To Members of the Corridor---that mythical, meandering, fenced-in land where I live from 5 to 6:30 each morning---their house, especially their winter home, is their hearthing (the 'ing' designating only their greatest commitments). Eating. Singing. Healing. All before the moutainous wood-fired stove, warmly wrapping them like a buffalo blanket. Seventeen-year old Amelan, my tale's outcast hero, loves how his Beaver Creek Village ancestors adorn all walls of momming Ruth's hearthing, folding back layer upon hanging cloth layer through parents, grandparents, all the way back, seven generations to Dego, grandfather of the Corridor. And now as I sit by our cold fireplace---after two bicep-building months prepping our house for sale---I feel like Amelan. Outcast in my home. Learning what it means to fold back layer upon dusty layer. Our 26 amazing years here. And beyond. To those who ate, sang and healed upon these floors before us. And inward. To my own ancestral images.
The house itself taught me much. As Linda and I endured six weeks scraping glue off our floors---hand and knees and that nauseating stench---we couldn't help but ponder what drove some house-ancestor to hate their hardwood floors so much that they smeared them with black glue and suffocated them with carpet. Tarred and feathered. I imagine a wall hanging depicting the horror of the hardwood and the triumph of carpet.
We finished painting the main floor, save the kitchen. I hope the colors, white trim on seaspray walls, will give the new owners some joy. And perhaps one day their little boy will smack the wall and chip! To the everlasting bewilderment of the new owers, will be our old colors: lavendar upon lavendar. I wish I had the quilting skill of my friend Pam Joern; I'd make a wall hanging depicting Linda and I, painting until 3AM with our early 30's vigor, then collapsing in each other's arms.
Yet the most impactful learning arrived as I packed boxes: the proverbial decluttering. On a top closet shelf, lost admist ten years of Frankly Covey calendars, I rediscovered a scrapbook. My childhood through my mother's eyes. Report cards. Gory poems. Honor roll clippings from the Albert Lea Tribune. Then, stuffed in the back---though I can still hardly believe it---I found the makings of my novel.
My St. Cloud State freshman's notebook. On the cover the word 'journal' is scratched out and replaced with 'Biology'. While the journal is certainly interesting (Linda harumphed as I wrote about meeting a nice girl, Laurie Lippold, who became my passion for 4 years), but its was the biology, of all things, that stunned me.
I don't even remember taking Biology. But there it is, obviously copied word for word from some journal. "In recent years it has become apparent tht some slow, persistent diseases that do not superficially appear to be infectious diseases can be caused or triggered by unusual, slow viruses. Kuru and Creutzfeldt-Jacob neurological diseases are almost certainly of the type." Now its strange enough that fifteen years later, doctors, probing to understand my mysterious case of chronic fatigue, found I carried the marker for Creutzfeldt-Jacob. But to me that pales compared to the role of disease in my novel.
Amelan's father Emo, while illegally running goods, unwittingly brings a pathogen, the Orator, over the Fence in a vial. Orator first infects Amelan's grandmother Skye. She passes it on. The boy, beloved by all, turns blue and dies. Fear grips the Corridor. Faced with possible pandemic, the Members of the Corridor feel forced to choose between death and their values, the very covenant upon which the Corridor was built. Meanwhile their ancestors watch from their walls of their hearthing.
Perhaps mine do too. Maybe some ancestral freshman self is watching me. Guiding me. Whispering in my dreams, "the virus...its all about the virus". My house didn't have a wall hanging of that freshman me, but it did have a scrapbook. And an old notebook.
Now its harder than ever to think about leaving this house. Its so much more than a house So much more than a lavendar turned seaspray home.
It's our hearthing.