Here is the next installment from Beatrice Allen Page’s Landscape with Figures:
“Sometime after midnight I was woken up by a little rush of cold air across my face. I sensed immediately it heralded a storm: it had the feeling of a kind of uncanny aura. Sure enough, a few minutes later came a flash of lightning, followed soon by a rumble of thunder not too far off and a few tentative raindrops.
Never having overcome my childhood fear of thunderstorms, I cowered in bed and listened uneasily to it approach, closing my eyes against the flashes of lightning and wrapping the pillow around my ears in an unsuccessful attempt to blot out the increasingly loud rolls and explosions of thunder.
All at once there was a rush of wind by the house as if it were running for a broad jump, and then came the first sprint of rain against the screen. I had to get up and close the window. At that moment the sky was slashed by a zigzag of chain lightning, accompanies by a deafening detonation directly overhead, and then the rain was flung against the house like flinty pellets.
I plunged back into bed. One thunderbolt crashed hard upon another. The vibration rattled the pots and pans in the kitchen, shook my bed, in fact shivered the timbers of the whole house right down to its foundation.
What would I do if the cottage were struck by lightning, I wondered. Presumably the telephone would be knocked out so I wouldn’t be able to summon the fire engine from the village; but worse, with no near neighbors, where could I find refuge?
I visualized myself in nightgown and robe running desperately along the dark winding road to the village a mile away, seeking an inhabited house. Lightning flashes illuminated my streaming hair, m pale, wide-eyed face, the drenched garments clinging to my body.
Presently I began to admire the fleetness with which I ran. I could feel it in my muscles as I lay in bed, as well as seeing it in my mind’s eye. I thought with satisfaction: there’s still something of the dancer left in me in spite of age and retirement. The storm now lost its terrifying aspect and became wildly exhilarating as if I, too, had become an elemental force of nature.
Unfortunately, in the fullness of m enjoyment my imagination suddenly gave a ludicrous twist to the scene: one of my slippers fell off. To stop and put it on again injected a prosaic note into the drama, which spoiled the whole thing. I tried to ignore this bit about the slipper, which I had never intended, but my imagination persisted in leaving it there on the road instead of on my foot. I tried to keep running without it but I was afraid of stepping on a sharp pebble. I could not longer run with ease and I looked downright silly.
I turned my imagination off and came back to reality. By then the storm was beginning to move off and I dared to open my eyes now that the lightning wasn’t so fierce. Not long afterwards I fell peacefully asleep.
Now as I sit here drinking my coffee and writing in my journal, I keep lifting my eyes to the rising sun slanting through the pitch pines outside my window. It has turned each tiny drop of moisture on the tips of the twigs into a silver star, the kind the teacher pasted on our papers in first grade – except that these on the pines actually twinkle as they are touched by the imperceptible currents of air.
Later. In the parlance of the Weather Bureau, the winds are light and variable. A few high feathery clouds look as if they’d been brushed against the blue sky with a baby’s hairbrush. The ocean sparkles as if it were about to break out with laughter. It’s the kind of day that clears the mildew out of head and heart.
When I took my walk, the day seemed so buoyant I imagined I could feel the planet floating in space – not spinning, floating – and not tethered to an orbit but free as a balloon to let loose.
My footsteps stirred up the grasshoppers and crickets along the side of the road. They leapt ahead of me with that abrupt ease which always surprises me, as any momentary surmounting of gravity surprises and delights me…the strong leap of a horse over a hedge, the lithe leap of a cat onto a high table…most of all, of course, the fabulous leaps of Baryshnikov.
There was something capricious as well as buoyant about the day, like glints of light on a waterfall. It’s a day full of secrets. Everything seemed to whisper and rustle and run ahead of me on my walk, just out of sight like children hiding to tease me. Nothing would stay still long enough for me to catch it with my hand or eye or ear and find out what the secret was. It was all so lighthearted, I wanted to laugh out loud.
As I glanced up from my journal just now, a goldfinch crossed my line of vision with its undulating flight, bursting into its lyrical song at the crest of the ascent, then folding its wings for the silent free fall. The ethereal notes of its song seemed to float in the air above it for a second before they vanished like birthday candles blown out by a breath.
I like writing down these simple things I’ve enjoyed. Putting them into words is like placing some cherished object, perhaps a collector’s item like a Wedgwood teapot, perhaps only a common but lovely shell in a cabinet with glass doors. You know where it is and you can go and renew your delight in it whenever you choose.
I suppose that’s as good a reason as any for keeping a journal.”