The phone rang in the middle of a Jonathan versus Alice argument. I won’t say it was knock-down-drag-out because I wasn’t yet equal to knocking anything down, and I had already been dragged out by a heart attack, a surgery and attempts at adjustment to a new reality of me. I will say it was one of several such arguments since the health disruptions began. Tension releases, I suppose, explosions of the anger we felt toward the universe for dealing us these unanticipated blows. The phone ringing promised a tension release from the tension release donnybrook in our living room. Equally unanticipated was a reminder that there is Kindness Everywhere.
My friend Tanya Russ was calling from the end of her dock in Punta Gorda, Belize, the only place she could grab enough cell signal to make it to my location in New York City. We spoke last in person over three years ago at an IWWG Summer Conference. The sound of her washed up on my personal shore from what felt like the other side of the solar system, instantly recognizable but incomprehensible.
Why would she journey all the way to the end of her dock and overburden her cellular bars to talk with me? Did I have anything enlightening, or even a tiny bit joyful to pass on to her or anyone? Quite the opposite. My soul was sorely in need of the sort of restoration mentioned in the 23rd Psalm between still waters and the paths of righteousness. Not territory I consciously occupied at that moment. I’d forgotten all about Kindness Everywhere. Tanya’s caring words were a memory boost for me. There would be others.
Penelope Gamble and I have never spoken in person. I don’t think we’ve spoken, that is. Medication has erased some of my recollections, or maybe just packed them up and shoved them to the back of a shelf I’ll happen upon one day. Like the birthday gifts I’d stashed behind the Christmas tree then re-encountered recently so I could re-experience my December 26th surprises again, as if for the first time. Penelope’s mailing was a similar surprise.
Her drawings are always lovely, and another one decorated that day’s manila envelope. A poinsettia blossom, as if she knew that in the hectic uncertainty of “Will Grandma make it home from the hospital in time for the holiday?” my annual potted poinsettia had been overlooked. Now I had a flower that would remain red, green and fresh forever. Plus, an assortment of Penelope’s dessert recipes, as if she also knew I’d long wanted to learn how to make Sweet Potato Pie, almost as much as I needed her manila envelope brimming over with Kindness Everywhere.
I’ve known Ellen Childs since we were college students in Albany, New York. My son Eddie, then at the crawling stage, and I were frequent visitors at her apartment on Willett Street during the last year of my doomed first marriage. Back then, Ellen was yet another friend providing a tension release, this one laced with lots of laughter and the occasional dollop of cynicism.
That was approximately five and a half decades ago. She and I have bounced in and out of each other’s various realities ever since, laughter and cynicism abiding all the way. We have abided too, through the passing of friends, and other losses. We are Northern New York women after all, and that’s what we do in the North Country. No matter how battering the blizzard or deep the snowdrifts, we grab our shovels and dig through.
Ellen’s envelope contained a story in the form of a letter. I love stories. My favorites are chockful of drama, intense circumstances and powerful emotions, preferably held admirably in check, or barely so, by a stalwart woman. This letter had all of those elements, written as it had been from Honolulu on December 9, 1941, two days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
The author was a college friend of Ellen’s mother, and her story was riveting. Dense with vivid detail of blackout nights, garden hoses at the ready to douse flames and buckets of soil to smother smoldering bomb fragments, while they waited for the second attack that must have seemed inevitable. Ellen was born two weeks later, at the letter’s original destination. In the margin of this present-day copy, she’d handwritten encouragement for me on my own battleground. Encouraging words from Punta Gorda, Florida this time, another way station in the land of Kindness Everywhere.
The third envelope on the pile was from writer friend Cathy (Catherine) Greenfeder and, Oh My God! Literally. She sent me a mass card. Everyone who knows me, and most who have read this blog, are aware of how much I am sustained by faith. My faith is the green pasture that restores my soul, like in the psalm I mentioned earlier. When Cathy’s envelope arrived, I had not yet found the strength to return to church, and I was missing that sustenance.
“A Spiritual Gift,” the mass card said. “As a token of my affection, I have asked the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement to remember you in a Special Mass celebrated on the first day of each month.” That message could hardly have meant more to me, especially then. What had begun to feel like a fraying connection with the practice of my faith was suddenly knitted together again. I was blessedly reminded, one more time, that among friends and friars and folks of good will there is Kindness Everywhere.
Alice Orr – http://www.aliceorrbooks.com
– R|R –
What readers are saying about A Time of Fear & Loving:
“I never want an Alice Orr book to end.” “Alice Orr is the queen of ramped-up stakes and page-turning suspense.” “Warning. Don’t read before bed. You won’t want to sleep.” “The tension in this novel was through the roof.”
“A budding romance that sizzles in the background until it ignites with passion.”
“The best one yet, Alice!”