Here is the next excerpt from Beatrice Allen Page’s “Landscape with Figures” unpublished manuscript:
“One of the things I like about this place is the way the roads curve and wind and go up hill and down dale – so different from the flat, straightly laid out city blocks I’m used to. There is always a sense of anticipation of what I may see around the bend or over the rise, and so many different roads or paths to choose from. As soon as I step out the back door I have a choice to make because there the road coming up from the beach divides in two. Either one of them will take me, in a roundabout way, to the village, unless I choose to follow one of their many branches before I get there. When I don’t have a definite destination in mind, I’m never sure where I’m going to end up. I turn right or left on impulse and sometimes I leave the beaten track and create a path of my own, crossing fields and climbing over stone walls.
What ancient breed of men, I sometimes wonder, built the stone walls around here? They must have been giants to lift such enormous boulders. I imagine them training their children up for the work. The tiniest children were taught to wedge stones into the gaps and crannies after the wall was erected. As they grew older they graduated to lifting larger and larger rocks into position. Then, at last, in the full strength of their manhood, they heaved up the huge boulders and set them solidly into place.
On my walk today I came upon a house tucked away on a side road with a hand-lettered sign, ANTIQUES, hung on a sawhorse out front. Some of the objects were on display in a window that had been enlarged like a store front, but it seemed unlikely that many people would beat a path to that out-of-the-way spot, and even more unlikely anyone would want to buy anything offered for sale there. The window was a jumble of garish lamps, oddments of china, an oil painting (landscape in sepia tones), a mirror, a couple of clocks, jewelry, a feather boa and miscellaneous bric-a-brac, none of which I could imagine wanting to own. Still, there was always the possibility that tucked away in a dark corner, unappreciated by the proprietor, was some item like an old-fashioned soap dish or a flatiron stand which I could pick up for a song and send to friends who collect such things. I decided to go in. When I went to the door, however, I found a note tacked on it: Back at 4.
As I was turning to leave, my eye was caught by a movement on the back of the window: a white at, barely out of her kittenhood, who had been concealed behind a large jardiniere, had apparently just waked up from a nap and was having a good stretch. After completing it to her satisfaction, she picked her way daintily among the crowded objects until she found a small clear spot closer to the window where the sun shone in. There she settled down and began with complete absorption to wash her face.
I should have left well enough alone, but being a pushover for cats, I tapped on the glass lightly. She lowered the forepaw she had been licking and opened two oblique slits in her face to look at me out of chicory-blue eyes. They were outlined in black as if carefully made up with an eyeliner.
When I spoke to her, she reared up on her haunches and then butted her head, like a little goat, against the glass. It was clearly a friendly response to my greeting and as I continued murmuring inane remarks to her through the window, she repeated her little pantomime three or four times, interspersed with turning around in place with her back arched and her tail high and quivering slightly. When I still made no move to go inside the shop, she sat down and opened her mouth delicately in a mute “miaow.” There was no mistaking the expression in her eyes that went with it: “Don’t just stand there! Come in!”
No human being can look at you with the inarticulate wistfulness of a dog or cat begging for affection, particularly a young one that hasn’t yet learned a degree of independence. I longed to make the cat understand there was no way for me to get in. There was nothing to do but walk away feeling that sad, reproachful gaze on my back.
The impossibility of “getting through” to animals is often such a frustrating experience – not being able, for instance, to explain to a dog you are going away for a month and leaving him in a kennel to be cared for but that you will come back. How can he understand you have not abandoned him forever?
If God exists, he must feel the same frustration very often in getting through to human beings – even though He hasn’t gone away.