The Heart’s Progress

We’ve had a great trial to endure over the past eight weeks. I worried that there would be a cloud over Saturday night’s celebratory event for Seek the Holy Dark. There wasn’t. Everything went off without a hitch. We had a great crowd of friends who came to celebrate with us. Friends came from New Orleans, Lake Charles, and Houston, as well as Lafayette and Grand Coteau. I felt such enormous love and support. A young couple came who I didn’t know. They had heard the radio interview and didn’t want to miss the reading. That sent me swooning. They were so sweet.
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I am so very fortunate to have the friends and family I do. While in many ways I have extraordinary strengths, I really am vulnerable to stress. I am blessed to have protectors. I am humbled by this. I have friends and family who see when I am fading out and give me the energy to help me come back to life. I am brought to tears with gratitude for Bessie Senette for being the woman she is and loving me so dearly. I was thrilled that my dear husband and beautiful daughter came to the book release event. My husband was injured last week and he was going to stay at home and rest. When I saw him come through the door I was ecstatic. At dinner afterward, Debra McDonald Bailey said she was ready for my third book. I need a minute to catch my breath!
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All day Sunday, I felt hungover. It wasn’t because I drank. The anticipation of and the event itself took a lot out of me. Sunday morning, Bessie said she felt like she had been struck by lightning. That is how I felt, too. It was a great night, no doubt, but the buildup of excitement and then the culmination draws on your reserves. I slept off and on most of Sunday, thus I am awake at 1 am on Monday. I’m having coffee, too. I need some quiet hours to continue to recover and process all that is in my heart. Staying in the moment is the only way I can live with peace. Thank God!
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I look forward to these wee hours in solitude. My heart is full and I am glad. Thank you to all who came to be with me in the special moment. I love you all.
A big THANK YOU to Rêve Coffee Roasters. We were so thrilled to be there Saturday.
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Recollection of My Father, Atchafalaya Basin, 1984

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(photo by Clare L. Martin)

Sunrise, Atchafalaya Basin—

 

Daddy’s ankles in water as the flat-bottomed aluminum boat slides off the trailer. I put my life jacket on. Daddy says, Hold onto the rope and walk to the wharf. I board the boat carefully, so I don’t fall in the water. Daddy never wears a lifejacket. He throws the outboard into reverse then shoots out to the channel that is peppered with cypress stumps, some hidden below the waterline. Daddy knows the clear path to where the fish are hiding. Any good spot under the willow trees.

Flowing costumes of green braids—the willow-dance of the breeze. Daddy opens a Schlitz beer can and gives me a red soda pop. He baits my hook because I don’t like touching the catalpa worms with their black goo. We cast close to the ribbons of branches, being careful not to set the hooks in the trees. We’re not fishing for squirrels, Daddy says.

Sun ascends to the shoulders of the willows. We eat bologna sandwiches and chips and sip our drinks. I am getting sunburned. We are waiting for the corks to bob, pop below, and disappear under the water for good.

Daddy talks to the fish. Take it, Big Red. That worm is good. A tug, a quick jag to the right to set the hook in the fish’s mouth, then I’m pulling hard. Reel, reel, reel. The sun perch breaks the surface, shimmering iridescent reds. He is fat. He twists mid-air drowning in oxygen and blood. Daddy pulls the hook from the throat of the fish that swallowed the bait and hook.  Then, as I expect, Daddy squeezes the middle of the fish and it expels urine directed at me. I squeal. Daddy knows I hate and love this. Our ritual joke.

Daddy tosses the sac-a-lait into the ice chest. I am proud to have caught the first fish of the day. I feel lucky like we might have enough to invite family over for a fish fry. Everybody brings their own beer. Sac-a-lait battered in seasoned cornmeal and deep fried. Sometimes the fins are so crispy we eat them. Mama always has a loaf of bread on the table in case anyone gets a needle-like bone caught in their throat.

Daddy fishes with two hooks: one low for the catfish and the other higher up the line. Daddy does catch a catfish: a slick, almost lavender one in the shadows of the willows. He uses pliers to remove the hook and holds the catfish carefully so he isn’t stung by the barbed whiskers. Good eatin’ Daddy says. He put up a good fight. I love the fight most of all.

This day I catch a Gaspergou. It is big and fights like a man. I sweat in the sun’s heat. This big fish fights so hard. I pull, pull, pull and reel fast. Daddy holds the net near the water’s surface. How big will it be? We are both excited. It’s big and Daddy says, They’re no good unless you cook it in a courtboullion. We both know Mama will have nothing to do with it. Daddy wants to throw it back in the water, but I start to cry. We fish until the sun is low on the horizon.

At the boat landing, we are dirty and tired. The boat is full of trash: beer cans, wrappers, and a few thin streaks of muddy blood.  Daddy tells a Creole boy, who helps us put the boat back on the trailer, that I caught a Gaspergou. The boy licks his lips and smiles. I smile too, shyly. Daddy opens the ice chest and holds up the Gaspergou. The sun’s just now set but the silhouette of the fish is delineated starkly. The last streak of light is fuchsia and orange. I get into the front seat of the station wagon. In the rear-view mirror, I see Daddy giving the teenager the Gaspergou and the very last Schlitz.

 

©2017 Clare L. Martin

Out of Darkness

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Last night, after art-making, tea-drinking, candle-gazing, and family-loving, I went to bed un-sleepy to pray.

Knowing the night was long, dark, evoking all that darkness does, I prayed for resolution in hearts and minds of things that brew in darkness.

We are here again, in light, breathing light itself. Turn your sight to suns even if they are obscured by ominous portents. And in night, let stars fill you–

Know the Light of All to illuminate your souls.