since established the habit of preparing the means of coffeemaking the night before so all that was needed in the morning was flip on the switch – or, in this case, turn on the gas burner on the beautifully-kept old range. Odd. There was little time difference between his electronic coffeemaker at home and this old blue granite pot setting atop a gas burner in this mountain cabin.
Neither pot nor reservoir filled itself. He still had to grind the beans and measure the grounds into the filters. In actual minutes, he doubted there was any appreciable difference. Granger was struck again at how obliviously preoccupied people had become because of microwaves and the Internet. “Patience? Don’t have time for it. Gotta run.” Shaking his head, he unselfconsciously ran his flannel rolled cuff around the bottom of his coffee mug, absorbing the dribble of java that had innocently slid its way down. It’s what flannel in the mountains was made for.
Stopping to light the fire he’d laid the night before, his mind refused to let go of the rolled cuff of his flannel shirt. Jeans and flannel shirt was his unofficial uniform ever since boyhood. It was still his ‘go-to’ comfort clothing as a senior adult. Even in the early years of marriage when they had little but each other, buoyed by future hopes and dreams, they both invested in jeans, flannel shirts and western boots. There may have been just enough left over for a shared Pepsi, but at least they both looked comfortable. Then came life, careers, families, illness, and death. Through it all, Granger could be found, usually with coffee, in–what else? Comfortable, well-broken-in jeans and a flannel shirt with rolled sleeves.
She mentioned at one point she loved seeing pictures of him sitting easily, coffee cup in one hand, long sleeves rolled haphazardly up his arms. Wonder what she’s doing right now? Is she thinking of me as I do of her? Or does she think of me at all? Does she remember how often I think of her and pray for her? How much my grown-up heart is still enchanted by that girl she was, wondering about the woman she now is, of the life she’s lived to this point? Does she still believe that—
Physically shaking his head, Granger knew letting such thoughts go for long was pointless. Then he was rudely snatched back to his ‘now’, the match having burned close to his fingers. She’d fill the room with that beautiful laughter at my weird dance while shaking my hand and sucking on my finger. How I’d love to hear her laugh like that again. I guess laughing at myself will have to do, along with the squirrels and crows. Right?
Taking his Bible, steno pad and pen, he curled a big finger through the mug’s handle. It was oversized, very black outside and green inside, with COFFEE made me do it! printed on the outside. Whoever this is, they must collect coffee mugs like I do. Smiling and at peace, Granger carried his coffee and writing material out onto the porch. Laying pad, pen and The Message down on the rocker’s cushion, he used an old purple kitchen towel left on a support of the table to wipe off the table’s top. Taking the towel over and draping it over the porch railing to dry, he stood there for a moment, hunched and leaning on his straightened arms.
He could hear small sounds signaling the mountain morning commute was not far off. Birds were muttering back and forth, flittering about who needed to get up first and prepare worm breakfast. Wonder what birds have in their cups first thing in the morning? Drawing in a deep breath of the moist, cool, fragrant air, he scanned the area around the cabin and turned to the old rocker. Settling himself onto the faded, orange cushion and the old quilt, he quieted himself to receive what things God would have to say to him this morning.
Picking up the pen, he noticed a yellow ladybug resolutely walking along the edge of the table. Watching it, he thought again of how amazing God’s creativity is on so many things in this life. Raising his eyes out across the shadowed forest spaces between trees, his eyes unfocused as he sipped some more of the steaming coffee. To a writer, trivia isn’t. Everything attaches to something else, for what seems Trivial Pursuit to the unwashed is, to a writer’s mind, Research.
He remembered reading somewhere that there are over 300 different types of ladybugs in the U.S., that there is no set number of spots on their shell, and that they can be red, orange, yellow, pink, even white, and that their spots tend to become lighter with age. Okay, God, I’m jealous. With us, age spots get darker and more prevalent, while LADYBUG spots get dimmer with age?
He grinned at himself again, leaving the ladybug to whatever mission his diminutive guest was on and focused on his thoughts.
Pulling the pad closer, he jotted the date in the upper left corner of the blank page, then began to do what seemed to be both his greatest love and greatest challenge. He began to write his thoughts, his closely-held feelings on the paper as his personality, memories, desires, hopes and dreams soaked into the page. It was a strange transubstantiation, as if the plain ink of the basic black PaperMate Inkjoy mysteriously merged with his liquid thoughts to produce a warm, throbbing, crimson surge—the lifeblood of everything he loved, yearned for and wanted to do and be.
He hesitated in his writing, glancing down at what he’d written. It was as if his hand and the pen were going on about the mechanics of writing while his mind and spirit were huddled together over coffee. Without conscious thought, he fell easily into the habit of those most often alone, reading his written words aloud: “This place is everything my soul and bruised spirit could ever want. I just wish I had someone with whom to share it.”
The voice sounded so close he almost dropped the pad as he stood and glanced up and around to see who had spoken. It was that clear, yet with a strange resonance that seemed to come from nowhere and everywhere at the same time.
Grinning self-consciously at his shock, he spoke into the cool mountain dawn. “That’s You, isn’t it, Lord?” The silence was profound, equally as stirring as the unexpected nearness and clarity of the voice.
“Lord?” Nothing, blanketed with thick stillness, much like the coated air inside a sound booth. Hesitantly, slightly puzzled, Granger remembered the lesson of the previous evening, centered around that rocker. Slowly he sat back down, adjusting his hips to a slightly more comfortable position as he sank into the worn cushion of the old rocker.
Instantly came the voice. “I know you’re lonesome, and I know why.”
Everything in Granger seemed to hold its breath. There are times to talk and there are times to listen. Granger told himself that, and squirmed slightly because a thousand questions began peppering his mind. As he did, he heard a rustling sound. Wiggling again, he heard it again. Frowning, he got up and raised the cushion. Under it, he saw a folded sheet of paper laying there with a few yellowed pine needles on it. The paper had that rubbed sheen on it, like it had been there for a long time. The corners were rounded, fringy.
He took a deep breath, sensing something different was happening. Since the day he’d first arrived at the cabin, he’d sat in the old rocker several times and never heard the sound. Hesitantly, he reached for the paper, unfolding it and beginning to read.
I couldn’t handle the solitude. It was too quiet here. I could hear myself thinking and I wasn’t ready to face the truth I saw in myself. I’m not doing this ‘alone’ thing very well, yet. I came here to heal and to write, but I’m no writer. Nobody reads what I write. I get polite requests now and then; but nothing has ever come of it. The more I write, the less it seems anybody notices or cares. I’m done here. I used the rest of my time here to get this place ready for you. I pray you succeed where I failed.
He sank slowly back down into the cushion, hot tears making it hard to see. How, God? Why— When— He raised his brimming eyes to look out across the beautiful forest panorama, pulling his coffee up in his trembling right hand to take a sip and clear the taste of his heart that had somehow lodged in his throat. The black mug with the green interior was almost empty. Grinning ruefully at himself, he muttered, “Draining the cup without refueling? That can’t be good.”
He rose and wandered into the kitchen to refill his cup, then padded quietly back through the living room, slowing so he wouldn’t stumble over the thick bear rug. Hesitating, he knelt and ruffled his left hand through the coarse, thick hair. What was your story, old boy? Were you lonely, too? How long did you have to spend by yourself before God intervened? Pensive, Granger knew he was dipping himself in a Pity Pool and needed to knock it off. With fresh tears he walked back out onto the porch and stood for a few seconds, eyes focused inward.
Taking in a deep breath, he headed down the three steps. He almost missed the bottom one, spilling a few drops of hot coffee on his jeans. Absently, he gazed through tears at the damp spot, bending and dabbing at it with his shirtsleeve as the sharp pain returned him to reality’s now.
Standing again, he took slow, measured steps out among the trees. There was always something timeless about the woods, reminding him of his boyhood treks with his dad. He sought the peace and sighing, soughing comfort the forest has always offered to all who appreciate them.
Behind him, up on the porch, the yellow ladybug was now crawling across the opened sheet of once-white paper laying on the cushion of the old rocker. It was as if the little insect was pointing to the name of the one who’d written the note.
It was signed, Granger.