Dearest Gentle Readers,
Today is the last day of May and soon our official Summer will start for the Northern hemisphere. In the past days at home in Edwardsville the daytime sky has had an evenly clouded dome from morning zenith to high noon: The sun shining as though every beam of light is coming through a frosted pane of glass. And when night comes upon us all, the distant sky and the very air weaving through the trees looks to be as one. Only once when the midnight tolled with frogs and crickets did a few stars appear against the dark grey night, breaking the illusion of a snowless globe.
I am writing to you tonight from outside Chicago in Waukegan and it is amazing how the wind off of a glacier-fed lake can lower the ambiant temperature. There was strong nostalgia as we walked through our old neighborhood and saw all the aging ornate cornices of buildings, the blooming Spring flowers planted in every patch of ground, and could smell the cooking coming from all the local restaurants. We went to an indie comic book expo and it was an absolute joy to see all the colorful and creative people shining bright as they talked up their books and art. We met up with our friend M and finally met his girlfriend R, so I have proof positive, gentlemen, that the good guy can get the girl and she can be vivacious and lovely too. The cold Spring rain kept up just enough to dampen the sidewalks and bring up the scent of wet bricks on the breeze. The Mai Fest in Lincoln Square was a milling riot of people from all walks of life and the occasional lederhosen. It resembled one of those cozy block parties that has suddenly exploded into white tents and hundreds of people with knockwurst and sauerkraut and a few extra dirndl thrown in. Our beloved friends P&T go every year; sharing this with them was special beyond words. Their dog BB is still the loving and perfect puppy who was adorable in her rainbow bow tie, even remembering us enough to bring her new tug toy to us to play with her.
This morning was ideal, soothing warm sunshine with that cool breeze that only comes from Lake Michigan. Waukegan has a Howard Johnsons which I can not recommend enough: Clean, quiet, and comfortable with a cafe next door worthy of the nostalgia of an original HoJo’s dinner. What joy it was to see that intoxicating swirl of American people around us in the dinner; Greek, Slavic, Oaxacan native, Latino, Polish, Puerto Rican, Russian, and so many more amiable blends that I felt a part of the true melting pot that is this country. We were only ten minutes away from ‘my’ Illinois Beach State Park so we made a detour for beach rocks. Yes, Gentle Readers, let me eat crow and admit that this is where the rock hound in me delights. I often lament the lack of crystals and rocks in the state of Illinois yet, while this is true in my estimation, the beach never disappoints. High tide was just starting to slip away from the shore back into the dark peacock green depths of the Mishigami (the not so creative North American Native word for ‘big lake’). Families were just starting to migrate to the rocky sand and picnic tables wearing thin jackets for the children and the quintessential scarf for babushka’s. The morning sun had already beamed down onto the chunks and boulders of dolomite and the two foot wide band of beach stones was warm under the touch. I could simply not revel enough in the sound of the continuously crashing waves mixing with the seagulls over the water and the song birds in the high grass. The flood waters in southern Illinois are of course coming from this area and points higher so the flat wet lands surrounding the beach were lush: A myriad of Spring green colors like a vast even prairie covered stretches of land by the shore with only a few young cattails and reeds to disturb the undulating beauty. It was with a slight squint and imagination that I could see how early Chicago had looked when the Illini and the Mississippi Rivers were the greatest ‘highways’, before it became a concrete City of Commerce and Blues Music. ( The few pictures we took did not do justice to the great expanse of Lake and blue sky so you get a few picks of me and the dolomitic boulders. And, yep, rather very blue Vibrams.) (And another ‘yep’: that is indeed a cotton sweater because this is Chicago with a lake breeze that is still having a nip to it.) Honest to goodness folks, despite the grey and greyer appearance of the beach rocks in the pictures there are actually reds, tans, greens, and yellows on the beach.
Back home safe and sound the day is pleasantly overcast with the crows, mocking birds, and robins vying for attention and nest building. The oppressive humidity of last week has succumbed to cooler temperatures and once again we have the windows open and the feel of wind through the house. Just 5-8 more feet and Highway 270 will be closed going into St Louis, as we are down to three bridges and the historic Cahokia is isolated by overflowing water. I went to visit the famous archeological Mound Builders plus the Museum there a few weeks ago and this East facing valley must have surely been a devoted place to the sacred Seasons as well as part of a hub of transit and commerce when canoes were the mode of transportation. Once the water along the public cliff sides near Cahokia goes down fossils and knaping artifacts should be plentiful. While the museum could be considered quaint compared to the Field Museum and even my beloved NC Museum of Natural Sciences, the staff at the Cahokia Mounds were knowlaegeable and enthusiastic while the exhibit space was also excellent.
So many people that I know in person or as pen palls on Face Book have already started vending at fairs, festivals, and gatherings: They create, pack up, drive, vend, pack back up, and prepare to go again. And if they are on-line they are making and creating at a rapid pace to replenish stock from the buying spree that is Valentines through Father’s Day and to make into reality new ideas before Autumn arrives. I congratulate All of you for keeping alive the American dream; send you my Love for continuing your dreams. I will continue to try following beside you all with my own hopes. Soon I want to share another ‘step’ of mine with you although perhaps step is not the right word for it. Since I have been using rivers and streams in the above blog, please allow me the analogy of a new found stream winding it’s way into my river of personal growth; it is not so much a new path as a new tributary to explore and encourage. During and after every fibro flair and migraine, as per the encouragement from my excellent therapist, husband, and close friends, I must remind myself that I am not back sliding or committing some great personal travesty for halting work but am waiting for the pain to recede enough to think and continue onward. I have a list of friends the length of my arm I would like to commend for keeping Life at their terms despite depression and or chronic pain but to name a few are Gaily, Pat, Bob J, Sam L, Romilly, and Kay: Keep at it! And remember: We may not always soar with eagles but weasels don’t get sucked into jet engines.
Now for the next installment of the intrepid Inspector Greywaves in Red Angels’ Rise where she gains insight on the massacre from an unusual source and readers can glean important aspects of Cinerarium itself. This part I took completely on my own and as Ian didn’t really change much about it and even approved of the idea, I am proud of adding more mysterious insight into my character and furthering the mystery itself. ****** cont’d…
There was not much left to do at the train station but the Inspector wanted one more chance to view the crime scene. The building was eerily silent in the dusty morning light once the last body was removed and the last witness questioned. For just a moment Mariesha listened to the silence and waited for it to speak. Nothing. There was no telltale whisper of air through a vent fan or faint groaning of bricks grinding under their own weight. Then a rat scurried across the floor. It was skinny and black, running across the blood spattered tiles and back through an iron grate. She could barely hear it skittering through the drain. Mareisha smiled in the grim irony, their only witness that may have seen something inside just disappeared down the sewers.
“Not of the ground then of the air, perhaps,” whispered Mareisha to herself as she walked back through the heavy front doors.
Elsbeth went to stand by Mariesha, “Do we go to the next station now, Inspector Greywaves?”
“Not yet,” she answered looking toward the heavily gabled roof and the assorted murders of crows sitting across the tiles and ridgeline. “I have some feathered friends to talk to first.”
Elsbeth smiled and gave a little demure hop, “Excellent, ma’am, I do rather enjoy watching this part.”
While not the second story artist that she wished she could be, the young Inspector had slithered, climbed, and repelled her way through enough shambling ruins to make the wall of the train station akin to going up stairs. She crouched upon the roof-gable and called out to the crows, their wings shining stark black back to her. This was not a natural gift of hers like seeing in the dark or her double rows of canine teeth, which she thought were rather attractive; this was a gift from Murder, her animate chain, a gift from her teacher. While not alive Murder still seemed to murmur and purr against her as she walked toward the crows. A raucous cawing erupted, a brief flight of feathers whirled about and then it quieted, the assembled murders having made a space for her to sit and ask her questions among them.
The teifling hunched down on her heels and wrapped the cloak around her, scarlet like a drop of fresh blood in a field of night black iridescence.
“It is 10 minutes and 13 seconds until highest sun.”
“10 minutes 11 seconds until highest sun.”
“10 and 10.”
Crow voices called out to her from across the roof. As a whole they are a time conscious bird, even navigating by the exact second in an exact direction.
“We spoke 13 days 4 hours 15 minutes ago,” said one crow fluttering its wings and moving its feet to speak along with its cawing.
“And were you here when the train pulled in?” Mariesha looked intently at the crow that had first remembered her.
“It was early.”
“At what time?” She questioned intently. The train attendant swore that the 9:00 train had arrived at 9:15.
“9 hours, 14 minutes, 50 seconds. No clouds, clear sky. Hungry.”
“When has the train arrived before?”
“Train arrived past sun at 9 hours 5 minutes and 55 seconds. Two passed suns 9 hours 20 minutes and 2 seconds. Three passed…”
“8 and 58 and 16.”
“9 and 30 and 32.” Crow voices filled over each other in a cacophony of cawing and feather flapping as though the arrival time was a game.
Mareisha redirected the questions back to the main crow before her, “Why were you hungry?” Crows, she had come to learn, were always thinking of food, so much so that it was not worth mentioning.
“Dead meat! Rotting meat! Train was full of rotting meat-bags to eat for days. City feeds us.” Humans and people in general translated down to living-meat-sack or not-dead-yet-dinner. Every crow has a different term for those that are not crows but they are all hungry.
“9 hours and 16 minutes and 6 seconds the doors opened. People run. All doors opened,” the bird offered with wounded pride without any encouraging questions. “Undead. Not-meat. “
“Rancid.” Indignant crow voices rose above even the noise of the city.
“Where did it go?” Mariesha was insistent.
“Undead sunk. Flowed and sunk down below. Sunk into the rivers of the City.”
“Thank you, my friend. You know where to find me.”
“I will time you at a needed place. The City will feed us.”
Mareisha nodded gravely to the crows then abruptly stood and swirled her scarlet cloak about herself, walking back down the ridge line and emerging out of the alley a few seconds later.
“And what do the crows say to you, inspector Greywaves?” Asked Elsbeth excitedly with her pen and tablet ready.
“We need to learn to speak Rat, Miss Elsbeth.”
“I’ll write that down Inspector Greywaves.”
**** to be cont’d…
Right as the Gloaming started tonight the sky turned brown and luminous with the storm bands beginning to move through. After three hours of the gutters flooding down the sides and porches of the houses the air stilled and the rain slowed to only a few drops falling from tree leaves. Walking Sorcha during this lull was familial and magical at the same time. It is strange how the rain puddles along the sun drenched asphalt, for it got up to 93 today, were warm and yet a few steps more onto concrete that is shaded by trees and the water was cold; almost surreal walking from warm to cold water on the same path I take almost every night. The bull frogs, spring peepers, and tree frogs were not even the chorus that is used to describe them: They were a continual wave of a cacophony that also echoed back upon itself, drowning out the wind and even distant cars. And now I sit cozy on my couch with only the sound of my dog snoring and rain once again lashing the windows.
May God bless you and Goddess comfort you; may the Sun and Moon both sing their songs to you; and with your feet on the earthen ground may you know where you are.