I Hear You Knocking

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.

But why?

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!

40 thoughts on “I Hear You Knocking

  1. Wow, what an amazing and soul-searching post! Too many times we ignore the tugs at our hearts, I think. Too many times we forget (in our busy schedules) how important it is to let others know we’re thinking of them. Sometimes the receiver becomes suspicious and can’t accept the gift for what it is. I feel sorry for those people who question intent. I just want to shake them and say, “Take it and be thankful someone thought of you. Not everyone is out to get you.”

    You touched my heart today, Cara. Thank you.

    • What a great shame it is, when someone cannot accept a gift or word of kindness at face value. But we shall not let those people deter us from the Good that must be done.

      Thanks for letting me touch your heart, Jenny. 🙂

  2. I have clear memories of heart tugs that I didn’t answer. Those I regret.

    Conversely, I’ve answered many heart tugs. For those, I’ve never looked back and wondered “why?”

    No contest on which is right. I LOVE that feisty old woman and I’ve not yet met her between the pages.

    • Oh, Gloria. Yes, me, too. We can only learn from those moments, though. Regretting them for any longer than the time it takes for us to recognize our mistake is only wasteful and counterproductive. We carry those marks on us like badges, there to remind us of the Who we want to be.

      I know you are a woman who answers heart tugs. I don’t doubt it for one second. That beautiful soul of yours is shining and resplendent.

      You must read this book. You will not be disappointed!

  3. Cara,

    I sincerely appreciate this post today. No matter what topic you write about, it seems I can always identify with a similar experience in my own life. My youngest (Caitlin) is very giving and always quick to give praise or help out the stranger in need, but I tend to be more shy and don’t always act on those impulses to engage with another person. But whenever I do step out of my comfort zone (that Me you speak of) I never regret doing so.

    Thank you for this reminder my friend!


    • Lori,

      I am one of those that believes having “favorites” only seeks to result in insecurity and jealously, but truly, my friend, it seems that no matter where you are at, you take a moment to come by and leave me something thoughtful; gift me with something to take throughout my day, to think about and smile, to savor. I feel like we are of one heart, you and I. We are human, and thus make mistakes, unable to avoid the lesser moments. But it is in the striving and being forgiven we find grace and hope.

      Love to you, my beautiful friend!

    • Alex!

      How are you? Still eating cereal for dinner? I thought of you the other night while sneaking into the kitchen for a midnight snack. 🙂

      Selfless and Selfish is a transient line with many arbiters. I think what it comes down to is the heart. And there’s only two people who know that heart with such intimacy — and one is not a people.

      Hope you’re having a great week, Alex.

  4. It’s wonderful that literature inspires you this way. I’ve been thinking lately that alot of what I hear these days is “tv English.” It’s English spoken exclusively from words and phrases learned from tv. It can make interacting with people unbearable at times. I already know what they’re going to say, what words they’ll use, where they’ll put in the comma…
    Its lovely to know there’s people out there that actually get ideas, phrases and words from a variety of sources, not just one.

    • Susan,

      YES! I know exactly what you speak of. This regression of the English language is disheartening — not to mention uninspiring. I sometimes wonder how we got here. When did we begin to replace poetry with jargon, arresting profundities, for sloppy, obtuse banalities? I want so much to see an era of nobility an elegance flourish. Not pretentious magniloquence or insincerity, of course, but a pause between listen, cogitate, and respond. We need not resort to the first thing that “crosses our minds” or what is most easily attained or grasped. Part of the joy in watching/learning something great, in the process toward gaining understudying. Greatness takes time. I fear if we remain in this state of lackluster commonplace, all we’ll have left of what had once been a beautiful spoken language, will be the dusty books no one bothers to purchase or check out.

      Luckily, there is hope! I see this ubiquity of the thirty-minute sitcom, not as a product of supply and demand, but a desperation in a last ditch effort to pander to people’s baser sides. Whether we are aware or not, our souls cry out for more than lewd dialog and flippancy.

      Thanks for chiming in, Susan!

    • Jess,
      It’s so good to “hear” your voice. 🙂

      Yes, I wrote this post, not as a haranguing for everyone else to be obedient, but mostly as a reminder for myself. I get stuck . . . My thoughts ensnare, keep me in a place of circuitous distraction. My prayer of late has been to be a more aware person; someone who can recognize opportunity when it’s standing beside, behind, or front of her.

  5. You are such a beautiful and heartfelt writer Cara! I love reading your posts and await your novel 🙂 Garden spells captivated me, Sugar Queen was just as good and the Peach Keeper was… interesting. That’s all I’ll say about the Peach Keeper. LOL!

    • Karista!

      I was just thinking this morning that I had not seen a post from Karista’s Kitchen in a long while! You must be busy this week. I do hope you don’t feel the pressure to supply your readership when your schedule does not permit this extravagance. I know that I, on occasion, can feel as if I am letting people down by not publishing more often. But I cannot think like that. I give what I have to give, and the rest is up to Him.

      Your kind words are so very much appreciated. Thank you, thank you, thank you for offering your love and support to this girl.

      Oooo . . . I actually heard your tone in the last line. I am intrigued!

      I hope this week is bringing you beautiful joys.

      • You always seem to say what I need to hear! Divine intervention? Yes, it’s been a little while and you nailed it… I often feel I let down my readership when I don’t post often enough. But it’s been a busy client week and I’ve emersed myself in my year long cookbook proposal. Determined to finish it and get it sent out! As I’m sitting here working on a scallop post I saw your comment. 🙂 You made my day Cara!

      • I love how He works . . . I had a feeling (one not my own, of course) that you might perhaps be in the throes of feeling spread thin.

        How great that you have had a busy client week! And a cookbook proposal?! Now that, my sweet friend, is something to celebrate!!! I am praying for you. You have worked long and hard for this!

        Looking forward to the scallop post — but am content to wait for it!

        Happy day, Karista 🙂

      • Thanks for the prayers Cara! I am in need of a few at the moment. Yes, I wish I was actually writing the book but I’ve decided to pitch it first. If no one bites I’ll probably self publish. Mostly just to have my recipes bound between two covers for others to enjoy. Wishing you a very restful but fun weekend! Hugs to you my friend!

      • I like your plan . . . and I have heard that, with non-fiction, pitching prior to writing actually pans out well. And with you being the caliber of chef you are, I have NO doubts that whether a publisher sees the promise and potential, your recipes will be adored be the masses! Self-publishing isn’t as glamorous, but sometimes it’s that step in the door. I think everyone is entitled to that first step; the rest is up to us!

        Let me know if if there is anything I can help with.


  6. I pray regularly that I will become more in tune with the Voice in my heart. It is a process of trial and error, don’t you think? Sometimes I’m not sure if the wacky thought is just my wacky brain or the Holy Spirit. Your post encourages me to keep trying, errors notwithstanding, and to learn to listen and obey. Thanks!

    • Such a wonderful prayer to pray . . . Absolutely, Judy! In fact, I believe nothing solidifies a lesson learned like a nice big mistake. Of course, we should learn “from” them, too, and do our best to not have repeat offenders. 🙂

      I have those same thoughts, wondering, like I spoke about in the post, if I am just being silly or wanting to spice up my day with novelty. Then I think, well, no harm in that; better that, than missing out on an opportunity to bless someone.

      So glad you found commiseration and inspiration here. Hope you have a wonderful Friday!

  7. There is a nice message here Cara. Have you ever done any public speaking or inspirational speaking? This is precisely the kind of life observation that would be well received and well attended.
    I think you would be great!

    • Thank you for making time to come back, Meredith. I shall shine, I shall! And so shall you, dear lady.

      Bit of randomness, but this fancies me: “recognised” “colourful” When I put these words on my tongue they have more syllables. I like syllables.

  8. I found this post because I actually googled Evanelle. I, too, love Sarah Addison Allen and I think this book was my favorite thus far, mostly because of Evanelle. You really pinpointed what is so alluring about Evanelle and her gift. I have to say, I’m sorry that the book ended and I won’t be able to watch Evanelle submit to those whims for others anymore.

    • Hi Kether! (Lovely name, btw)

      So glad you found the post! Thank you for coming by and leaving your thoughts. And how wonderful to have found another who adores Sarah Allen Addison’s characters as much as I do — chiefly Evanelle. Though I have long-since moved on to another book and another author, I too, miss Evanelle’s wit, charm, and compulsions. Maybe we’ll get lucky and Sarah will write Garden Spells II. 🙂

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