I fell asleep thinking about the Father’s little cabin. And as I lay in the hammock staring up at the stars, it occurred to me that it wasn’t only his cabin that enjoyed a special place in his heart, but most things shone more brightly, and most people appeared more beautiful because of his caring for them. I wondered…was it his love that made them beautiful? and was it because of his love that I was able to see their beauty? Is it love that allows us to see what things, or people, really are? and without love are we unable to truly see them? Sleep overtook me while in the midst of these thoughts, and the starry sky welcomed me into a world of dreams, as I drifted off: and soon I was standing in that boat again—the same one which had weathered the storm, the last time I dreamt under this tree.
This time the waters were calm and there was a bright moon shining down through the masts and rigging. I stood on the deck alone, as the small ship sailed, somehow, without a breeze to carry it along. And then the ship became the Father’s cabin, and he stood in the middle of the room. And the three assailants stood around him, the youngest praying at his altar, and the older two arguing with the Father. And as he spoke to them they changed, becoming more like angels and less like men. And then, from the midst of the room, where the Father stood—grew a tree—parting the old floorboards and climbing through the roof. But the roof had vanished, and there was only the starry sky above, with the tree climbing high—its top vanishing from view. And as the tree grew, fruit of every kind began to grow from its limbs, and fantastical birds dwelt therein. And then the sun appeared in the night sky and settled over the tree, and the Father climbed the tree, and he reached down to help the other men up. And we all climbed, and climbed, continuing to climb but not growing weary, only stopping to eat the fruit as we needed, then climbing again. And as we climbed, the sky grew bright, with the sun finally overtaking the night. And it was then that I awoke to the morning; and it was a new day.
I was suddenly startled to see Amelia, Father Davidson’s sister, pass by me at a distance as I lay in the hammock under the cherry tree. She was coming from the Father’s cabin and walking up the hill behind me. She waved when she saw me, and called out: “Come up to the house, if you’d like some breakfast!” I was doubly surprised by this invitation, because I didn’t know there was a house further up the hill, and I didn’t know that Amelia resided there.
I hurriedly got up and folded the blanket and placed it, with the pillow, back where I had found them at the top of the cabin’s front steps; I splashed my face with some water from the hydrant, which fed a small trough not far from the fire-circle, and then hustled up the hill, through the overgrown grass and past the ancient fruit trees, to the white farm house that was situated just over the crest of the hill.
I climbed the steps leading up to a large, covered wrap-around porch where Amelia had set up a small table for our meal.
“Looks like it’s just you and I this morning, everyone else has other plans,” she said with a slight hint of irritation, but masked by a genuine cheerfulness. I sat happily as I gazed at the array of fresh fruit set out before me, fresh cream and coffee, steaming muffins, butter, preserves, eggs and bacon. At the center of the table, was a glass vase with one enormous pink peony.
“A most elegant arrangement, and delicious too!” I complimented her while adding butter to a muffin, then watching it melt and disappear into the bready pores. “I didn’t know you lived here on the property with your brother…in fact, I didn’t even know there was a house up here at all!” I admitted with surprise.
“We grew up in this house,” she answered.
“What a place to grow up, with the orchard, all this land, and the ocean down there too!”
“It was, we had such a childhood! We were very fortunate,” she said with a smile and a hint of sadness.
“I met Father Seraphim yesterday, after you told me to drive up to the church. He’s very welcoming. He sure loves your brother, he said something strange though…that they met because of a fire, or a fire brought them together, something like that…I don’t remember exactly.”
“Did he?” Amelia answered vaguely and a little uncomfortably. “Well, there’s a lot to that story…would you like some more coffee?” she asked, hoping to change the subject.
I held my cup out eagerly while I examined her face with interest, remembering the portrait of her, back at her store; how the artist had so masterfully expressed the strength and intensity of her soul, while simultaneously revealing her sadness and innocence. She truly was a beautiful woman—complicated—yet somehow simple at the same time. Is that possible? It seemed so, at least in her case. “So that portrait of you as a girl, the one on the wall at your store, you said that was drawn by a friend. I can’t forget it, it is so well done…He captured so much in that portrait…how did that come to be?” I asked her, “…if you don’t mind my asking?”
“Oh!” she exclaimed, while suddenly tears welled up in her eyes. “There’s a lot to that story, as well…” her voice trailed off and her body shook lightly, as she lowered her head momentarily. When she lifted her face, her cheeks were moist and her eyes a little bit red-rimmed; and she wiped them with her napkin and then smiled, first with a look of resignation and then determination. She leaned towards me, looking searchingly into my eyes, and then appeared to let her guard down. “Do you have some time to hear it?” she asked.
“I can make time. I have nowhere I need to be,” I answered.
“It would probably do me some good to tell it, I haven’t talked about that in a long time,” she leaned back in her chair and sighed.
* * *