A reply to: A letter from Alina
Greetings to the Lady of the Manor, Alina!
A delightful surprise to hear from you–it is, indeed!
You may not know this, but Liam has already told me a good deal about you, including the curse and your bravery in wanting to do what’s needed to remove it.
I take it that you haven’t yet endured that test? Or have you, and you’re now writing with the trial complete? If so, I trust that the curse has been removed and that you’re free. And if not, I’m wishing you all the best.
I’ll tell you: You and your family have given me much to think about.
Do you find that some things need to be thought about in a special corner of the mind?
That’s how I feel about the stories I’ve heard from Liam, and now, from you.
I’ll tell you some of me and my life, since you were so open about yours.
I have a special love of certain places. I suppose we all do.
Behind my niece’s home is an old orchard. We discovered it decades ago, when my brother first bought the house and property that my niece inherited.
We thought it was an abandoned orchard at first. And, indeed, we’ve never seen anyone tend it. But the lemon and cherry trees are well cared for. By whom? I have a feeling that your mother may know–or possibly Silvan.
I went there the other morning. You see, I’d stopped by the produce stall in the square near my home, but the vendor was all out of lemons. Limes, they had plenty of. And blood oranges.
But not a single lemon.
I harvested several from the old orchard. Most I kept for lemonade and tea, but one I planted in the garden.
Now, I know it sounds foolish to plant a whole lemon! Even a pip might not sprout! And even if it did, it could take decades to grow into a tree. And even then, citrus trees usually need to be grafted to produce quality fruit.
But I’ll tell you: I’m no longer one to place my faith in the practicalities of anything, not even horticulture.
You see, after writing to your step-father, my eyes have opened to magic. That a seed could grow: There’s not much more magical than that. So what’s to prevent these lemon pips from sprouting and growing into a shading tree with fruit-bearing branches?
And if nothing comes of it, no matter: I got my hands in the soil and felt a rush of hope, and that’s reward enough.
I’m glad to discover that you love to read.
Since I was a boy, books have formed a good portion of my life. I’m a retired literature professor.
I’m discovering many joys of retirement: One is, I’ve got time for other activities. Another is, I can stay up all night, if I want to. A third is, I can combine joy #1 with joy #2 and stay up all night doing something fun.
The night I planted the lemon, I stayed up and painted a mural. It’s beside the garden, near the public walkway that leads down to the waterfront.
I’m hoping passersby enjoy this scene of nature I painted here in the city.
Where do you find your courage, Alina?
That is something I’ve noticed in Liam, too: a deep abiding courage to face shady dangers and come out even stronger.
I can think of only a handful of times I’ve had to muster courage.
My wife and I both had to be brave during her last years on this planet. Her illness hit her hard, and there were nights when neither of us thought we’d make it through. But then grace would come: She would shine into a form of consciousness that I can only call presence: lit up from within, she was.
I’ll tell you a secret: I never thought I would see that type of bright presence again, after my wife left. I felt–this feels strange to write–that I’d been given a gift in her passing: the gift of witnessing a spirit lit up with conscious awareness.
I treasured that. I still do. It’s what I draw on whenever I find my emotions weigh me down or my thoughts get snagged and entrapped.
I thought it was a once-in-a-lifetime thing that was more rare than the magic of a lemon pip sprouting.
But the other day, I was babysitting my grandniece, and my nephew stopped by. The two began playing, and they became so caught up in their play that everything else dropped away, and there was that same grace.
Do you know that grace?
Is that where your courage comes from?
With grace like that–with consciousness in its purest form–I am guessing that the strongest curse stands not a chance.
My nephew came in from playing, and he was my same nephew as always, just as if he hadn’t been transformed into a light beam just the moment before.
“Most excellent tacos,” he said. “Could use more salsa, though.”
Then he launched into a fifteen minute dissertation on the history of salsa and the best types of tomatoes for it and the gradations of spiciness on the the Scoville scale.
When he left, while my grandniece slept on the couch, I thought about the quicksilver of awareness. It touches us–our minds flicker awake for an instant–and then, unless we’ve experienced lasting satori, we settle back into the mundane and our thoughts chatter with facts and opinions.
Ah, but that’s being a person!
And at least we have those moments–and they can sneak up on the least suspecting of us, when we’re listening to music, focused on a task, playing with a child.
Dear Alina, how much I’ve written! And none of it is hardly the normal stuff of a typical letter!
But I know enough of you and your step-father to know that typical isn’t what you seek in a pen pal correspondence, so I feel the liberty to share all my rambling thoughts with you, chasing them down the chattering brook.
If you haven’t endured what you must to remove that curse, then I want you to know that I’ve sent out scores of well-wishes on starlight, clouds, and ocean breezes.
And if you have, then know I send my gratitude, as well.
Be safe. Be well. You know already that you’ve been blessed.
Wishing you the best,