THE RECKONING

 

     The rain was torrential.  The kind of night when sheets of rain blind you and you want to pull over if only it were safe but the traffic won’t let you.  He decided not to try it.  He had come to Laguna Beach to buy the large oil painting he so loved.  It was called the Gardener’s Daughter and was a beautiful impressionistic portrait of a young woman in a  long colorful floral dress.  She had thick honey colored hair that cascaded onto her shoulders and she was seated sweetly in a chair holding a red apple.   There was a still life of a basket of fruit and a vase filled with flowers on a small table next to her.  The big floppy hat framing her lovely hair and face was sensational.  It seemed to capture the essence and loveliness of his young wife and he was on a mission to surprise her with it as a gift for their new home.

     They had two young wonderful daughters and had just purchased a small ranch in a canyon outside of Ventura.  Star filled nights graced the hillsides that surrounded them and creatures abounded with no purpose other than to roam happily.  Pigs, cats, dogs, sheep, horses, parrots, peacocks, chickens and roosters roamed without care while the coyotes and mountain lions contemplated their options outside the fence.  He was a family doctor with a rewarding practice and a good reputation.  Things were going well.

     But tonight the rain would not let up so he drove to the Laguna Hotel and checked into that storied lodging where the stars of Hollywood’s heyday once idled away their weekends.  The years had not been kind to the old icon.  The halls seemed somewhat dingy, dark and narrow.  He put the long metal key into the keyhole and opened the door to a rather plain and small room with no special appointments.  A faint odor of mustiness permeated the air.  But it was dry and he would be safe for the night.  

     He sat down on the bed and looked into the mirror.  Suddenly he was taken aback as if he were looking at a stranger, for he saw a tired and beaten man looking back at him.  There was no reason to explain this moment but in a flash he dove deeply into a profound flood of despair and he saw his imperfections as if they were written on his soul.  He looked away and the image and the reckoning dissolved as mysteriously as it had appeared.  No incident could account for the triggering of this event and yet it had happened.  He was shaken to his core but was able to find refuge by reflecting on his good fortune; on the many blessings that had been bestowed upon him. 

      He eventually fell asleep and in the morning he awoke to a lovely Laguna Beach day.  Life was again as it should be.  He found his blue Volvo station wagon parked where he had left it, the painting securely inside and he gratefully drove home to the safety and comfort of his loving family.  Somehow, like a waking nightmare, the vision had come and fled, its meaning and timing remaining a mystery.  Was it the buried past that flashed its face; a beast suppressed and held at bay far beneath the surface?  Life itself would have to reveal its significance.  Sometimes it is the fleeting glimpses that are the most profound.

 

 

 THE RECKONING

 

At that horizon

Where the eye beholds the soul

Narcissus kneels down at the water’s edge

And reflects on the depths below

 

His image once proud is now pierced with wounds

They stare back at him

Gaping in a mask

He is suddenly naked in the light of day

Without secrets

And he casts his eyes away

 

Slumped like words dissembled

Posing to amass some meaning

Yet sadly vainly drained of feeling

He draws the breath of self estrangement

He has seen the face of his illusion

And he longs beneath the weight of sorrow

To set his listing soul aright 

To hear a whisper break the silence

The echo of an ancient spirit

That would not dumbly let him drown

Would bid him lift his shaken visage

Would bid him hurry homeward bound

 

Sometimes it is the fleeting glimpses

Which are the most profound.

 

Rear of the Laguna Hotel as seen from the beach

INDEX