Quiet out here on the headland tonight. Slow breeze, barely moving the dry grass so no whispers there. The crickets and katydids are up to their usual hijinks, but they sound restrained. Even the sea is subdued. It undulates sluggishly with waves that caress the shore rather than pound it. The seething of the tide laps faintly over me as I sit by the open window, absently rubbing the sore spot on my right calf, a remnant of an agitated dream that gripped me before dawn. I never knew phantom kicks could be so painful.
The light fades from the sky. The clouds hovered most of the day, but it never felt gloomy. Nice for this time of year. Such a welcome relief from a stubborn summer heat so oppressive it felt fascist. the morning felt so good I walked the shore, out to the lighthouse and back. A few shards of sea glass needed up in my pockets, and now adorn the mantel above the hearth. There was the serendipitous find, too, of a wayward lobster trap caught on the jetty. To my surprise it still had a lobster and some crabs stuck in it. There was no buoy attached so no way for me to tell who it belonged to. I lugged it back to the cottage, extracted the lobster and the crabs to a pair of rusty buckets filled with seawater. The trap I left on the porch to dry. Dinner was halfway made.
My leg ached. The dream had knotted it up. The walk could not quite untie it. The same was true for my head. Damn that dream. A familiar theme in an unfamiliar setting. You know a place that you think you have never seen but somehow you know it is there? Yeah, like that. I woke up nearly screaming and kicking at something with my right leg. My eyes were barely open when my calf cramped up. I curled up under the covers and hurriedly beat on my leg to loosen the knot, but not before my foot had bent downward from the tension. The muscle felt like a steel ball under the skin. Hurt like a sonofabitch. My heart was pounding from the dream, and I shook.
Slow march of the waves is hypnotic. Not nearly the battle anthem of heavy surf. I am fidgeting with the lighter on my desk, willing myself not to fire up a smoke. One side effect of the hell-hot summer is that the urge to smoke has nearly died down. Been a week or more since I last had one. All to the good, I think.
The cottage smells good. It is home tonight. The mixture of salt air and seafood gumbo simmering away is one of the finest scents a man could ever draw into himself. Something about the tang and savor of the two makes me wonder if that is what the kitchens in heaven smell of. Maybe someday I'll find out. But not now. Not tonight. The gumbo is near ready, a sublime mix of found and foraged foodstuffs I discovered while cleaning the fridge and pantry. Lucky is the man who can bring home eats from the sea.
Time to dish up. Sipping a beer while giving the gumbo a few last, slow stirs, I like I had company for the evening. Friends and family, flitting around just outside the edges of my vision. People I treasure, people I miss, a few ghosts. The feeling surges when I sit down at the table with my heavy white bowl filled with goodness. The dream comes back to me, a movie before my mind. I am running, running, somewhere in the labyrinthine tunnels of a building I cannot name. Heavyset men in dark uniforms are chasing me, I'm running towards some sound and light. Voices call out to me, urging me on even as faint cries behind me try to drag me back to a coal-black night. I lash out flailing, kicking, as something brushes my ankle. I wake up or come to, the aroma of the gumbo gently bathing my face.
Grief is a peculiar beast, and tricky. It nearly got me there, in those tunnels far from the sea. But I made it out this night. Silver threads stretching from some humans here on earth and from some who are no longer of this mortal coil made sure that I did. Breathing deep, I wipe my eyes and take up a spoonful of goodness. The warmth on my tongue meets the warmth flowing into my hear while the waves outside the window offer up quiet acclaim. I raise my glass to the spirits at my table, come to join me for dinner.