Wednesday, September 18, 2013


Monday afternoon I headed down the road to find a lamp.  As I temporarily left my favorite little berg, I noticed the afternoon was now overcast. Cate and I had made the same jaunt to the next town several years earlier.  We had come up to this part of the state on a quick girls' trip.  The confinement of a speeding car offers an ideal environment to visit with your teenage daughter, after turning off the cell phones.

Travel time to that next town is less than thirty minutes.  One item we purchased was a new set of colored felt tip pens, arranged like the rainbow and drawing paper.  She rolls her eyes whenever I mention office supplies.  Yes, they are a weakness.  When we returned, the evening's entertainment consisted of me doodling our names in different colors and patterns.  Her nameplate was taped to her bedroom door through high school, graduation and into marriage.  We get in trouble when we call it the guest room, which it is now.  Of course, it will always be her room even though everything has changed.  Our original guest room is now my office.

My windowful little cottage

With graduations, weddings, family health issues and travels, my last visit had been with Cate.  While some things looked familiar, nothing stays the same, except for the fact that I do love this place and its ability to refresh my batteries.  The delightful French-style  bistro we discovered on our honeymoon and enjoyed for many years, even a later visit with our teenage daughter, was now empty.  Crusty bread, salad, quiche, French onion soup and our first chocolate crème brulee were served atop crisp table linens with cloth napkins.  Many businesses had struggled during the economic downturn but others had run a well-executed course.  A shopping mall and entertainment center had finally closed, "someone's dream" as my mother would say.  Our honeymoon bed and breakfast was for sale, as was another B & B we had visited.  The roadside was weary with for sale signs but then another curve would be the booming, newest, largest gas station.  Here and there, new was beginning to replace the old because someone always has a new and better dream but unfortunately, most dreams do not last forever. 

I went into the store and and because I was on my sabbatical with nowhere to be at any time, I let myself wander the aisles of this large retail market place, picking up this and that.  When I stepped out of the store, giddy with my new purchases, I was surprised to see a new bank of clouds in the western sky.  The colors were not pretty, the blue, green, grey of nothing good will happen.  Hopefully, it was all look and no storm.  I had no choice but to head the car back in the direction of my home for two weeks, right into the threatening storm.  

The highway travels at the top of a hilly mountain, flanked by green meadow valleys and the occasional old two-story farmhouse and even a couple of old, filled-in dogtrot houses built way back by original settlers.  When the day is pretty and no clouds overhanging, this is a pleasant drive, back down into the valley below and up again, with an expansive view like the child in Robert Louis Stevenson's "The Swing."  

.....Up in the air and over the wall,
Till I can see so wide,
River and trees and cattle and all
Over the countryside--

Till I look down on the garden green,
Down on the roof so brown--
Up in the air I go flying again,
Up in the air and down!       
One of the places I had noticed on my earlier journey was an old, small cemetery.  My mother says I'm observant and I do try to notice where I am in my surroundings.  The rain started and then the hail.  I remembered the cemetery which was overshadowed by large cedar trees.  Hoping the thick branches would be protective, I turned off the highway and onto a small gravel drive, waiting under the sheltering trees.  For a minute, I thought the cemetery would be my answer but I soon realized I needed more protection.

 Pulling back onto the highway, I headed for the nearest shelter which I had seen a couple of hours earlier, the huge, new gas station.  A large network of metal canopies covered the pumps.  Every car within driving distance had pulled in.  I could not get my car completely under the canopy but I was close enough to partially block the hailstones hitting my car.

My well-loved car had never experienced a hailstorm.  This was the first, brand-new vehicle either one of us had ever owned in our lifetime.  We had always driven late model used cars  and done very well in our choices. We also had a very good buying agent.  This car was my ink exterior/camel interior dream come true with a sliding sunroof and heated seats, and my favorite - automatic lift rear gate.  High cotton. 

The hail was smacking so hard against the sunroof it sounded as if glass were breaking.  With each strike, I waited for the tinkling sound of sunroof failure. At the same time, hail was ricocheting off the windshield.  If anything broke, I would have to pack my bags and go home for repairs.  Sometimes the hit was so loud, I would shriek.  And it seemed to last forever.  We were all huddled under the canopies together but not together.

And then the hail stopped and I drove away, too afraid to get out and look at the damage.  Two miles later I was back in town and the roads were hardly wet.   I stopped the car and opened my door and stepped up on the running board, trying to prepare myself for the outcome.




a woman turning off the lamp next to my desk, purchased that afternoon

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