The days are short and cold, dragging on in the claustrophobic ways that winter days do.
I am not sure what to do with myself when left alone for so long. Marko goes into Halstead to mend shoes and repair cane chairs each morning, spending afternoons at the White Hart Inn with a glass of ale and lively conversation. He returns home in an uplifted mood, his booming laugh and eager accordion music a salve for my heart.
Luca leaves at dawn to sharpen saws and help the granary keeper unload cargo from the ships coming up the River Colne. He comes home tired, smelling of barley and wheat, but rarely complains. He is determined to save money for his marriage to Tarnia, beaming whenever he mentions her name.
Even Angelina leaves each morning to sell the roses and poppies she’s fashioned from scrapes of velvet. She shivers outside Saint Andrews in a too thin coat, offering her goods to the ladies of the parish, gold colored jewelry woven in her long black hair.
When they return, I hear rosy-cheeked stories about Avon and Mila amusing themselves by throwing snowballs and racing between headstones in the rear of the church. Angelina is frugal, but often stops at the tobacconist to buy a treat for Marko and the confectioners for candies at weeks end.
My offering is a rich meaty stew that wafts from the stove, and the willingness of my hands to sew what I can for the next day’s sale. We have all agreed that I hide from view, fearing misunderstandings between their people and mine.
Once or twice a week I visit Matruska (mostly from boredom) who has taught me how to dye wool in large vats of rainbow colored hues made from plants, leaves, roots and berries. She is at ease in my company and generous with her wisdom, but I do not embrace her in the same way. I worry that too much of her company might catapult me into other realms from which I can not return, my current tether to life feeling gossamer at best. I dare not tug upon it, lest it break all together.
Instead, I spend day after day alone in my own company, often strolling over the hillside with the aid of my blackthorn stick. Time feels expansive and lazy during these walks, like the emptiness of it could go on forever. This unfamiliar spaciousness opens my spirit to all that I see and greet, be it tree, stone or wind. A sense of limitless time affords a kind of delicate joining with all that surrounds me.
When I forget myself I become the breeze, the snowflake and the melting ice on the pond, but when I inhabit my body there is a restless discomfort difficult to describe. It is like my spirit is in the wrong place or I’m wearing a shoe that belongs to another or I’m holding something in my hand that repels and yet I can not put it down. I feel completely at home and I don’t feel at home at all. Worse yet, my mind has neither answer nor comfort for such a dilemma. I simply endure, continue my midnight rituals and hope one day it will pass.
Soon, I tell myself, the hedgerows will be fragrant with honeysuckle and I’ll be that much closer to finding my way home. Until then I will continue to pen my letters and offer them to the night, trying not to expect too much nor yield to disappointment, since I’ve had no other contact since the revealing of his name.
Some nights, as I read my letter, I can feel my husband’s presence, as if he stands near my shoulder. But lately it’s as if I read to myself alone, his spirit being occupied elsewhere. At these times, a great anxiety builds in my chest making it difficult to breath, and I speak even louder, desperate that he hear me.
“Jonathon dear, please do not forget or abandon me, for hope of finding you is all that I have.”