For Maundy Thursday, day of flesh and blood, of bread and wine. Left my dwelling under a low cloud, a cold calendar-spring day. The only vivid color cold blue, just beyond the western edge of cloud. Descending into the village slung along the highway, I looked out toward brown lands, and dark conifers, toward the somber town mountain across the river valley. Nearer: colorless houses, crammed together. Muddy water ran in torrents along the downhill roadside. For all the darkness of cloud above me, the air was surprisingly crisp. It was one of those cleansing Canadian systems, blowing through Western Maine on the day of broken body and blood.
The cloud began sprinkling me with cold droplets. It showered and I turned eastward, hurried up the highway toward the combination garage and corner store. The place was busy with cars, coming and going. The garage door was up, so I slipped inside to wait out the rain. The cloud, being edged with promising blue, could not last long enough to ruin my walk. Wasn’t I after the bread and wine?
In reading Maine Metaphor you’d find that many people here have welcomed us, generously, notably the garage owner. The mechanic was just inside working on a pickup: a man taciturn, stocky and blond. His name even sounds stocky and round. He grunted something about the weather—most the only subject some people here will talk to me about, and vice versa—and I murmured back something inane. You can get a grin out of him if you say or do something like this. Otherwise he’s like a stock, a piece of wood. He also sells me lovely organically grown eggs. If you want to leave the city as we did and move to a small town, to a rural yankee community, add this to your difficulties: don’t expect voluminous conversation. You may get it, but as a rule, affable and stranger are contrasts, but there’s no social law here against respect.
The shower ran itself out and I walked on along the highway. But the cloud continued to sprinkle on my woolen shirt, on the sandy roadside. Erosion made runnels and ridges, saturated softness underfoot. Walking narrow shoulders was hazardous as the occasional 18-wheeler roared, and blew past. Wind drove droplets on before me and it was showering again. I hurried across the highway, entered the roadside family restaurant. I’d wait here, just inside the entry until this low dark cloud blew over.
People came and went, brushing past: a stout old couple, whitened, and exclaiming with disappointment over the rain. A lean blue-eyed logger who pronounced it beautiful. A few others. Ten, fifteen minutes passed. I stood watching blown droplets make rings and small puddles, runnels in sand near the doorway. Looking solemnly up at the cloud, I was amazed at its ponderous gait in the path of such wind. But at last it lightened, the blue behind expanding toward the neighborhood restaurant.
Suddenly, as though propelled by some wind, a young woman blew past me out of the dining room. Her hair a covering of red-gold ringlets, she was as a gold cloud to match the suddenly appearing sun. She carried a lit cigarette in her hand like a wand, murmuring something about a rainbow as she passed.
I stepped quickly after her. The rainbow desire was infectious. But there was no bow to be seen. Disappointed, but only slightly less animated, she went back inside, leaving me to continue my walk down the highway.
I would walk to the Gore Road, along the north pond of the highway; would walk to Johnny’s Bridge, look down into the icy water, then walk back home again. I gained the Gore, still thinking about the rainbow and blown gold cloud in human form. May there ever be those who desire rainbows as you do.
An avalanche of entries coming this week, episodically posting my Holy Week walks as told in our Experience in the Western Mountains. Put out by the imprint Resource Publications, they have asked us to paste this notice whenever we quote from the book: Used with Permission of Wipf and Stock Publishers.
This entry with images shows a bit of transition our village has been experiencing over the years.