Tesoro Mio (My Treasure)
It was five-thirty in the afternoon on a Thursday, and Zelda was seated at a café in Florence that overlooked the picturesque Piazza Duomo. The Café Florian had become a norm in her everyday existence during the last year she had lived in Florence. Upon finishing work for the day, she would always stop by the small café to enjoy the beauty of the piazza where she could unwind and watch the diversity of people as she indulged in an aromatic, rich caffè latte. She had come to cherish the time at the café, but she also looked forward to seeing Mateo each day. Seeing Mateo seemed to make the day complete for reasons she had yet to fully understand.
“Ciao signorina!” Mateo greeted her this sunny afternoon as he stopped by the table to take her order, although she was aware that he full well already knew what she wanted since she ordered the same thing each day. Mateo was the owner of the small café, and he made it a point to personally welcome Zelda and take her order on each of her visits. It was fairly evident to all who sat nearby that he did so to flirt with the beautiful, blonde American. He was slightly older, or so Zelda thought, although not old enough to make any substantial difference in their relationship. His English, though good, was still a bit lacking at times. Regardless, it was easy to discern that the two had much in common.
“Ciao Mateo,” she smiled. “How are you?"
“I am very well,” he said with a flirtatious wink. “At least now that you are here, Zelda. And how are you today, my beautiful American friend?” His smile was broad and his eyes twinkled as he spoke.
“I am well,” Zelda replied. “I think I’ll have…”
Mateo immediately interrupted her with a wave of his hand. “Si, si….yes, allow me. I know, you will have your same? Si? The caffè latte?”
“Si,” Zelda laughed. “Why do you even ask?”
Their conversations always employed a mixture of English and Italian, as each attempted to converse in the other’s language, albeit with somewhat stilted accents.
As Mateo left to get her coffee, Zelda noticed the activity on the piazza this afternoon. There was a large stage constructed and the workers were hanging lights all around and above it. Massive, brilliant red curtains draped the sides of the stage. It was obvious there would be something special happening at the piazza, but she had not heard anything about an outdoor performance and was curious. Once Mateo returned, coffee in hand, she was quick to question him.
“Mateo, what is happening in the piazza? Is there going to be a performance here?”
“Si, my friend. There will be beautiful music for everyone to enjoy this evening. A trio will be singing la musica bel canto – or the finest music Italy has to offer. Will you be going, Zelda?” he asked, keenly interested in her response.
Zelda had not heard about the concert. “I'm not sure, Mateo. I didn’t know anything about it,” she replied.
Mateo took the liberty of seating himself in the vacant seat beside her. “Zelda, my friend, you must come. You cannot be here in Italy and not hear our musica bel canto in such a wonderful way. It will be bellisimo! Please, say you will be my guest. Si? Allow me to introduce you to something wonderful and magnificent from my country. It will be Italy at its finest!” Mateo insisted. “You will not regret it. I promise this to you!”
Zelda smiled, encouraged by Mateo’s enthusiasm. She had no plans for the evening and did not hesitate to accept Mateo’s invitation. While she had not dated in more than a year, she liked Mateo a great deal. Perhaps this wouldn’t be an official date, but still, she was sure it would be infinitely fun and entertaining, and Mateo was most definitely worthy of her attention. She had admired him for several months, charmed by the conversations they’d shared while also considering him to be a good friend.
“Si, I would love to accompany you, Mateo. Thank you so much for inviting me. When and where should I meet you?”
“Please, can you meet me in front of the café at eight-thirty? I will finish up about that time, we can enjoy a glass of wine. The concert will begin at 10:00 pm.”
Zelda nodded. “Yes, of course. How exciting, Mateo, to hear your musica bel canto. Thank you again for asking me.”
“It is only my pleasure. I cannot wait until this evening when I will see you again, Zelda. We will have a wonderful time, I promise,” Mateo said as he rose and gave her a handsome smile.
After finishing the coffee, Zelda headed to her small loft apartment. She had worked for a year as an English tutor for several Italian families and had done so since graduating from William & Mary. Life was very different in Italy compared to Virginia, but she loved it in every conceivable way: the people, the art, the scenery, the music, the food, the language, and of course, the wine. It was all simply amazing, and she could think of no better way to live life at this point in time, especially while she was still young.
Later that evening, Zelda looked through her closet. Mateo had never seen her in much else but jeans or slacks, so she wanted to charm him a bit this evening. She decided upon an elegant, yet simple black dress and heels. The dress had three-quarter length sleeves and would be effective against the evening’s chill, although she would take her emerald green shawl as well.
Zelda gave herself a final glance in the mirror. The simplicity of the black dress was perfect with the long, sleek hair that fell about her shoulders. With its rich blonde luster, it was easy to see why she received so many whistles and stares in Italy. While blonde hair was not something out of the ordinary in the States, one saw few Italian women with it in the current locale, and it was all too apparent that the Italian men admired it. Satisfied with her appearance, Zelda grabbed her purse and headed out the door, excitement coursing through her at the thought of seeing Mateo again.
Taking a taxi, Zelda arrived at the café shortly after eight. Although she was a little early, Mateo was waiting, as if he, too, was anxious to see her again. Despite the coolness of the evening, a warmth spread through Zelda as she neared the handsome Italian. If she had thought him attractive before, she now knew it to be undeniably true. He had obviously gone home and changed his clothes for the evening and was now dressed in slim black pants, a crisp, white shirt, and a sports jacket. The color choices was perfect with his dark coloring and brown eyes. While Zelda could easily admire the look of the man, she knew after months of conversing with him that more importantly, beneath how he looked was a kind man, spurred on by an intelligent mind. She could not have been more pleased to accompany him tonight.
“Zelda,” Mateo said as he greeted her with a warm hug and a kiss on each cheek. Stepping back, he said, “You look bellissima!”
Zelda smiled, feeling butterflies in the pit of her stomach. “Thank you, Mateo. You look bellissima, too.”
Mateo laughed. “But Zelda, I am not a she?” he teased.
The dawning of awareness on her face, Zelda immediately corrected herself. “Oh no, Mateo! I am so sorry. You look bello!”
“Grazie,” he laughed again. “Would you like a drink? Maybe a glass of vino? Si?”
“Absolutely. Thank you.”
“Perfetto! Un momento.”
Mateo disappeared into the café and returned moments later with two glasses of wine. “It is the finest Tuscan Merlot. You like this vino, no?” he asked as he handed her the glass.
“Si! Merlot is my favorite.”
Before taking a sip of the velvet textured wine, Zelda immediately inhaled of its rich smell of currants, black cherries, and spices. As she tasted it, the warmth was immediate, invading first her mouth and then traveling to her extremities in quick measure. It was was delicious and an excellent choice for this evening’s event. Zelda smiled at Mateo, who watched her drink the wine as though he’d never seen anyone do so.
After nearly two hours of nibbling on appetizers, more Tuscan Merlot, and flirtatious banter, Mateo guided Zelda to a seat that was only eight rows from the stage in the piazza. Zelda was surprised that they had such a wonderful view and noticed there was a full orchestra seated behind the elevated stage. It appeared that tonight was going to be a spectacular night of music. Nothing in Italy had disappointed her thus far, and she was sure tonight's performance would have the same excellent result.
“Do you know about our musica bel canto?” Mateo asked as they took their seats.
“No, I’m not sure that I do,” Zelda confessed.
The look Mateo gave her was a very proud one, as if he himself had invented la musica bel canto of Italy.
“It is the music of old,” Mateo began. “And it is simply amazing, beautiful. And…how do you say ‘difficile’? It is very difficile to sing. The music began here, in Italy, many, many years ago.”
“I cannot wait,” Zelda said. “It is such a beautiful evening for music beneath the stars.”
“Si, my friend. Please know it is my pleasure to have you here with me beneath this beautiful Italian sky,” Mateo said and his smile grew even larger, displaying both dimples in his cheeks. Never one to disregard an opportunity, he stretched his left arm and laid it across Zelda’s chair and behind her back as he lightly touched her right shoulder with his fingers . The darkness of his brown eyes deepened as he watched a blush suffuse her cheeks in response to his light caress.
Zelda glanced at Mateo beneath golden lashes and smiled as she relaxed into his embrace. The evening was indeed a beautiful one – not too hot nor too cold – and she was very comfortable in the company of the man seated beside her. The Cathedral of Santa Maria was lit up in the piazza and looked more beautiful than ever even though she saw it nearly every single day on her way to and from work. Zelda had fantasized about such an evening with Mateo for some while now, and most certainly, one spent beneath the stars and moon while listening to beautiful Italian music only served to enhance the manifestation of the dream.
A short while later, three young men came on the stage and began to sing. Zelda was immediately mesmerized by the beautiful, harmonious strength of their voices.
Ma n'atu sole
Cchiù bello, oje ne'
'O sole mio
Sta 'nfronte a te
'O Sole Mio was an amazing song with which to open the night’s performance, and Zelda knew that it would always remain a favorite for her after this evening. The song, beneath the Italian skies was exceptional, and the stars and moon shone brightly above as if in full agreement.
The evening continued with more amazing music, and Zelda was in awe of the it all. Her mind and heart opened as her senses were filled in ways of which she’d previously been completely unaware. At long last, the final song of the evening began. Zelda was fully captivated by Puccini's lovely music.
Nessun dorma! Nessun dorma!
Tu pure, o, Principessa,
nella tua fredda stanza,
guardi le stelle che tremano
d'amore e di Speranza.
Nobody shall sleep!
Nobody shall sleep!
Even you, oh Princess,
in your cold room,
watch the stars,
that tremble with love and with hope.
So beautiful were the words and the flow of the music that Zelda felt tears sting her eyes. As she reached up to lightly wipe them, she glanced through thick lashes at Mateo. He was watching her intently, his own eyes nearly liquid in appreciation. He was as moved by the composer's lovely words and music as she.
Unable to resist, Zelda rested a hand on his chest and leaned over to lightly kiss him. Mateo responded warmly, and Zelda could not help but think his lips had been made by the Gods for just such a thing on such a night as this. She shivered as she tasted the faintest hint of Merlot. She moved closer, leaning into his shoulder as if she had known him always. Mateo’s arm pulled her closer still.
Eventually, the evening ended, and the two walked silently with interwoven hands about the piazza until they found a secluded spot where they could sit, not far from the cathedral. Neither was inclined to speak for there was no need for words, only a profundity of emotion. Their senses were reeling with that which artists paint and writers write.
After long minutes of silence, Mateo found his voice and spoke. “Was bellissimo, no? Just as I promised you. Si?” he asked, gazing at her.
“Si, it was beautiful, Mateo. I have no words to describe its beauty or how it made me feel.” Zelda smiled, her eyes still full of the emotion the music had evoked.
Mateo smiled as his brown eyes deepened. He leaned toward Zelda and kissed her with a newfound awareness. Zelda responded in kind, feeling something she’d never felt fill her as Mateo's arms tightened about her and she tasted deeper of the wine he’d drunk.
Finally, Mateo lifted his head to look at her, searching her eyes. “Tesoro mio,” he whispered.
Zelda’s brow rose in question. “Tesoro mio?”
“Si, tesoro mio. You are my treasure, Zelda. A treasure as beautiful as la musica bel canto. I have waited for you always, and now, here you are, in my arms.”
Zelda smiled. Mateo’s words were so lyrical, moving her so much that that she nearly wept. Was this real or was she dreaming? Oh, but if she was dreaming, she hoped never to awaken. “Mateo…” she tried to find words to express herself.
“Si, tesoro mio?”
“Mateo, I was lost, but now it’s as if I’ve come home…to you and to Italy. I am so happy.”
“Si, tesoro mio….si,” Mateo whispered and kissed her again. Both knew that the world was theirs and would never be the same now that they’d found one another.
Without a doubt, love on this fateful, beautiful evening was as wondrous and enduring as the musica bel canto. And just as Puccini had written so many years before, the stars above the two trembled with love and hope anew. L’amore was indeed a rare treasure or tresoro, and two unsuspecting souls were fortunate enough to discover it beneath the Italian skies, brought together by the beautiful musica bel canto.
My Heart Heralds a Summer’s Day
My heart sings a tune of happiness amidst all things great
As it heralds the dawn of each new day that draws nigh
Along with the roses of summer that grow upon the fence’s gate
Whilst the birds sing tunes so lovely to welcome the day with a sweet cry.
I love the breath and scope of the flower’s fragrance so strong,
The smell of freshly mown grass that lingers in the air,
As in green pastures I roam and lie therein amongst
The flowering bushes, animals, and all of nature so fair.
I’ll whistle a song of love, joy, and purest delight
As I weave along my merry way and explore
With no one and nothing to stop or bar my sight
Until my eyes have feasted on all nature that I so adore.
It is no wonder the delight of summer days well spent
Are amongst my dearest of friends, full of love and utter content.
The Personification of Merlot
Zelda had revisited The Prose & Wine café many times – well, eleven times to be exact – over the last four months. The motivation each time she visited was solely the opportunity to hear him read just one more time. She could not remember ever hearing lovelier recitations of any pieces of classical work. She was confident that his voice, laced with a lilting and beautiful English accent, was a gift from the Gods, derived from ancient times. She did not know his real name, because everyone who came to hear the recitations knew him only as The Eloquent Englishman.
She often wondered if anyone on the face of the earth could read Shakespeare, Chaucer, Byron, Keats, or Milton with such beauty and stirring emotion. So enthralled was she by his rendering of any piece of prose, she knew he could have read a children’s book, and she would have been enraptured by the melodic timbre of his voice. Of course, it did help just a wee bit that he was also quite appealing in his appearance. In fact, it helped a great deal and added immensely to his overall allure.
Zelda herself wanted to be a writer. Her innate desire was to write with passion, and she wanted whatever she wrote to be so enchanting that someone would want to read it repeatedly. Moreover, she desired to write something that he would want to read aloud in cozy, dimly lit cafés like The Prose & Wine. Thus, she justified her repeated appearances at the café to hear him read by telling herself she was receiving the necessary inspiration to do just that. However, truth be told, she had fallen, and she had fallen head over heels for a man who read from the Classics quite hauntingly and beautifully.
This evening, she had been tempted to stay home and not visit The Prose & Wine for the twelfth time. She was beginning to feel a bit conspicuous about frequenting the café when he was to be the guest reader. Moreover, she wondered as to whether he had grown suspicious of her true motive. She thought it entirely possible that he could see right through her. However, after a lengthy debate with herself all afternoon, she had ended it by chiding herself for being silly and presumptuous. He surely did not even know she existed, less that she had been to each one of his readings at The Prose & Wine. She was certain her fears were ill based and inconsequential, and so, she had decided to come to the café this evening after all. It would make her very happy to do so, and he would never notice her, of this, she was sure. Moreover and much to her dismay, it would not be long before he would move on from the city of New Orleans, and she would never see him or hear him read again.
This lovely, chilly January evening, he would be reading excerpts from Sir Walter Scott’s Lady of the Lake, and Zelda was so excited she could scarce stand it. Sitting alone with a glass of French Merlot on her tiny table, she sipped her wine and looked out the window as snowflakes fell in the soft glow of a street lamp. She sat at her usual table, impatiently twirling her foot as it hung draped across a slender leg. Only about sixteen other people, mostly couples, were attending this evening. Perfect, she thought. She secretly longed to be the only one in the café so that she could enjoy the evening with him solo, but she knew that was impossible. Picking up her wine glass, she took a long swallow of the burgundy Merlot, hoping it would help to quell her impatience and anticipation as she waited.
The lights in the tiny café grew dimmer with the exception of a single light focused on the center of the makeshift stage. Zelda immediately placed her wine glass back on the table and perched straighter on the edge of her seat as she waited. Before long, he walked out from the back of the establishment and took a seat in the lone mahogany Mission Style chair. With a casual nod, he greeted his small audience.
“Good evening, my friends. I should like the opportunity on this beautiful winter evening to warm our minds with some beautiful words written by Sir Walter Scott. The book from which I will be reading is Lady of the Lake, first published in 1810, and the excerpt is from the Canto Fourth.”
He opened the small book in his hands and moments later, the smoothness of his velvet-lined voice soon drifted across the expanse of the small room:
“The rose is fairest when ’t is budding new,
And hope is brightest when it downs from fears;
The rose is sweetest washed with morning dew
And love is loveliest when embalmed in tears.”
Entranced, Zelda listened intently to the words wrap fluidly around his eloquent tongue and spill forth into the stillness of the dimly lit room. Despite the silliness of it, all her mind could seem to think upon was the ‘swooning’ that was often detailed in Romance novels she had read when she was younger. She was certain at this moment in time that she might swoon and faint fast away upon the floor of The Prose & Wine, so overcome was she by his lovely recitation of Sir Walter Scott’s prose. Fleeting thoughts of him bent over her lifeless body while attempting to resuscitate her lingered pleasantly in the back of her mind until she forced herself to focus once again on the beautiful words and timbre of his voice as he continued to read.
Thus, the night ensued with readings from various excerpts of the famous poem. Zelda was smitten and did not once stir during the entire time. So moved was she by the lovely poetry that she occasionally lifted a finger to wipe at a stray tear that fell upon her cheek. Ah, but she could live life in such a way, listening to such beautiful recitations by such a one as he.
Once the recitations had ended, the waiter made the rounds, replenishing everyone’s drinks. As the waiter poured a new glass of Merlot for Zelda and then stepped away, she gasped for he was standing there, behind the waiter and directly in front of her small table.
“Good evening,” he said with a brilliant smile and voice of velvet that made Zelda’s breath catch in her throat. “I hope you enjoyed the reading.”
Zelda was unsure how she did so and from where she found her voice, but she returned his smile and managed to answer him without stammering like a timid child.
“Yes, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Sir Walter Scott’s writings are so beautiful.” As are you, she thought.
“Excellent. I am so pleased you liked it.” He looked about the room for a minute before his gaze found hers again. As if unsure what to say, he cleared his throat and said, “I’ve noticed that you’ve managed to attend all my readings. I hope that means you have enjoyed them. ”
Zelda felt a blush creep across her cheeks at his words. He had noticed her uninterrupted attendance at his recitations after all. Well, she could only hope that was a good thing. “Yes,” she said. “I have enjoyed each one of them very much, but I think tonight was my favorite.”
For mere moments, the two stared at one another, seemingly frozen in time. Blue eyes met green ones, and in the skip of a heartbeat, connected. Zelda felt a small shiver run down her spine that had nothing to do with the cold weather outside.
“May I join you?” he gestured to the empty chair at her table.
“Oh, yes, most certainly! Please forgive my lack of manners,” she said as she quickly moved her wine glass and the copy of Lady of the Lake she had brought with her so that he could take a seat. He motioned to the waiter so that he could order a drink. Zelda watched him from beneath her lashes and wondered if she was in a dream. If so, it was a wonderful dream and she hoped never to awaken.
“I’ll have whatever she’s having,” he told the waiter, motioning to Zelda’s glass of Merlot.
Zelda was suddenly very self-conscious as the waiter brought her companion’s wine. Her slim, woolen skirt seemed shorter and tighter by the minute, and the burgundy turtleneck she had worn seemed to bind her chest tightly, preventing an adequate flow of air. Nervously, she tugged at the hem of her skirt and then fidgeted with the stem of the wine glass, glancing up at him to ensure he was, in fact, still there. She refrained from the temptation to pinch herself just to be sure she was awake.
“You like Merlot then?” she asked, and then mentally kicked herself. Why of course he liked Merlot. He had ordered it, had he not? Stupid, silly question and stupid, silly girl! she chided herself.
“Yes, I do,” he smiled, and a big dimple grew in his left cheek. “It’s a favorite. I find it to be such an approachable wine. It is full-bodied and elegant while it pairs with nearly every kind of food but also stands alone quite well. I enjoy the sleek softness of it - fruity, velvety, so rich in nature,” he added as he took a sip from the wine glass the waiter had placed before him.
In addition to softly sensual, like the way in which you partake of its richness, Zelda could not help but mentally note, watching his throat as he swallowed. My God, but had anyone ever been able to describe the deliciousness of a glass of wine or Merlot in such a way? She was sure not. Indeed, the enunciation and the beauty in his description, rhythm, and flow of words were like the velvety, rich smoothness of the wine personified.
He looked at her and extended his hand, “My name is Gawain.”
She responded, captivated by his beautiful smile, with one of her own. “Zelda,” she said and felt the warmth in his firm handshake.
“What a lovely name. Quite unusual though,” he noted.
She nodded. “My mother was a huge fan of Fitzgerald.”
“Ah, yes, I see. Well, it certainly suits you quite well.” He then gave a small laugh before he continued. ”My mother was obviously a fan of the Arthurian legends.” As he spoke, he watched her intently, as though attempting to determine what she was thinking. Knowing exactly what she’d just been thinking about the soft sensuality in the way in which he had described his wine and then partook of it made Zelda blush again as she looked down into her own glass.
“Are you from New Orleans, Zelda?” he asked.
“I am,” she nodded and laughed softly. “Quite thoroughly Southern.”
“Like a Magnolia, I would say. Or perhaps, better yet, a lovely Camellia,” he responded in earnest.
Zelda looked at him, flattered that he would think her as lovely as a Southern bloom as he was certainly a stunning specimen in his own right. Gawain’s green eyes watched her over the light of the table’s candle as she returned their intensity with her blue gaze. The strength of their connection seemed to intensify like the flame of the candle.
“Thank you for the lovely compliment. May I ask where your home is?” Zelda asked and looked down and pretending to remove an invisible piece of lint from the table.
“I’m from across the pond,” he replied. “Cornwall, England to be precise. But I like it here very much and think I might stay a while longer than first planned.”
Zelda looked up as she heard the emphasis in his words. His green eyes continued to gaze at her as if she were the only person in the room, wanting to gage her reaction to the words he spoke.
She suddenly grew a little more confident and gave him a beautiful, warm smile. “That would be wonderful, Gawain. I am your number one fan, I assure you. I could easily listen to you read for endless years. Your voice is so lovely and made for such lovely recitations.”
At her words, he cocked his head a bit and his brow rose in question as he looked at her. “Endless years? I fear you might regret that one, my dear.”
Realizing what she’d said and what he was inferring, Zelda blushed and mentally cursed herself for doing so yet again while also silently answering him. I would never tire of that sensuous, velvet voice of yours - not even in a million years!
He looked down at the table and noted the lovely antique edition of Lady of the Lake that she’d brought with her before glancing up to study her a bit more. After a moment, his voice laced with seriousness, he said, “Why do I feel as if I already know you, Zelda? As if I have always known you?”
In response, Zelda emitted a faint, nervous laugh and quickly took a sip of her wine before she said, “Quite possibly because I’ve been to all your readings, hanging on to each and every word. I adore the Classics and the way in which you read them is so beautiful.” If only you could know how much I adore you, too.
“Yes, quite possibly, but still….one has to wonder,” he said as he reached across the table to lightly touch Zelda’s hand with his own. Unexpected, the touch was like a bolt of electricity. Stunned surprise surfaced in both eyes of green and blue.
Zelda’s breath caught in her throat, as she realized the full importance of her visit to The Prose and Wine this night. She shivered again as she realized that had she not come to this evening reading, there would have been no Gawain at her table, and no such connection between them. Yes, fate was an oxymoron: tricky and wondrous at the same time. She was immensely pleased she had listened to her voice of reason earlier that afternoon and come tonight. For in the briefest heartbeat, Zelda knew the connection between them had already grown with unusual and easy momentum. It was gaining a life of its’ own, much like a newly opened bottle of Merlot being exposed to the air, thereby allowing it to breathe while the fullness embodied therein enhanced with every second it rested. No, she was not dreaming. This was blissful reality. All roads were converging in a way that felt completely natural and completely right tonight. Without a doubt, there was a consequence for every little inconsequential action.
“Shall we do this again, Zelda?” Gawain asked, emboldened by the look in her green eyes.
“Yes, most assuredly.” Zelda quickly replied.
“Well,” he began, but then briefly diverted his gaze to the glass of Merlot before continuing as though he was slightly nervous. “Perhaps we should consider this to be our first date for I find that I am already looking forward to our next one.”
Suddenly, filled with newborn confidence and joy, Zelda lifted her slim hand so that her delicate fingers lay atop Gawain’s hand. It was warm to her touch, and she felt the gentle strength embodied therein. Realizing there were unknown and uncharted depths awaiting discovery within the man seated before her, she felt a thrill of anticipation and excitement. Smiling exuberantly, she answered, “Indeed, nothing would please me more, Gawain. I, too, cannot wait for what tomorrow may bring.”
Life as a woman in nine months will give us
A gift so very precious, blessed and most rare
And the years that follow thereafter bring and bestow upon us
Grace, beauty, and love beyond compare.
The years ahead are filled with many things –
Wonder, heartache, and immeasurable joy.
They bring the fruition of wisdom and love
That only the heart of a child’s parent may know.
And in its turning, perpetual state
Life’s cycle will continue in all of its glory
To create and maintain a passage
Each hour by hour, day by day, and story by story.
Life gives us abundant love and joy
Through times and years of reflection
But it may also give us sadness and despair at times
Ever moving and seemingly slow, amidst the perils of imperfection.
Regardless, in its glory the life we treasure
Will continue the lineage of our life
Spinning and evolving measure by measure
Ever always through the happiness, tears and strife.
What we choose makes all the difference
Be it wisdom, joy, love, or grief
And the days will turn and toil around us
And leave the markings of each life like the lines upon a leaf.
Life is a treasure beyond belief or imagination
Something to which there is nothing beyond compare
And in all its glory and magnificence
One should dance and sing each day, making it quite rare.
For the time of old age will creep upon us far too swiftly
Bringing us full circle amidst change and confusion
Where the child will then be the parent – the one to care
For the elder who begins to live in a world of illusion and delusion.
So sing upon your branch until your breast is full of song
And dance until your feet can no longer move or stand
So that you may enjoy life to its very fullest moment
Marking and fulfilling each day as something perfect and so grand.
I had a beautiful cat that we bestowed with a godawful name: Coconut. Because the name was so inappropriate for such beauty, we instead called him Coco, like the undying beauty found in Coco Chanel's lovely creations.
Coco was a stray who landed on our doorstep one cold and rainy February night. He was smart enough that once he'd come inside and finished the bite to eat we'd given him, he immediately pounced upon my chair and and proceeded to curl up directly on my chest just over my heart, as if to say, "Hey there! I know you make the decisions. I like it here a bunch. Can I please stay?"
Needless to say, I was smitten, not only with his beauty and gorgeous midnight blue eyes and Flame Point Siamese coloring, but also with his eagerness to love and his intellect. I often said Coco was smarter than anyone I knew, and I still think that was a fairly accurate assumption.
Over the eighteen years that I was gifted with this ginormous and beautiful animal's soul, I came to realize that he was my Spirit Animal in every possible sense. One look into his blue eyes or one sound of his loud and lamb like meow, and I immediately knew what he was thinking or wanted. If was as if we were on the same mental planes. While I have had several close relationships with animals in my fifty something years, I had never experienced such a profound relationship as the one I had with Coco.
I lost Coco after eighteen blissful years. It was and remains the hardest animal loss I've ever experienced. At times, so intense is my grief that I still cry at the least thought of him. No, in my lifetime there will never again be another sweet animal soul in my life like sweet Coco, for he was one of a kind, unique in all ways, and derived from dreams of legendary cats that once belonged to Gods long ago in far places like Egypt.
I'll miss and love you, Coco - always.
A Jar of Glass
If I could, I would live
My life in a jar of glass
Kept far away from
And sadness that infuses
Every day existence.
If I could, I would live
My life in a jar of glass
Save none but loving
Animals to comfort me
And fill the loneliness
Of all my days.
If I could, I would live
My life in a jar of glass
Surrounded by the beauty
Of art and music
To fill the void
Of silent days.
If I could, I would live
My life in a jar of glass
Filled with flowers
And those whom I love
Keeping us far from wayward
Thoughts and ways.
If I could, I would live
My life in a jar of glass
But since life forbids
I will instead live my
Life to the fullest.
Instead, in my every day
Existence, I will treat
All things as if they are
As fragile as the glass
Of that imaginary jar
For which I do long.
Three Perspectives, Same Experience
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” -
George Bernard Shaw
Emily sat at the table, slowly stirring her coffee. What had happened the previous evening had left her more than restless throughout the long night. This morning, she was weary, her nerves frayed and her thoughts jumbled. She had not expected the reaction she’d received when she’d told Joshua she was leaving him and taking Zoe with her. She had expected an angry, belligerent man, but all she had witnessed instead was a seemingly broken and distraught one. The amazement on his face had not lied: he was stunned. She had watched as he’d slowly lowered himself into the sofa’s cushion, his head in his hands, and begun to weep. Despite the seriousness of the moment, a grimace of a smile had graced her lips as she steeled herself and thought, “Crocodile tears. There is no way he still loves me.”
Her decision to leave had not been an easy one, but a necessary one if she were to hold onto the slightest bit of self-respect and sanity, mostly for Zoe’s sake. She could no longer take the abandonment and neglect. Joshua never reached to hug her or lightly touch her hand. There were no shared conversations with laughter, no whispers of love as he leaned to whisper into her ear, nor the briefest of kisses upon her lonely lips. Love was a forgotten, unbidden thought that had long since deserted them. She had studied him often, hoping to see a glimmer of whatever emotion it was that had brought them together in the first place, but it was not to be found. Instead, she had found an unrecognizable visage of the man she had married fifteen years previously. It was difficult to fathom that she had once loved him so much that she thought her world could not exist without him. Now, she only longed to leave him behind and begin anew, creating a new life for herself and for Zoe.
Emily took a sip of her coffee and looked around the small kitchen of her new apartment, knowing her exhausted daughter slept soundly in a new, unfamiliar bedroom. No, it had not been easy to leave him, but it had been necessary. She and Zoe would be all right despite the change. And they would adjust and actually be happier than they’d both been living in such a cold, unloving environment. And Joshua? Well, Joshua would be just fine, because there was no way anyone in this world was more important to him than he was to himself.
Zoe wiped the tears from her cheeks and turned her reddened face into the pillow. Her mother thought she was asleep, but the truth was that she had not slept much since leaving the only home she'd ever known the previous night. Her mother had seemed distraught, and so Zoe had kept the tears at bay until she’d fallen into her bed claiming exhaustion from the night’s events. But the truth was that Zoe’s twelve-year-old heart was broken as she left behind her daddy and the home she’d lived in since she was a baby. She wanted to understand, but all she could think was that her world was changing and would never be the same again. Life as she had known it would now elude her in many ways.
While Zoe’s school would not change, Zoe could not help but think this was not such a good thing. Maybe it would have been easier to move to a new school and make new friends, because her current friends surely would not want to come over and visit anymore in this tiny, forsaken apartment that her mother now referred to as home. No, they were used to swimming in her backyard pool when they visited, eating all the food and snacks they wanted from her refrigerator, and spending fun-filled sleepovers in the basement of her former home. They all told her time and again how lucky she was to live in such a great house with a swimming pool and such cool parents.
Zoe groaned as she rolled over to face the stark gray wall of her new bedroom. It was an ugly and depressing room, she thought to herself. She was used to waking up and seeing lovely pink, flowery walls decorated with everything she treasured hung on them. This new move was maddening and wouldn’t do at all. What was her Mom thinking? Surely she would come to her senses and they could go back home – and soon. Whatever it was her dad had done, she’d make sure that the next time she saw him, he would apologize and ask her Mom to come back home. Yes, everything would be fine – she would see to it. But when would that be? Right now, she didn’t know when she’d see her dad again.
Sad, frustrated, and tired, Zoe closed her eyes, longing for sleep and oblivion. Hopefully she’d see her dad sooner than later and everything would be all right.
Joshua sat on the sofa, his hand running repeatedly through his thick brown tresses. He hadn’t moved much since Emily and Zoe had gone other than to grab a bottle of Johnny Walker and a glass from the cabinet in the kitchen. He felt disjointed and unsettled, not sure what to feel or what to think. How could she have done this to him? And how on earth could she have taken his sweet baby girl with her? Nothing on the face of the earth could have prepared him for such a thing. She was always so quiet, so subdued, never venturing forth much in the way of conversation or expression. He’d mostly left her alone, never seeking to intrude upon her world, because he’d thought that’s what she wanted. But instead, she had accused him of such horrible things, telling him he was cold and that she felt unloved and abandoned. How could she ever have thought such a thing?
Exhausted, he leaned his head back against the sofa’s cushion and lifted his feet onto the coffee table, taking a large sip of his scotch. Had Emily been there, she would have told him to remove his feet, but she wasn’t there, so they remained firmly in place on the table. He could not understand why she’d chosen some hole in the wall apartment for herself and Zoe to live in instead of staying in this spacious, beautiful home with him. He had worked hard to provide the best of everything for their small family. In fact, he’d done little else other than work day in and day out to ensure they wanted for nothing. How could she possibly think he didn’t love her after all he’d sacrificed and given her? He’d barely had a life beyond the office and all for them. He sighed and took another sip of his drink. Nothing made sense to him. and the alcohol was most assuredly not helping to clear his mind so that he could reach any answers.
If he was honest, he was a bit peeved with Emily. Did she not realize how this made him look? After all, what would everyone think? And what would he tell his boss and coworkers? His secretary? The neighbors? And their friends? He straightened and placed his glass on the coffee table, thinking ruefully to himself that Emily would have chastised him for not using a coaster. He slowly extended himself and stretched out upon the sofa, sighing as he closed his eyes. This was just too much to process, and he was tired and needed to sleep. He was sure he was drunk after all the scotch he’d consumed, but he definitely wasn’t numb yet because the shock of last night’s events still hurt like hell. He’d sleep for now and when he awoke, he’d freshen up and go after the only woman he had ever loved and his daughter. He’d make Emily listen and understand that she and Zoe were his whole world and that he didn’t want to live without them. He’d bring them home and everything would be right again. Soon, he thought to himself as he began to relax. Soon.
I uniquely spin and gravitate to blue
Not just any blue, but a deep, resounding navy blue
That speaks to my soul in unspoken ways
And resonates deep within me as each day begins anew.
Blue, blue, blue provides such immense comfort
And through the warm day and long night
I find ease, rest and comfort in my existence
And discover that which is forever within my sight.
And thus, I choose this and that in navy blue
And sometimes mix it with vibrant colors
Surrounding myself with that blue I so love
For mysterious reasons unbeknownst to others.
The still, the movement of navy blue
Ever encroaching and enveloping all around
I feel it with every breath I take
This blue represents the meaning of life as it abounds.
I see it in the ocean and the massive skies above
In the tiny Blue jays, flowers, and butterflies
It flits, it stirs, and flourishes in nature all about
Until I can see nothing but a peace that draws nigh.
Perhaps the blue I so love is a unique power
Special as it resonates deeply inside of me,
A purpose, a drive, a fierce embodiment
That reverberates within my soul as I move and breathe.
To me, navy blue is more than a mere color
It’s a unique sense of my being and protection
That moves with me along each step I take
And infuses me with purpose and direction.
Oh, but did my love for you emerge and vastly grow
When first I spied you across the room amidst the summer heat.
Within my heart, it was enlightenment as if I did know
That was your presence that made my soul most complete.
There is no other who can fill the emptiness of summer days
With lingering songs of tenderness, truth, and desire
As you, my love, have done for me in all life’s ways.
You are my love, my life, my heart – all to which I aspire.
Sing to me, and we will dance as one beneath the sun,
And I will whisper sweet words with a kiss
Until the moment we are spent and our dance is done
As eagerly we steer toward the eclipse of eternal bliss.
Oh, dearest blossom of summer love, I hold you dear,
Pray, keep me close, forever in your sight and always near.
A Twist of TIme
The day was a formidable one at best with the downpour of rain and the occasional streaks of lighting that stretched across the expanse of the skies along with the ominous rolls of thunder. Looking out the large window that covered the entire wall of one side of the den, Piper yawned, sinking deeper into the cushions of the comfy sofa, the book she was reading perched on her chest. It was such a dreary day that she could not help feeling sleepy again even though she’d risen later than usual that morning.
Her normal days of vacation almost always consisted purely of unwinding and downtime, or doing precisely what she felt like doing. This year, she had chosen a week at the beach, and the forecast called for rain nearly every day. Of all the times to choose a beach vacation! Still, the house was lovely with a beautiful oceanfront view, and it was true that she loved the beach no matter the time of year or type of weather. Come winter, fall, spring, or summer and in rain or sunshine, the soft lull and roll of the tide’s waves were always an inspiration and peaceful interlude.
In the background, soft strains of Chopin’s Nocturnes played as Piper attempted to continue reading her book, Wuthering Heights. It had always been one of her favorite classics, and she was determined to read it again since the last time had been when she was only twelve years of age. She was now twenty-four, so rereading it was a long overdue endeavor on her part. In this dreary, rainy weather, she could easily picture the haunting heather strewn moors described in the story. And as dark a character as Heathcliff was, he was still an intriguing one to which Piper was immensely drawn. She picked up her coffee, hoping it would help to keep her awake, at least long enough to complete the current chapter.
It was less than an hour later when Piper gave up her quest to stay awake, placing the book face down on the coffee table and turning to settle more comfortably on the sofa as she pulled down the yellow afghan that lay across the top cushion. Lulled by the soft music, the pitter patter of rain, and the warmth beneath the afghan, she quickly fell into a deep slumber.
Was she dreaming? She must be dreaming, she thought. She could smell the mustiness of damp earth and heather that bloomed across the moors and stretched as far as the eye could see. It was no longer raining, but she could tell that the rain had only all too recently stopped. And she no longer was inside the beach house. Where on earth was she and what exactly had happened?
She realized, much to her amazement, that she was not dressed in the comfy jeans and t-shirt that she had lazily donned that morning. Instead, she wore a soft, printed muslin gown that flowed all the way to her feet and covered much of her arms as well. There was an intricate pattern of embroidered flowers dispersed throughout the dress's pattern and delicate wisps of lace were attached here and there to accent its loveliness - or perhaps to hide the fullness of her breasts. Beneath the hem of the long dress, Piper saw her feet, but instead of being covered in the navy colored Converse tennis shoes she normally wore, they were encased in silk textured shoes. While lovely, they were not at all what Piper was used to wearing, and she quickly noted their flimsiness. What on earth was going on?
Glancing up and looking as far in the distance as possible, her body creating a full circle, she searched for any sign of the ocean. No ocean. No sand. No waves. No seagulls. No beach house. Only moors and heather as far as the eye could see. Confused, she rose and took a step forward, heading to a nearby group of rocks. While the skies were still mostly overcast, there was a humid heat that hung in the air as sunshine peeked relentlessly through the clouds. She was unused to wearing so much clothing, especially in the warmer weather, and quickly sought the comfort of the slight shade created by the rock formation.
As she reached the spot, she leaned against the largest stone and deliberately pinched her arm with a force with which to be reckoned. She must be dreaming! But instead, she only winced at the pain she felt from the strength of her fingers on her forearm. What the devil was going on? Had she leapt through some crazy tunnel of time to land in England amidst what appeared to be the nineteenth century? Her mind raced as she searched for answers, but she could not deny the situation in which she found herself or the clothing that she wore. She was about as far away from the ocean in South Carolina as possible. Instead, it appeared she was somewhere in England – and, even more perplexing, in an entirely different span of time.
Setting her mind on that which she could not ignore, Piper began to realize that this all too apparent transition might not be the worst thing. Had she not always felt misplaced in the twenty-first century? It was true: she did indeed feel as though she had been been meant for somewhere else in another century, even as much as she loved her Southern roots, family, friends, and home. A slight smile tugged at her lips. Dream or no dream, she was going to make the best of the situation. After all, perhaps she’d stumble across someone as handsome as Heathcliff. Yet, she could not help but wonder how long it would take for her to do just that. The day would eventually end and where would that leave her?
Looking down at the ground, she realized there was a blanket spread with a picnic basket atop it. From where had that come? Strange, but it was as if she had been expected. Carefully taking a seat on the blanket, she opened the basket to find refreshments: a portion of bread, a wedge of cheese, a pear, and a bottle of wine along with two small glasses. Two glasses? Was she supposed to have a guest?
Nestled inside the basket, beneath all the food and wine, was also a leather bound book. Removing everything, she picked it up and opened it. No surprise there: Wuthering Heights. Well, since the book was published in 1847, the period in which she now found herself had to be somewhere during the latter half of the century. This was incredibly interesting, to say the least. Now if only her expected guest would arrive. She was more than anxious to learn for whom the second glass might be intended – or if it was just an extra glass and nothing more.
Settling more comfortably upon the blanket, Piper pulled the stopper out of the wine bottle and poured herself a glass of red wine. It was fruity, yet spicy, and satisfied her thirst while also relaxing her. Anyone would be a little anxious under the circumstances, she reminded herself. Pulling off a piece of the bread and nibbling at the cheese, she found that she was much hungrier than she knew. The morning’s coffee had done little to satisfy her appetite.
Strangely, she was rather calm despite all things considered.
Growing more accustomed to her situation as the sun rose high in the sky, nearly blinding her, she peered across the vast moor. Raising her hand and blocking as much of the light as possible, she spotted a distant, tall rider upon a black horse. The rider drew nearer to where she sat until she could hear the horse's strong gait at his approach. Piper’s heart began to beat rapidly, and to steady her nerves a bit, she downed the small glass of wine and then quickly poured herself another generous measure of the same.
As the rider drew nearer, he steadied the horse. She could easily see that he was indeed a strong version of Heathcliff but also different. He had darkened skin, windswept brown hair, crystal blue eyes, and only the slight semblance of a smile upon his stern lips. The biggest difference she could discern was that his clothing was fitted to his lean body, and not at all poorly in appearance. No, this gentleman appeared to be very much just that: a gentleman, and more than likely, a wealthy one. He removed the hat he wore and nodded at her as the black stallion stopped just inches from her blanket.
“Good morning,” he said, his voice deep and melodic.
’Good morning,” Piper murmured. Was that her squeaky voice she heard? He must already think her a moron.
“I am Barclay. Are you new to our village?”
“Yes. My name is Piper. It’s a pleasure to meet you,” she said, fully aware of the Southern drawl that surfaced as she spoke. There was no denying she was not from England.
He smiled, and Piper thought that him quite handsome. With a keen and full awareness of him, she smoothed the errant red curls that swirled about her face and make herself a bit more presentable.
“That’s no English accent,” he smiled. “Are you from the colonies?”
Piper smiled. “Yes. From Charleston…or you may still know it as Charles Towne,” she quickly added.
“Ah, yes. A wonderful city. My shipping company stops in port there frequently. I should have recognized your accent.
“Where are my manners? Would you care for some refreshment? Perhaps a glass of wine? It’s rather warm today.” Piper pulled the extra glass from the basket, immensely happy that it was obviously intended for this man. She watched his lean frame easily dismount the tall horse.
Barclay strode to the edge of the blanket and knelt before her, accepting the glass of wine with a broader smile and a ‘thank you’, his strong fingers brushing hers. Up close, she could see that his beautiful blue eyes twinkled with undisguised mirth. She was suddenly very happy she had on the feminine attire she wore opposed to jeans, a t-shirt, and tennis shoes. Hopefully, he would not ask any questions she could not truthfully answer. After all, this was an unexpected journey of sorts, and she certainly had no clue what the next minute or hour would bring.
“Bread? Cheese? Fruit?” she asked, feeling inordinately silly, but offering it all to him with her Southern and gracious manners.
“No, thank you,” he said. His voice was rich with the strength of his accent. Just being this close to him brought an awareness with it, and despite the warmth of the mild day, Piper shivered.
“Did you not bring your wrap, miss?” he asked. "Would you like my coat?"
Piper looked around, unsure of her answer, but then she spotted a lovely lavender shawl behind her on the other side of the tree. Picking it up, she playfully pulled at its decorative fringe.
“Oh, I’m all right – not really cold,” she responded with a smile to match his.
“Aye, indeed. ’Tis the loveliest of days. I’m so thankful to take Maisy out for a ride this morning after all the rain this week.” Barclay downed his wine, and Piper quickly offered him another glass.
She studied the tall horse. She was a beautiful, strong one. When she returned her attention to Barclay, she found his blue eyes intently watching her, as if summing up the measure of her worth.
“You must have been expecting someone,” he said. “I hope I haven’t intruded.
”Piper arched her brow and looked at him questioningly, and he added, “The extra glass?”
“Oh! It’s only for someone who comes along in need of such, like you.” Piper smiled. “I’m glad I could offer you refreshment."
Barclay nodded and smiled as he looked down into his glass. “Will I see you tonight?” he asked.
"At the Pennington’s ball?”
Piper looked down at her lap before she responded. “I hope so,” she responded with all sincerity.
“Aye, I hope so, too,” Barclay said, his blue eyes sparkling as he continued to intently watch her. “But for now,” he slowly rose, and again, Piper could not help but notice the fine physique he cut in his handsome, well-tailored riding attire, “I have to return home.” He tipped his hat as he placed it back upon the thick waves of hair. “Until later then.” It was a statement and not a question; he fully expected to see her at the dance that evening.
“Yes, until later. It’s been a pleasure to meet you,” Piper smiled, thoroughly enchanted in the moment and with the man before her.
“The pleasure is all mine, I assure you,” Barclay said as he mounted his horse and galloped away, one final smile upon his handsome lips.
Ah! The embodiment of a hero straight off the pages of a book, Piper thought to herself, immense pleasure filling her. Where were the men like this one in the twenty-first century? She had certainly not stumbled upon any of them in all her years. Taking up the lavender shawl, she wrapped it around her shoulders and then leaned back upon the solid rock, sighing deeply as she closed her eyes. What an unbelievably romantic day and amazing man!
And then suddenly, as if fate was cruel in a twist and manipulation of time, she opened her eyes and found herself lying back on the comfy sofa, her book and coffee mug on the table in front of her, dressed once again in her jeans and t-shirt. Surprised, she quickly stood and realized she had dropped the afghan. As she stooped to pick it up, further amazement was hers: it was not the knitted, yellow afghan she’d pulled from the back of the sofa earlier, but the lavender shawl in which she’d wrapped herself just prior to returning to the present day and time.
It was true! Here was proof that she had not imagined the last hour or two of time. Barclay was real. But as quickly as joy had encompassed her, disappointment also flooded her at the realization that he was betwixt the centuries in another place. Saddened beyond measure that there would be no Barclay and no evening, Piper made her way to the kitchen where she poured herself another cup of black coffee before settling back on the sofa. It had finally ceased raining, and the sun was now peeking through the clouds.Piper did not know how long she sat there, contemplating the strange events of her morning, but at some point, she heard footsteps on the front porch. Quickly she rose, fear a palpable thing as she turned the handle to open the door wide. As she did so, she stepped onto the threshold and into the gleaming afternoon sunlight. The sunshine was unexpectedly so bright she could hardly see her hand in front of her. As she attempted to shield her eyes, she stared directly into blue eyes that she already knew.
“I’m so sorry!” A deep, familiar voice said. “My rental agent must have been confused. I did not realize anyone was in the house this week. I‘m the owner and wanted to check on a plumbing issue. I apologize for disturbing you.”
Piper could only stare in wide-eyed wonder at the man who stood before her. He was the spitting image of Barclay.
Finding her voice, she said, “It’s all right. I’m Piper McCloud, and I’m here for the week, but you are welcome to come in and do whatever needs doing.”
“That would be great. Again, I'm so sorry for the inconvenience. I’m Barkley Grimball.”
Piper was not surprised. His name was close enough, she thought as she shook his extended hand.
“Please come in, Barkley. Might I offer you some refreshment? It’s a very hot day after all.”
He smiled and nodded. “That would be great. Thank you.”
Stepping aside for him to move past, Piper turned her face toward the sun to feel its full effect. She was strongly aware of the profundity of a privilege life had just granted her. It was a gift far larger than anything for which she could ever deign to ask, and she could not wait to see on what journey it would take her. However, in her heart, she was already certain she knew precisely what the outcome would be.
As she reentered the house, a beautiful, knowing smile lit Piper's face much like the sunlight in the blue skies. She no longer felt misplaced. Her world had suddenly spun in the perfect fashion, and all was right in every conceivable way.