Nature verses the local grocery...

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Fiction Trails: Babe Ridge


I dedicate this story to my brother who lost his long-time feline friend, Babe, several years ago.

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Babe’s meowing woke Kayley, again. 4:24 AM showed faintly red from across the room.

For five consecutive nights Kayley had endured the far-away cries, sleeping only fitfully from exhaustion now. Several times a night she’d stumble around the old farm house, searching the same corners, hoping that maybe this time, Babe’s long, elegant Siamese head would appear, staring at her with those stunning blue eyes. Each time Kayley began her search, the cries stopped. Each time she’d doze off, they returned. Her meowing sounds so far away, lonely and pleading. A forlornness surrounds me each time I hear her, she thought.

It’s impossible. Kayley reiterated her thoughts during each trek through the moonlit house. Even if Babe was trapped somewhere close by, she’d have surely passed out if not died by now. I’m going crazy - there is no other logical explanation…

The alarm at 8 AM seemed much earlier than it was. But soon, sounds of coffee dripping and its all too familiar aroma, covered Kayley with a thin layer of overdue sanity as her brain tried to make sense of the past five days. Looking through the large, kitchen window out over the garden brought her ongoing grief to forefront as she yet again, struggled with the memories of Babe’s disappearance three months ago. The day after the early October snowstorm that shut down upstate New York for a week, she thought. I'll always remember that empty, white morning.

Babe is gone! Embrace that. She stiffened her back, forcing a semblance of emotional strength into her gut. Yet the cries she endured these past nights seemed almost normal, or maybe that was her mind playing tricks – wishing Babe back into her life, into her arms. I miss the purring most; whether Babe was on my shoulder, against my face at night, on my lap in the porch swing…always the purr – loud, yet strangely soft and soothing.

She poured the warm, inviting coffee into her old, chipped cup with the Siamese cat picture. Grabbing her coat by the back door, she decided to walk out to the empty garden while the coffee worked at restoring some life back into her neurons. Maybe if I can experience the sadness just one more time, stand in the garden where Babe and I shared our last moments the evening before the storm...maybe then, I can let most of this sadness go.

31 degrees showed on the porch thermometer; daily temps this week hadn’t topped freezing.

Dried out, bare stalks stood where her luscious tomatoes had hung only months before. The bean plants were unrecognizable, the beet patch showing only some remnants of leftover leaf parts. Involuntarily, she was drawn to the garlic. A few dead stems, some frozen cloves lay about. She wiped her tears as she recalled Babe’s favorite game: she’d roll around in the garlic plants, Kayley then scolded her, and a Siamese streak went for the barn. After her weeding, Kayley would call Babe and they'd meet a few minutes later, back on the porch swing. Babe’s sorrys were understood in her purr – always, the amazing purr. This game was one of their connections, their bonding rituals, their play together. Kayley struggled daily with the void that filled her now, peppered only with shadows of the old reality that had soothed her life, filled her hours, solidified the friendship so unique between humans and animals.


Instantly lost from her reverie, she froze in her position as she noticed the paw prints in the ground by her feet. Babe’s unmistakable 2 missing toes on her left hind foot made for positive identification. But…how could that be, Kayley struggled for a sense of logic, understanding, reality. I was here just yesterday – no prints then; everything was frozen; no moisture…

The prints continued, up towards the ridge. Kayley followed them as if led by an unknown, calm strength she did not understand, yet obeyed. Ten minutes passed before she reached and began to climb the small ridge which stood about 20 feet higher than the top of the old farmhouse below. She pulled herself to a level rock outcropping and stood still. Why am I here?

The cold, morning air was absolutely still. No bird calls, nothing moved. Tree limbs stood bare in their browns and grays, frozen in place in the stark, low rays of sunlight coming across the property. Kayley looked over her 50 acres with a deep, profound Love and belonging. Willed to her many years ago when her parents died, the upkeep filled her soul - her deep need for a connection to Nature, her yen for privacy. The work here was spiritual; there was no better word. But Nature - in all her strength and awesome beauty, sometimes took things from her, killed things, changed lives and left scars. For Kayley, this balance - a leveling of good and bad, high and low, positive and negative - made sense in a mystical, unexplainable, natural sense. She didn't understand Nature's purpose sometimes, but the mystery of this life fit her like a new prom dress and she held on to this dance she did each day, with every spark of her consciousness.

She sensed and felt her aging, of late; her mother seemed to appear more and more in her mirror, her grandmother's hands sometimes worked her crochet needles now instead of the tightly skinned fingers she used for years before. And even though the pain and anguish of life still caused her emotions to override her reason at times, a deeper understanding seeped in with the years. Some 'wisdom to know the difference between the things to change...and not...', showed more clarity these days. Slowly gaining this understanding of the circle of life, fed her the strength to cope, to rise above, to let Nature...take its course. NOT that she liked the downfalls – the ’winters’, any more than not. But her 60's...were a mixture that smelled of good wine, tasted like aged fruitcake, warmed like her grandmother's quilt.

Then there was the cry, only this time it was faint, almost imperceptible – but real; a tiny, kitten noise. Her ear followed the sound to the right, just inside a small opening in the rock. Kneeling down, Kayley looked inside. She stopped breathing at the sight of an emaciated Siamese Momma cat curled around 4 small kittens. Babe. There is no mistaking your purr – even in your present state.

Sunlight concentrated in the small opening in the rock and the temperature was warmer around the cats. Kayley picked up the one kitten that still moved. Oh Babe, she’s you, she thought as she quickly tucked the frail feline inside her coat. She reached over to pet Babe, getting ready to take her too, but the purr was gone. Babe was gone. Her beautiful Siamese friend, just laid there, curled around her three, still babies.  I have to get back to the house. Save the kitten; hurry!

Late that afternoon, the low rays of the setting sun filled the little farm house living room and surrounded the tiny kitten in Kayley’s lap. The heating pad had kept life burning inside the new-born feline during the critical hours of the long morning. Within a few hours, the kitten had revived enough to take a little milk. Kayley marveled that she had kept her old doll bottle all these years, a life saver for which she thanked the Creator today.

Kayley knew the kitten would most likely survive. 40 plus years of staff-time to numerous cats gave her confidence of her conviction. Yes, Baby would be just fine. Kayley also knew she would have to continue her fitful sleeping schedule for a few more weeks until Baby matured enough to handle longer periods without food.

I'll go to the ridge in the morning and bury Babe and her kittens. But for now, I'll walk through the garden one more time, a good-bye walk, I think. She bundled Baby, tucked her safely into a box by the fireplace and put on her coat. One last look at the paw prints, she thought.

Kayley spent over an hour in the garden; Babe’s paw prints were gone.

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My original focus for this blog was a scientific one. My Geology background coupled with my fascination with Nature was to blend into something fairly academic, coupled with shades and shadows of life intertwined amongst the facts and theories. I ended up doing more blogging than research, a trend I endeavor to change.

Written words make marvelous toys. They take us to a different, separate world, away from the hustle and stress of life and daily reality. The car crashes, political battles, diseases and other dark parts of life seem so much more removed in a story, though in some ways, carry more impact. But whatever a story contains, it it foremost, completely and only...a story. Your imagination is the dealer; the cards remain benign.

When you have your brake pedal to the floor and your vehicle is sliding ever so quickly towards a turning truck - very few feet in front of you, (as I experienced yesterday), one reacts much more harshly and realistically than if this truck belongs to Clive Cussler's main character - who obviously needs to live through 203 more pages! Your imagination p l a y s with these words, the stress is make believe. When your story is finished, you take your imaginative toys, and go back to reality.

My brother really has a 'Babe Ridge' on his property, named of course, for his lost friend. But from there, I allowed my imagination to make its own soup, mixed with my sensing as I listened to his story and memories of Babe, last year.

The general overview of the story congealed almost immediately during our conversation. But when I sat down to actually write it a few weeks ago, I lost contact with my surroundings for awhile and the keys tapped out this slightly different version. When I read through the completed rough draft, I seemed to be walking in a strange land of ethereal shadows, threaded whispers and unknown realities.

From where does a story rise? How do the words find familiarity, juxtaposition and cohesion...if one is not in direct control? I understand the birth of the original meaning in this case, but I almost want to run from the thought that I, myself, created this. And not because of any ego-bound emotions of good or bad, etc. But from the unknowing, the separation of my consciousness from the final product. I look at the first, physical presentation of my imagination and meet it for the first time as a stranger..who is yet - part of me. Fear is not quite what causes my fight or flight urge from further writing of this nature, rather my sensing indicates something similar including distance, a loss of understanding, a strangeness with which my discomfort level is high. I am flooded with self-doubt; can I do this again if I don't know how I did it?

During the early part of the last century, Carl Jung, a respected Swiss Psychiatrist, coined the phrase, Collective Unconscious. Wikipedia explains; "Collective unconscious is a term of analytical psychology, coined by Carl Jung. It is proposed to be a part of the unconscious mind, expressed in humanity and all life forms with nervous systems, and describes how the structure of the psyche autonomously organizes experience. Jung distinguished the collective unconscious from the personal unconscious, in that the personal unconscious is a personal reservoir of experience unique to each individual, while the collective unconscious collects and organizes those personal experiences in a similar way with each member of a particular species".


Brilliant, educated minds such as Jung seem to trust this theory; maybe I can, as well. Maybe I had help with my story. Maybe...so did many other fiction writers.

With Jung's shadow on my shoulder, I will persevere to pull more fantasy and make believe from the belly of my imagination.

After all, Nature still prevails, even in the recesses of my imagination.

6 comments:

  1. Beautiful. Wonderful and vivid feelings.

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  2. Turbulent emotions and a happy ending. Nice.

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  3. I appreciate you taking time to comment, anonymous; thank you!

    Danielle

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  4. Didn't realize I'd posted that anonymously... I'm almost always signed in. I loved the Turbulent ending before, but now with the preface to the story, it seems more reaching, decidedly more introspective and carries a deeper emotional current than before. The characters are fluid and real, filled with emotion. The story captures the heart of the search. Thanks for sharing this story.

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  5. Thank you for your comment, Jan. Considering your years of professional writing and teaching of this craft, I so appreciate your response.

    Thank you for stopping by.

    Danielle

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