I’ve Been Reading Too Many Mystery Books Lately

I’ve written a lot of serious stuff recently so I thought I’d include something totally different. I have been on a mystery movie/book binge most of my life. (If you have a great series you recommend, let me know.)

My Writers’ Group met last month and we had a interesting prompt; write something in 20 minutes using 4 words. We each chose a word from another exercise we just finished: Shoelace, Veins, Suspicious, Itched.

As always, I’m amazed and often amused at what comes out of these free writes. My response using the 4 words became the start of a mystery! See below: Do you think he did it?

The only evidence that she might have been here was a frayed, dirty white shoelace, looking as if it had been carelessly flung to the side of the road, draped over a bush of blooming pea vine in the ditch. Just hanging there, still, unmoving, while I felt the panic rise, my heart beating like a stretched drum, the veins in my neck pulsing with pressure. It wasn’t even the whole shoelace, just a fragment. That  simple detail alone made it all the worse. 

Where was the rest of the shoelace, the rest of the shoe, the rest of the girl? 

Sinking down to sit on my haunches, my head in my hands, I tried to think. Don’t jump to conclusions here. It might not be hers. But it might.

And it didn’t help that most of the people out looking right now were suspicious that I was the one who kidnapped her. I felt their wary eyes on me. They’d seen the police question me. They knew that often the perpetrator was a person who knew the victim. I knew they didn’t trust me, but there was nothing they could find to formally charge me. At least not yet. How would they respond if I’m the one to find the first bit of evidence? Wouldn’t that look suspicious too? Was that just too coincidental? Would they think I planted it?  I feel so judged already that I don’t know how to act like I’m innocent even though I am. 

The others are searching in quadrants all in sight of me, all within 100 yards of where she was last seen. In the Foreman’s backyard. 

It’s been 6 hours. I don’t have an alibi that can be checked. I was out riding my bike but it was midweek and I took a backroad. There’s no one that can back my story. I sit strung tight with the torture of not knowing where my niece is and wanting to vomit that others think I would do such a thing. 

Seeing me sitting, a couple of other volunteers stop what they are doing and come to my side. I can see they can’t decide whether to comfort me or tell themselves to not be taken in by my grief which may be only play-acting.. “How are you doing?” they ask in a neutral way. I point to the shoelace. 

They look and yell over the police officers at the far side of the field. 

I see them running over, I see the concern on other’s faces who turn as well. I see the officers, looking serious but almost eager to see what’s been found at last. 

I find myself itching my hands relentlessly. What is this? Is this a sign of guilt? Am I trying to wash my hands of wrong-doing? Is that some psychological clue the officers are trained to see? I do feel guilty. I feel guilty that I was back late from my bike ride. That looks suspicious too. 

I keep telling myself the story. I didn’t do anything. I didn’t do anything. I don’t know what happened. I don’t know where she is. But the police keep asking me about the argument with my brother. How I told him he would be sorry for what he did. He’s the one that’s not innocent. Yet now he points the finger at me. Maybe this was the revenge I hinted at? More rumors may start. I’d been depressed in college and done some erratic things. I search my past. Is there anything else that would make me the one to take a child? 

I was out bike riding at the time? Wasn’t I? Now it seems a bit foggy. I was so angry, I don’t really remember where I rode. And why is the shoelace torn? Did it catch on the pedal of my bike? 

And Old Journal, New Thoughts

An old journal ended up beside my chair this morning. I’m not sure why it was out of its place on the shelf where it’s been since 2006. Given no other explanation, (and actually I don’t want one), I’ll say it was “spirited” there with divine purpose in mind.

It’s one of my favorite journals, purchased on the Rialto bridge in Venice after much negotiation with my heart in its choosing. Its soft red leather holds sweet memories and still molds in my hands after all these years; the long leather thong wraps itself around this journal three times; I tuck in the end that comes to a point and secure the words inside. That pleases me.

I filled this journal at a time of major transition in my life and conversion in my soul. I was leaving my work as a parish pastor and wondering what was next. There are pages and pages of angst, oceans of revelation, miles of wondering, acres of inner exploration and a field of just luscious words, some poems. That stirs me.

I love and despair of what I wrote now as I re-read it this morning. It was all so sincere and yet here, fifteen years later, I am living with so many of the same questions and wondering about so many of the same steps to take. I often use that metaphor that says, “yes, yes, it’s the same questions but I’m asking them from a higher step on the spiral staircase.” And that is so true. I’ve taken at least a hundred steps up those stairs, seeing things differently at every turn of that spiral. That graces me.

And yet I am tired of the metaphor. Not that it doesn’t fit or tell the truth. Only that I don’t need to keep dragging those questions up the stairs with me anymore. I’m at a place I don’t need answers. I’m okay not to know. I can choose that. That frees me.

So much of that journal about wanting to write, and aching to write and regretting not writing. Even though I was. Such paradox. That amuses me.

This past week I pushed “send” on an email message to a publisher with the completed manuscript of my memoir of walking the Camino in 2007 attached. My red journal was completed just weeks before I walked that pilgrimage in Spain. I have written what I wanted to write about those 500 miles of taking steps– and the questions I took with me from the red journal. I sent the book off. That gives me peace.

And yet the deeper peace is simply relaxing about the writing. Not relaxing about the discipline of it. I still need to have the seat in the chair. But easing the expectation of it. Even in writing this blog. Too long it has been captured in making it part of my ego identity. The invitation here now is to let the muse have its way. To enjoy “stringing words together” as my friend, Michelle one said. To trust that what is next, with my writing, with my life, is all unfolding just as it should. That relaxes me.

I’m beginning to see that relaxing into life, rather than defending against it, answers a lot of questions, relieves that angst, and opens so much potential to living my life in truth. Writing just to enjoy it, even with the work that it necessarily entails. That intrigues me.

I’m putting the red journal back on the shelf. Or maybe….. I will let it go.