Thursday, 24th. Today there was a letter from Norine:
"Sept. 22, 1970.
"I thought perhaps you might like some news of the campus, though we don't hear from you often."
I'm not in love with that non-sequitur.
"I like my new job very well, and Melanie is enjoying Campus School this year. Being here in the library is a good place to hear things, as we are right in the centre of the College, and we see a large cross-section of students, faculty, and administrators each day.
"The night before last one of the co-eds was crossing the grounds at 11:30 P. M. when an unidentified male appeared behind her and struck her on the head with some sort of blunt instrument, then ran off. She received quite a gash — it took seven stitches to close the wound, and she is still in infirmary.
"We understand some of the students are angry that they are not to be allowed time off to work for political candidates during the two weeks preceding the elections in November. Thus, many of us expect a repetition of the spring strike.
"The Campus Security patrolmen are agitating for permission to carry sidearms, but so far permission has been denied them. Great pressure is being brought to bear, however, upon our president by the police union and other elements.
"In an effort to bring the community into closer rapport with the College, our Public Relations Office brought out a special supplement of the local paper. On the front page our president spoke of building bridges between town and school and he said at one point, 'We must bend over backward to build bridges.' I know that's a mixed metaphor you will enjoy, Charles. He also said that current events 'effect' us all. How unfortunate.
"To compound the misfortune, the editor of the paper interspersed with our uplift articles other news-service articles suggesting such things as that 'radical-liberals' — our nation's vice-president coined the term, of course — be expunged from the universities.
"You left just in time, Charles, didn't you? How clever. Have you yet invented the term 'fascist-conservatives'? I do hope so. All your friends would be delighted with it, as they usually are when you invent a witticism.
"You're so truly clever, Charles.
"Frank Williamson, one of your former students — Mythology, wasn't it? — asked me to remember him to you.
"Well, I must go now. Isn't that old house drafty in the fall? — but then, it's still hot up there, isn't it? I recall the lovely, dull summers we spent there., Do get on with your writing, dear.
"Please say hello to your housemate for me.
She enclosed a card from the Tarot deck I used in class to illustrate mythological and allegorical symbols in T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land and other pieces — "The Lovers," from the Major Arcana — a man and woman, Adam and Eve, to the fore. Between them, in the distance, the Mount of Delectation. It is the primal Garden, and Adam is the Namer, the "makir": he is poet; his identification is with another of the Tarot cards: the Magician. Behind the Namer is the Tree of Life, with its burden of twelve fruits.
Adam is conscious intellect, and he gazes at Eve, who is the elemental nature. She is the Senser, the subconscious mind. Behind her is the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, with its heavy limbs apple-laden. About the tree the Serpent twines, its mouth close to Eve's ear. The woman is identified with two other Tarot cards: the High Priestess and the Empress. She is gazing at the angel Raphael, who hovers in the clouds above them.
Raphael is the Healer, the Exorcist, and he pours his influence upon the man and the woman. Tobias, son of Tobit — the Jew in exile, the Wanderer — went with his dog to a far city, guided by Raphael in the guise of a youth. When they came to the home of another Jew, they found his daughter Sara to be possessed by Asmodeus, the carnal demon. With Raphael's guidance, Tobias exorcised Asmodeus and took Sara in wedlock.
When Tobias, his dog, Sara, and the angel Raphael returned to the home of Tobit the father, Tobias the son, again with the aid of Raphael, removed darkness from the blind Tobit's eyes.
On the card Adam gazes at Eve, who gazes at Raphael, who pours benevolence upon the Garden: intellect may not touch the One directly, but it must proceed through the elemental self, which alone may touch the superconsciousness. It is not mind that heals, it is the heart.
Above Raphael, the sun in a sky of rays, the Numeral VI.
I am amazed at how information somehow travels the academic grapevine. It didn't take long for Norine to discover that Cara is here — probably through Rafe Hawkins gossiping with people at his school I know there's gossip in a small town like this, and in Frankfort I suspect the center of it is the post office — Mrs. Goodspeed gets out the news.
There was a postscript appended to the letter:
"Your daughter sends her love. You ought at least to write Melany."
Melany — "Sweet Annie." Quincy says,
Mel, Honey. Mons. Lemery the younger has a dissertation on Honey in the Memoirs of the Academy for 1706. He says, that the Spring-Honey is the best, because the Bees are then in their Vigour. He esteems that which is made in Languedoc and Dauphiny; but that of Corbiere, three Leagues distant from Narbonne., is preferable to all; and they therefore call it Honey of Narbonne. The excellence of this is thought owing to the abundance of Rosemary that is met with thereabouts; but when he was in those Parts, notwithstanding all the Rosemary was destroyed by the Severity of the preceding Winter, yet he observed the Honey to be as good as ever was known. — I remember I have sometimes in the Summer observed Honey upon the leaves of Trees and Plants, insomuch that the Hinds have with joy cry'd out, "Jupiter rains Honey...."
Friday, 25th. It was still much too hot today to attempt the attic. I opened the door once, and it was like the breath of the Inferno.
Instead, I've been helping Cara in her horticultural activities. He has been giving hew new Master of Science degree some exercise by turning the screen porch into a greenhouse, the barn into a herb shed, and the basement into a root cellar. Helping her has been nearly as fatiguing as cleaning out the attic would have been.
The temperature in the high 80's, we have been tramping the fields and gullies collecting plants, seeds, roots, leaves, nuts, berries, fruit, fungi, mosses, and a few items I haven't been able to identify. We have chased Vertumnus into the woods for the time being: though Fall has begun, Summer is oblivious of the fact, and the god of seasonal change is soaking his head at the falls.
I got Uncle John's old tractor started, hooked his little utility trailer to it, and we have brought back literally load after load of things, Cara riding in back with her hoard, laughing or smiling, singing sometimes. She is beautiful among the greens and roots.
While we were ranging away into the north property, where there are rolling fields and light woods, I knelt with her at one point, our trowels dripping with the wet dark earth. Our heads were close, and we were intent on our job, when it occurred to us simultaneously that we were there together. We turned and looked, and her eyes were full of happiness. Perhaps mine were too.
"Oh, Charles," she said, smiling, "I love you. Did you know that?"
I put my hand to her ear, twisting strands of her dark hair lightly among my fingers. There was nothing to answer — or, I could find no answer that would have suited, so I kissed her. She responded, but when we were done her smile had undergone a subtle metamorphosis, and her lips were brushed with sadness.
"Feeling is hard for you, isn't it?" I had no answer for that, either. "then let me feel for both of us," she said. "I'll heal you." And her hand was very gentle on my face.
On one of our returns to the house, a station wagon was parked in the dooryard. When we got close enough to see who it was, Cara let out a little cry.
"It's God's Hawkins," I said. "Try not to clear your throat." I didn't look back to see how Cara took that.
Before I had cut the engine Cara was out to welcome him. They get on very well together.
"How nice, Reverend Hawkins," she said, shaking hands.
"Grief, it's Rafe, please," with a toss of the blond forelock and a lob-shot smile.
"For Heaven's sake, Cara, be less formal," I said, coming up to the group to make it a trinity.
"Hi, Chuck." Hawkins turned to me and held out a hand. Before I took it I checked to be sure there was no racquet in it.
He looked startled. I felt disappointed he wasn't insulted.
Cara said, "Only his worst enemies call Charles 'Chuck.'"
"Sorry about that, Charles." Ah, those rueful blue eyes and the deferential pout.
"How about 'Mr. Ally?'" I asked, but they both ignored me, Cara taking his arm and steering him towards the door.
As he stepped through the screen door into the kitchen, he stopped short. "What in the world have you people been up to?" He took in the flats and pots full of plants on all the floors and tables, the branches of drying leaves festooning the curtain rods and hanging from the backs of the chairs — the bags of roots and boxes of various vegetable life in the corners, the little bottles of seeds on the windowsills. "It looks like a garden in here."
I went to the icebox. "What'll you have to drink? Cara's in horticulture. Up to our ears."
Cara stood in the center of her harvest, arms akimbo, her slip hips looking fuller for some sleight-of-optics. "I'll get it all sorted out in a few days. We won't keep it all, but I want the best of what's on this land" — she glanced at me — "so I can plan for New England's finest native garden in the spring. Look at this beautiful wild basil," she said, taking a bunch of deep purple leaves from the counter and holding it to her nose, inhaling deeply.
"Do you have some Scotch?"
I got out the ice and the bottle while Hawkins bent his head to smell the proffered basil. "Lovely," he said, looking at Cara.
We spent a few more minutes socializing, and the minister finally took his leave, giving us a big wave as he backed out into the road. Cara stood watching him turn the curve up Blind Man's Hill. "He can help us," Cara said. "I feel it."
"It'll be coming on dark soon. Let's finish."
She took my hand, and we went back to our labors. It has been the best day we've had. In Quincy there are lists of herbs. They are as beautiful as the day has been. As I sit here in the study, Catch at my back, Cara singing in the kitchen, I begin to believe in wholeness once again. The house is filled with fragrances and shadow heavy with the scents of Summer:
Swallow-wort, Betony, Eyebright, Indian Leaf, Sun-dew, Sage, Mother-of-Thyme, Cloves, Lavender, Balsam, Wood of Winter, Acorns, Galangel, Satyrion, Angelica, Lovage, Coriander, Grains of Paradise, Bay-berries, Basil, Ox-eye, Motherwort, Lupine, Feverfew, Cats-mint, Pennyroyal, Savine, Rue, Birth-wort, Days-eye, Man's Skull, Flower-gentle, Mouse-ear, Shepherd's Purse, Hound's-tongue, Ladies Bed-straw, Archangel, Cupmoss, Spleenwort, Dragon's-blood, Tragacanth, Sweet Navew, Yarrow, Chesnuts, Quinces, Galls, Medlars, Mulberries, Hurtle-berries, Thorn-tree, Pomegranate, Tormentils, Pock-wood, Sarsaparilla, Less Centaury, Mallow, Flax, White Maidenhair, Black Maidenhair, Panick, Scabious, Gold Maidenhair, Bitter Vetch, Teasel, Dodder-of-Thyme, Adder's Tongue, Horehound.