Writing to songs from The Knitters today. The image at the top is of a house I saw in Nags Head. Below it is the Pacific where I am. Far different oceans. One stormy and lashing. One calm, unless Winter. The bottom picture though represents the kind of really deep above and below you see in the Waters along the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It’s like a mirror out over the Sound, when flat. You can see the whole sky like that, as a reflection. So there is this vastness of water, and back there the themes of Pirates and Mermaids.
I don’t know whether that house still exists. I remember that I just loved it when I saw it — so, it could be the sort of house that Benjamin is in. Very old, almost haunted — but inside — the brass mariner’s lamps. It’s very warm on the inside. This is “Seahearts and Dreamers” — the cottage his father took him to as a child.
There is a new character Langley Morrison today. She’s in her late 30’s, she’s come to find a home. She’s flown in to Virginia and has driven across the border, to a hotel up in Carova. She knows of the wild horses there. The ponies on the dunes.
This is a lighthouse in Currituck, that she sees. I was going to put Benjamin with Natalie but maybe not. Benjamin is in his fifties, I’m maybe putting him with Langley — she is about 38.
Benjamin’s inner light — the conch shells he make into candles:
A Little Book of Holiday Comfort
Langley Morrison hadn’t known where she was going exactly when she bought the plane tickets. She had seen a house with brick fireplaces that had looked like home. The picture sang something to her — the classical old red brick fireplaces at either end of the building. The squat colonialism of the place. She had seen the picture and she’d gotten on four planes just to get there. The flight took hours. She had never been to the East Coast, never seen the ocean there. She was a Pacific girl.
After the miscarriage she couldn’t look at Hugo anymore. Couldn’t stay in the house, couldn’t bear the silence. Miscarried love. She got the tickets and got on the first plane and on those silver wings headed east to a place she had never been, clouds skimming beneath her seat at the window. She crossed an entire continent to Virginia, to an airport filled with mermaids on the carpet. Swimming. It was cold, freezing into November. She’d left the sun behind, left the canyons full of oaks with squirrels, left the ever-present smile of California with its wheatgrass and carrot juice, with the organic simplicity and plastic falsity on the faces.
Fireplaces from 1850 beckoned.
Fireplaces that said home, in the middle of a field, in the middle of a meadow, behind the sweep of a pine bough. It didn’t matter that the house was battered, or that it had lost many windows or that it had been boarded up as if to keep out intruders. She simply flew to it, as if there were something American and timeless in it that she recognized.
Nanowrimo day 8 (half) writing to these:
Langley character has arrived in Corolla to hotel that over looks the Sound. It’s dawn, watching the egrets flying over the water…
there had been rain the night before — this is the rain over the water there, this is also the “sound” inside of Benjamin my character.
Langley stood at the edge of the water looking across the Sound at dawn. It was so early in the morning, and the flight had thrown her off. The water was as still as a flat mirror and it was impossible to tell where water and sky left off or began. There was a long wooden deck that led out into the water itself. Lone white egrets were flying, spreading their wings, and one landed near her. It was fishing in the shallows and she watched it hunt as the sky colored from the rose of the dawn into yellows.
She’d come for the house she had seen.
Like any journey one takes in life, she was alone and in a strange place. But this was an adventure.
Since childhood she had known of the wild horses at Chincoteague Island. She knew they were near, and she planned to see them, but first she had had to see the house, and she had yesterday, or she felt she had. The addresses were strange. She was on a road she didn’t know as she left the hotel in Virginia. It was at the toll road where she crossed the state line that the landscape had opened up, and she breathed a sigh at the emptiness. There was something about the flats and the lines of the trees off in the distance that reminded her of the Camargue, though this wasn’t France at all.
Langley drove and drove as the landscape opened into lines of trees and trees over water and trees colored as if a painter had brushed them in autumn way off in the distance on the horizon. Mostly it was floating over water, and over bridges. And this morning she stood looking out across the vastness at the stilled pool. The white wings.
“Y’all must want some breakfast.”
She hadn’t expected the generosity of the simple spread. It was set up so that anyone could choose from a number of things. There was a warm little fire going, with gas logs, as the fire had been in her room. She slept with it all night, the low yellow flames licking and lighting the night. A sort of nightlight, not a real fireplace. Langley had sleep like a charm there. She took the coffee and a small roll with some jam.
“Y’all staying long?”
“Just a few days.”
“Where are you from?”
“You’re nice,” she said. She was cocoa golden in the light, her hair a series of small cornrows and her nails done to perfection. Long talons with tiny pictures and jewels adorned the fingers at that desk of hers. She was not a concierge and yet she was.
Langley left for the quiet of the deck and a cigarette she wasn’t sure she could even have there. There was a very large painted horse in front of the hotel. She’d see them later, these horses, painted, as everything there in places was painted. Little signs she had never seen before with affirmations about being alive.
Langley would ask her about collards later. She had never seen them before. She planned to try everything that was theirs in North Carolina, as if she was submerging herself. She drove miles back across bridges and water to get to the house. It wasn’t what she thought it would be at all.
There had never been a bathroom, and there had never been electricity. It had been vacant since the sixties.
“I hope you won’t be too disappointed,” the realtor had said.
Not with the house but with the impossibility of everything that year.
She had been flying away, and she didn’t want to go back, as if it is ever possible to run that fast and that far and run until you are gone.
“Where can I find a real Southern meal?” Langley asked the concierge. “Collards.”
“Y’all wants collards?”
It had never occurred to the woman behind the desk that collards weren’t something everyone had.
“We have spinach in California.”
“That’s not the same.”
“Where can I find them?”
“Y’all want some barbecue?”
Langley burst out laughing. “I don’t know where to go.” But there was more too it than that. Hugo wasn’t with her. She hadn’t gone to a restaurant or a bar alone in years and years. Marriage is like glue. You are glued to the other half, and this happens very slowly and over a great deal of time. To be alone becomes strange. They were in the place of being a couple, but the years of madly in love were long gone. Losing the baby had done that to the two of them. Sex would have been dangerous, and so they went quiet.
“These restaurants close early, honey.”
“Isn’t anything open?”
“Not up here, but maybe thirty miles down you might find something.”
Oh no, she thought. I am lost.
Spent day floating listening to music and looking at things while plot jelled.