Recently I finished reading “Garden Spells” by Sarah Addison Allen. I cannot tell you how good it felt to finish a book in its entirety. The fear I might possibly have resorted to reading the same ten books for the rest of my life was a bit disconcerting. Then again, do Eliot’s or Dickinson’s poems ever grow trite with repetition? Does heroism, true love, adventure, or the defeat of Good and against evil become a burden to read?
As expected, “Garden Spells” was a lovely read, leaving me completely satisfied as the story drew to a savory close; loose ends tied, plot neatly extricated, characters grown and developed people, having risen above what or whom hindered them from love and happiness. This isn’t another post about how wonderful a writer I believe Sarah Addison Allen to be, however. Not directly, anyway.
Do you remember my mentioning Sarah’s penchant for endowing each of her characters with a “thing” ? Well, I reached no further than eight pages before I was introduced to Evanelle (For those of you fretting a spoil, I assure you this will not impair the unraveling of this character’s quirk.) Waverly. Evanelle Waverly is, perhaps, my favorite character in this book; though I don’t believe she would be considered a M/C.
Evanelle is well into her seventies, nearly eighty, and we are told, looks to be about a hundred a twenty. This numerical inconsequent is superimposed by her spunk, tenacity, and a bawdy predilection for firm — male — tushes. *smiling* What’s not to love about a dirty old lady, right? Evanelle is also clever, intelligent, compassionate, feisty, and accursed with urges. We all have been there. In fact, just the other night — or was it morning by then? — I was laying in bed reading, my husband’s snores rustling the picture frames against the walls, and suddenly I was overcome with a compelling desire; one that led me tiptoeing down the hallway, past the doors of my slumbering family-members, and into the pre-dawning kitchen.
My Achilles’ heel, I’ll tell ya. I promptly served myself up a delicious cup of Honey Nut Cheerios and made haste for the bedroom with my loot. At least it was Cheerios, right? Could have been a bowl of ice-cream. And I portioned it out, too . . . Tell me, do you smell that? It’s the stench of guilt. You see, Michael and I have a spoken agreement that we will eschew from bad foods during the week, and then let loose on the weekends. It was not a weekend. It was a Tuesday. I confessed in the morning.
Anyhow, these palatable “urges” of mine are nothing like the urges Evanelle incurs. She, quite literally, cannot help herself. Whether it’s something that has already been purchased or she must go out and purchase it right then, she must give “something” away. We aren’t told how this works, per se, but expediency is key. There is no choice but to be obedient to these promptings — immediately, lest she remain in a permanent state of discomfort and agitation. The very first encounter we witness, is when Evanelle arrives on the doorstep of her much younger cousin’s house, the words, “I just knew I had to give this to you” steamrolling out of her mouth as she places “something” into her cousin’s hands. Throughout the entire book, as the narrative changes perspective, we watch and experience this intense compulsion, at one point rousing Evanelle in the dead of night.
Ah, I almost forgot the most important part; these gifts always benefit the receiver in some random, opportune manner. It could be seconds or years, but you can bet your firstborn they will be of some puissant importance eventually. This odd and occasionally annoying idiosyncrasy has made Evanelle a pariah since childhood, and the town looney as an old woman. Outwardly, we sense — and are told — she isn’t a fan of this inherent “ability” of hers; however, there is nothing she can do about it. And deep down we know that, while she may not embrace all aspects of this eccentricity, she understands the vast meaning behind each bestowed gift.
So I got to thinking . . .
What would happen if we were cognizant and obedient to our promptings and urges? You’re in store and see something, and think, Oh, Carol would love that vase shaped like a boot! or David was just saying the other day that he needed a new shovel. Because, who doesn’t love to receive something unexpected, something that says, “I was thinking about you!” Many of you are likely familiar with the book “The Five Love Languages” written by Gary Chapman. Words of Affirmation is my number one love language; my number two is Receiving Gifts. It doesn’t have to be an expensive gift. In all honestly, it could be a pack of my favorite gum. The point is not the present, but that the person thought you worthy of a spontaneous gift. We appreciate being thought of, especially when no reason, holiday, celebration dictates the purchase of a gift. I say, bring me flowers not on my birthday, but on the third tuesday of the seventh month.
For the most part, those types of urges seem to be easier to obey than others. We enjoy bringing a smile to our loved ones faces. But what about urges of another kind? Maybe it’s not a gift, or even something tangible. And maybe you don’t even know the person. *gasp* But something . . . something unexplainable impels you to take notice of the resounding bells and whistles only you can hear. You know what I’m talking about: you’re going along with your day, things to do, people to see, and all of a sudden your awareness heightens, skin starts to prickle, feet shuffle, tongue presses up against the back of your teeth. You have something to say to the man sitting in the chair by the window, to the woman behind you in line. Maybe it’s to tell them their shoes are untied. Maybe it’s just to say hello.
Well, I would say to that: why not? Does everything need an explanation? Though I’ve only lived for a paltry twenty-nine years, it’s been long enough to see with my own eyes that not all our senses always make sense. And isn’t that part of the fun? Part of the mystery and magic? That, for no good reason at all, you tell a random stranger that they have a beautiful smile. You stop what you’re doing and walk over the mom trying to shove her double-wide stroller through the incommodious door, while her infant screams its head off and her toddler runs a muck about the coffee-shop. You roll down your window and hand the dingy man with a cardboard sign the granola bar in your glove-compartment. A million excuses run through your head: I’m late. He could be dangerous. Someone else will do it. I’m just being silly. They’ll think I’m weird. Okay, so those are the reasons against not responding to our urges, but what about the plethora of reasons in favor of obeying them? We may not have Evanelle’s clarity, or the kind of unyielding energy forcing us into coercion. We have something better, I think: free will. It’s completely up to us whether we decide to participate or not. When the door knocks, we can choose to answer it, and see what waits on the other side, or we can wait until the knocking stops and always wonder . . .
Evanelle stirred up something in me that I already knew, but don’t always pay close attention to: my heart wasn’t created solely to keep me alive; it’s to remind me that, with every beat, I am alive.
Evanelle also reminded to listen to that Voice, the quiet whisper warning me against becoming so wrapped up in me, that I forget what Me was created for.
Hope each of you are having a wonderful week!