Weather's Store

Encounter's With the Sacred

By Thelma Giomi

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19 min.
22
La Contadora/The Storyteller

It is that hour before darkness when everything on earth is a black paper-cut silhouette against a near colorless backdrop. It is the hollow hour when I feel like I’m the only sentient being left. In this absolute void I want to reach in and hold onto my own soul.

It is the time of evening when a light-hearted friend suggests you “pull the curtains, turn on the house lights and have a drink.” But there are times when the light shifts and the darkness empties the dimensions from houses and trees and mountains and you are left staring at flat paper cutouts. Then, you have to look right at the space you fear and remember.

In that empty hour I want to tell my story to someone, even if it is only the waiting darkness. I want to believe it all happened just the way I remember it. Just the way I’m telling it to you, now.

Once as Weather and I walked the circumference of the lake near his store, he told me that the sacred places of the earth cling to us as we pass through them. He said that everywhere we touch the earth we leave our sweat and breath. Sparks of our spirit remain so that we never really walk alone. Those that came before us walk with us and those that come after us walk with us and we with them.

The truth of his words resonated to the core of my being one afternoon out on the llano. It was there that I found myself gathering herbs with women of a hundred generations. That happened months after I came to Weather's Store. It was only one of many encounters I experienced, some with Weather, and some with Maya, the curandera, and some alone.

What I did before Weather’s Store or after doesn’t matter. Between the time I was there and now, years have passed. Now, what matters is telling my story. Now, the time I spent at Weather’s Store comes to me like an old dream, in luminous scenes that fade or shift before I can capture the image in my mind or hold its essence in the hollow of my hand. It is gentle, now, as dreams grow gentle with time. There is no substantive form to that whole experience. I am afraid that I may lose the whole of it. If I don’t tell it, it may be gone like a wish on the slipstream of a dream, distracted by the ordinariness of my life. So I have to tell it and hope a little of its spirit clings to the listener.

Yet, there is something about Weather that defies this telling. He touched the still point in my heart where words were useless and I was exquisitely alone. That enigmatic something made me wise, even if only my solitude admits my discovery.

I still cherish the intimate bond I had with Weather. For he is always with me; strengthening me daily with new visions of myself. Through him I began to understand the intensity of my link to the ancient elements that gave my tissues life and surround me in oceans of air. Weather knew all the secret rhythms of my life. Breathing and being, that is how Weather knew me and how I knew Weather.

Nothing at Weather’s Store was ordinary. All the encounters were quick and unrelenting as lightning. Like lightning stinging the earth and merging its elements into strange glass, lightning glass, all the elements of the moment came together in those encounters to form a completeness that was at once, longing and contentment.

You will still find Weather and Maya in the mountains of northern New Mexico. Their sweat and breath, the sparks of their spirits are left on that earth, but to know them intimately, you would have to encounter them as I did.











AN OLD DREAM





Weather's Store stood near the lakeshore, just close enough to the highway for me to read its heavy wrought iron sign in passing. Bone-white, but not dull in the afternoon light, the Store seemed, even then, like an old dream. And, like an old dream, the feelings it conjured as I approached were already etched in my mind; intimate and unsettling.

I stopped the car some distance from the Store and stepped out onto the narrow dirt road that led to it. Weather's Store radiated a numinescense, something like awe or enchantment, or something much more startling, the unfolding of a new thought. The wind caught my open jacket and swept my scarf and hair across my eyes. I struggled with the wind and my apparel, until I stood a few steps from the porch.

From the first moment I saw the black iron script against the parched white wall, it was like a poem that seals the mind with its simplicity: "Weather's Store.”

The grayish wood planks of the front porch steps sounded scratchy beneath my feet. An old red wicker loveseat tore esthetic joy from my eyes. The Store was desolate. It was ordinary.

My first encounter with Weather's Store was in the deathly silent step of spring, when searching for a footpath between winter and rebirth was an aching, empty task. The scraps of snow that lay trickling into muddy ruts seemed dry and dusty to me. I looked again from the highway to the lake. The gray lake mockingly reflected the wispy clouds as if admonishing them for their absolute whiteness.

There was no one visibly present. The door was locked. I lingered without invitation. I could not see inside the sand-sheathed windows, but the stillness bespoke sleeping or waiting. The Store seemed to be its own proprietor, owning the space around it as well as the space inside.

I sat down on the top step feeling I was usurping a private space. I looked again at the hanging wrought iron sign, "Weather's Store.” The name intrigued me. Was there a person named Weather or was this a place apart, a repository for something as illusive and powerful as the atmosphere itself?

I was cold. My nose always runs when it's cold, but the sun felt good against my jean-covered legs. The breeze, taunting and lifting my hair from beneath the crocheted hat, seemed gently curious.

It was not a lonely place, but I found it unsettling. I lay back on my elbows or alternated between wrapping my arms around my knees or leaning against the post. I saw no one, yet I felt certain the Store was aware of my presence. Why I waited, slipping into a numbing, warm escape, I can't remember now.

I was there, at Weather's Store, waiting. Waiting and listening to the lake murmur casually against the shore. It carried a message around its circumference and left it to be deciphered from gurgling bubbles and feather-foam tracings on the wet, dark sand. Lulled by the afternoon's whispers and the sunlight, my mind halted its perpetual motion of thoughts. For the first time in years my senses were primary, immediate. The wind came gusting across my face. I felt it sting and smelled the dust laden with heavy mountain scents.

From where I sat, the road to the highway arched out in front of me, a track of dirt and gravel. To one side was the lake, and on the other, the forest crept up within a few meters of the Store. My mind followed the course of the narrow road back to the highway. At the highway one had a choice, southwest toward California or northeast toward Colorado. I was in the high mountains of northern New Mexico, a place as enchanting as it is remote.

Sitting on the porch step separated me from that nexus. At last I was apart from choices. I let my thoughts skim over problems like stones across the lake surface. With no demand for choice, I was enveloped in a sense of safety. The ripples the stones of my thought created seemed to skip lightly over the surface of my mind and then slip gently into a waiting darkness.

***

Sai-ya-ya, ya./To Be Free.


***

Before I set out on this impulsive adventure my life seemed dry and hot. It was the kind of heat that draws the moisture from your mind as well as your body, leaving thoughts and tissues tight and brittle. My futile attempts at renewal were like pouring life-fluids into the thirsty earth. Even as I watched the water darken the ground beneath me, the perimeter was lightening, drying up, asking for more.

Soul-weary, I closed the door on life as I knew it, on the every day expenditures of my energy. As I turned away from everything familiar, I understood that although I was young in years, my vitality was draining away.

One sells one's soul outright. My choices with their accompanying successes or failures seemed to block something intrinsic to who I really was. What did I want? Who was I really? Were all these questions arrogance and absurdity? I walked around with dry eyes and dry spirit always aware of a brown-robed hooded phantom at the edge of my thoughts. I named him, Despair.

Before I left my everyday life behind, I had stood in my garden. The early spring air moved through a mid-morning that ached with emptiness. Each day seemed strained and dry. People and things drew chunks of life – time from me and left holes of chaotic, aching space. Long hours became longer inseparable days. No beginnings. No endings. Just work, effort, and survival. Sadness rose with me in the mornings. Tears chilled my cheeks and woke me in the night. Words chased through my mind after something; an excuse for the sadness, permission for the tears. The word-chase whirled round my thoughts, missing its illusive prey. The murmur of that obsessive word-chase penetrated every moment.

I yearned for escape, but I didn't know how to run away. So I sat in my garden amid the inside noise, praying without intent or understanding.

I sat there for a long time, aware only of a chill breeze that gathered strength and volume as the sky darkened. Gradually, I became aware of the garden's rhythm. It was alive and the sounds of its breathing were familiar. Intermittently, as a gesture, a chill mist would rise towards me and skim my presence with acknowledgement.

My gaze sank into the budding greenness of an old mulberry tree. The garden's stillness was swept aside by an easy breeze. The rain came tapping against leaves and my cheeks, like a thousand hands clapping. Applauding.

When the rainstorm moved on, leaving only gray tracings and damp leaves, I was caught in a suspended reality. I got into my car and drove away from my garden, away from the city, without a map or a plan.

It was as if the incubus waiting had come to conclusion amid the sanctioning applause of the rain. As I drove I caught glimpses of myself. Life had not been kind, but neither had it been hard. It was perhaps narrow, unyielding, unwise. Now life was time-free, descriptionless.

I drove through flat-to-hilly country and up into the mountains on vacant roads where the sky marveled at my smallness and I tingled with anticipation. As I drove through the narrow, rugged Cimarron Canyon, excitement insinuated itself into my motion. I was certain an unexpected encounter, like the rain in my garden, that would release me once again, was just around the next curve in the highway.

Weather's Store was half-hidden from the highway by a warp in reality as much as by the curve in the road.

Now as I sat on the porch, the Store's somnolent waiting permeated everything, even my fear, even my loneliness.

I stood up and let the mid-afternoon sun massage my shoulders and loosen their stiffness. I stretched my arms, and stepped out toward the lake.

The lake didn't smell like most lakes. It emitted a damp, wet fragrance, but not of fish or the deep mire of unconscious death. Below the water's rippling surface was only a deeper, smoky darkness. I could turn my back on it and be as aware of its depths as its boundaries. How strange surfaces are, especially the ones we never question—like what's inside a wall or squeezed into the middle of the concrete in your front sidewalk. I was able to use incessant thoughts to keep me on the surface. Perhaps if I could delve just to the middle, but not lose myself on the other side, then there would be some peace, and I could maintain my sanity. Well, that's a run-on thought. Run-on thoughts didn't happen much at Weather's Store. Instead, and I was just beginning to realize this—thoughts, encapsulated, came to me without words.

I brushed my hair back and tucked it under my hat. With that gesture my mother's touch came back to me. All the times she'd brush my hair back from my face for the simple reassurance it gave her, the comfort it gave me. Her hands stroking my hair were soft, too, not in their texture, but in their intent.

***

El Duende/The Wind That Is The Life Force/The Felt Moment Of Being.


***

In ancient legends the wind belongs to God. The wind had always terrified me, but here at Weather's Store, as I stepped out toward the lake shore it danced gracefully beside me, creating color-mood changes across the tall grass. I knew we were walking together. For many years, I had not given the wind its due. It is an elegant ruler of psyche and sands.

Looking up I could see that the wind had created waves in the cloud-streets above me. I felt it against my cheeks, drying my eyes, lifting my hair from my shoulders, touching my skin as intimately as a lover. It seemed to be consciously holding back its power, its violent potential, and to invite me to walk with it. Today it let tissue-thin clouds drift through its current. It gathered the fragrance of wild primrose with sagebrush, piñon and pine, and drew them across the musky body of the lake. It moved gently beside me pressing against my back and whispering in the language of an ancient mind that nestled deep within my own.

We walked around the lake past where the trees stood swaying in deference to the wind's power. Eventually we came full circle and were approaching the Store. Weather's Store stood in a brilliant, white blur of raining light, eclipsing our vision for a moment, leaving us astounded by the vibrance of color suspended in sky and clouds. A sunset for all times. The whole world was luminous coral and rose shimmering over a gold-radiance that drenched the lone whiteness of the Store.

***

Vale Mas Llegar A Tiempo Que Ser Convidado/It Is Better To Arrive On Time Than Be Invited


***

Dazed by the spectacle, I had not noticed the door. The open door stood like a reassuring space that did not demand immediate entrance.

I sat down again on the top step, watching the sunset until it was only a passing purple into night shadows. With the suddenness of an arctic wind catching my breath I was aware of the light that traced a fragile path across the deep-shaded porch, disappearing amid unkempt shrubs. I moved to the doorway and looked inside.

"Hello." My throat hardly let the word out.

His eyes were green amid the gray and white shag of hair, brow and beard, and he was silent.

"Thank you," I said, my voice softer than my thought, but as hesitant.

"Thank yourself." Came back a statement or a command, I didn't know which.

"I mean for letting me just sit there on the porch and watch the sky."

He turned his back to me and I realized for the first time that he was not standing, but sitting at a table. It was old, lovely and solid, and a place was set for me. I hesitated, then went to the other side of the table.

"Close it out for now." He spoke in an even, abstracted way.

I must have shown confusion, but then I knew that he meant the wind. Now it was not friendly. Now, I had to use all my strength to shut the door. It was quiet inside; boards creaked, the fire snapped and all was in place for an adventure.

I did not believe I was frightened, but when I came around the table and sat down, I found my hand shaking as I reached for the cup of coffee.

"Cold?" He asked.

"Yes, I am a little."

He barely shook his head; it was enough for disapproval.

"The coffee,” he said, turning his shining eyes down to his own hands.

"No. It's fine. Thank you." I fumbled awkwardly with the words. They weren't right. His eyes were so green, their intensity, tantalizing. Had I met Weather at another time in my life I would not have noticed how young he was behind the gray beard and hair. I would not have heard the serenity in the few words he spoke or the safety in the silences between. My mind and emotions were sojourners through unfamiliar terrain. The high mountains of northern New Mexico and the exotic reaches of emotional upheaval blended well. The two together left my senses open and my mind accepting of the most subtle observations. What I daily ignored so I could get on with the business of existing, now became the only way to affirm I was alive.

I was breathing in unfiltered perceptions, daring reality to touch the broad, flat plains of my feelings and release them. How long can one tease sanity? Soothing had to be done. I could not stand indefinitely on the edge of a saber. Balance is everything, and I was losing all sense of it, and of time and purpose.

Vulnerable as I was, it never occurred to me to shield myself from Weather's gaze. Sitting across the table from the most enigmatic presence I had ever encountered, I suddenly felt very lonely and very sad. I wanted more than that cup of coffee. I wanted all the nurturance I had ever been denied.

***

La Luz del Abismo/The Light From The Abyss


***



The wind eased away from the Store late in the night. I went to the solid door, opening it with surprising ease this time. Outside was a placid darkness. The cold, scented air gripped the edges of my face in a vibrant embrace.

Stars filled the sky at a dozen depths, so that the sky and stars seemed to go on in an expanding blackness. Those old lights, moving on through time despite their ancient deaths, overwhelmed me and in the same breath reassured me. Old lights guiding us around our blue planet even while we wished on them with aboriginal dreams.

Waiting for the dawn, I stood looking into the moon's face. Through the branches there were only bits of white, a shattered globe pieced together. It was like my thoughts, like the externalized image of them. The moon seemed to be gazing between the silvery branches it illumined into the long shadows it made. I suppose those branches mapped my face, too, and what the moon saw looking down is just as shattered as what I saw looking up. It was strange how the chill in the air came and went and, yet, the stillness was unperturbed.

I was so lonely. I sat down on the porch step that had been my afternoon bench.

"I am the only one in this personless wilderness,” I said into the stillness, and then, I heard the lake murmur.

I must have dozed. I woke shivering to the preparation for the dawn. Everything around me quivered with it. It was anxious excitement in an unquestionably dark sky. In that poised moment, a change began, and there was no retreat. A stately procession advanced solemnly, but with a joy suspending me on the edge of anticipation. The light moved with ease, possessing in its even pace the sanctity of an ancient rite; sustaining its dedication to the morning with an intensifying brilliance. The most splendid crimson-powered radiance roared out from the horizon until everything – sky, air, my eyes, was suffused in dazzling light. Then, the excitement of lights paused, and the pause seemed like a magnificent blessing bestowed on a lonely skywatcher. In beauty it begins.

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About Thelma Giomi