A Lovely Sunday
By Raven Cassell
A tsunami of sun floods in through the wide glass wall. Lovely lies motionless resting in rumination. Yes, she’s awake. No, she isn’t tired. She is just collecting the sun in her heart, paralyzed by gratitude. Seventy-seven summers she’s seen. ‘What a gift of a day’ she breathed. The birds sound like they agree, cheepin’ and chattin’ away, like a gang of playground kids. After sitting in her smiles a while, Lovely delicately lifts her body from the bed and glides on over to the kitchen with the rhythm of a matriarch moving on over to brew her tea. It’s tea time. Her collection of herbs is comprised of leaves from her own garden, what her daughters drop off when they can and Gi’s farmer’s market pickings. Gi is her companion. He spends Sundays at the library teaching a writing class to the kids in the community.
“Weeeeeeeeeee!!” The teapot sang.
And she let the warm water rush into her big glove of a mug. This mug, a grainy sand-colored piece her grand-lady, she calls her, made. Like Grandbaby but Grand-lady. She’s a potter. Uses her hands just like her Grandma Lovely. Out of all, twenty-seven grandchildren, Grand-lady is the most Lovely-like. She’s a peculiar young woman, as sharp as the point of a blade. An astronaut. She’d been up in space for the last 3 years and made it back to Lovely about 4 months ago. She stops by on Sundays to eat midday with Grandma Lovely while they spit stories over their tea. She comes for the stories. She loves the garden too. Says one day she’ll have an Eden as well. That is, when she comes back to Earth.
“The little spacebaby, can’t keep that child out of the ether,” Lovely repeats to her girlfriends when she’s away.
But she loved her ethereal angel and loved even more that she came from her particles. Her Grand-lady.
Her tea warmed the parts of her the morning sun couldn’t reach. Even in the warmest weather, Lovely is with tea. At the breakfast table, there lives a pile of books, a cup of pens, some notepads, her pill dispenser, some loose paper and flowers from her flowerbed choked by another ceramic sculpture made at the hands of her grandlady. The paper, she always needed. She would jot down little messages, doodles, poems, jokes, questions for God, she’d scrawl the names of her six children, their twenty-seven kids and their three babies over and over. She’d record the names of her flowers, draw her house and its rooms, scribble Lovely + Gi = eternal love and seal it with a heart. She’d note things she needed to remember, things she remembered she’d done in her youth and things she wanted to live in the universe’s memory. Most mornings it was her tea and her paper.
Today, on this Sunday while her tea settles, she puts out a mug for the houseguest she’s expecting and heads outside with her fifty-year-old watering can so her plants can drink up too. She turned and opened the hose with her little body and began to sing to her succulents, prophecy over her flowers and pray for her plants. “Garden of goodness, made with my two hands won’t you grow strong, won’t you grow green, won’t you nourish and won’t you please. Abundant you are, the sum of Earth, God and Me.” They were to go on to live lives of beauty and healing. She pulled herbs and flowers for when the babies caught colds or when Gi’s hand cramps came back. Buried in a bunch of leaves, her mind heavy on healing and eyes filled with inspection, she heard a refreshingly familiar voice.
“Gram, you gonna come have this tea with me or what?” Her Grandlady, Zora said with some seduction followed by a hefty smile.
Lovely turned around to see her grandchild in the doorway draped in sunshine. She responded with just a smile. She wrapped up outside and she and her watering can made their way into Zora’s embrace.
“Look at you Ms. Lady, I sure missed you.”
She sat down. Zora poured her tea and joined her. They sat in the silence that fell, because. It was a rather intense week for Zora. She’d been preparing a presentation for Monday where she is to present to potential research sponsors. She’d spent the last five years studying mental health during and after space excursions. It was a difficult thing for her. Because her studies required her to voyage and she, herself would experience the effects she worked to investigate and cure. Earth is hard but there are a host of woes beyond the atmosphere, too. The space radiation wearing on her body, the zero gravity wearing on her physique, the drastic shift from the holistic diet she was raised on, the fear and anxiety around survival, dealing with the changes upon return, trying to realign with who she was before the excursion and really the ever-present the guilt that lingers from her absence in family, in life and from Lovely. This is why Lovelytime is so important. It was important to learn from the master healer, herself -- continue a familial legacy. This is why Lovelytime doesn’t get postponed or rescheduled. It is both an apology and a promise.
So they sat. And soon, her Grandlady was gently lying down her questions she so desperately held in this week. This time, Zora was less curious about how Lovely reached the height of her world but more curious about how she dealt with the altitude up there. She framed her questions around this research project and less about her. But Lovely knew. Lovely knows.
Lovely began to set down a Sunday story.
“When it comes to the giving of self, Zora --” she started with great concentration. “It has to be accepted that by doing so, you are giving away bits of yourself, much like my flowers an’em back there. You think it don’t hurt a little for that aloe to break me off a piece to rub on a flaming rash? You think that for a moment, it too, ain’t in crisis baby? It is, but the barrier gets together and closes back up to protect the juicy, fortifying, abundant flesh. That’s you baby. Don’t go and turn your offering into a curse just ‘cause you got to do a little more work in protecting your flesh than most other folks. At the same time, know that part of protection is selection. You may not have it to give some days, some months or even some years.”
Zora sat up a little straighter on her seat cushion and lifted her eyes to her elder.
“Your Mama was 4,” she opened, “And I had a one-year-old AND was carryin’ ya heavy headed Uncle Boog. Your Aunty Nile was ‘bout 9 and caring for the five of them when the pregnancy had me down. Now remember, I had 5 and was boppin’ around, tendin’ to business and momin’, wa’n’t never a thing for me but this last one?! Showed me somethin’ I wasn’t too familiar with. My body, who’d carried me so far, told me to slow down. I have the highest respect for my body. So I shut down the shop for a whole 4 years, sold what I had in this garden just by folks comin’ to this house, talkin’ up with me at this little table. Ya Granddaddy taught those years, tutored -- sometimes right here at this table so our babies would know his face and know it well.”
“Picture this: I done built this business, only until after I came back from my leave did I have folks working for me ‘nough so I can step away without the walls fallin’. I had folks coming to me with their hopes of healing on my lap. I had all these babies (now I had them because I wanted them, wanted them deeply) but I had them and they needed tending to. They deserved to smile and to see their Mama smile. So I had to turn away a lot of the folks who poured into my business -- with hopes and with dollars. But then I came back. For thirty years, three shops, five books, one organization. I can’t say I believe my garden would be this green if I hadn’t closed the gates, then.
She stopped. She took the concluding sips of her still-warm tea.
“I’m not saying to close your gates, but just know that you can.”
Zora held a cry in her throat. Lovely touched her hand as if she were hitting a button to release the tears. She didn’t believe in the reservation of inhibitions.
Now with all of this, all of the sleep Zora lost this week and the last showed up at her door and pulled down on her eyes. She excused herself and went into her Grandmother’s bed. The sunlight was in there too but was hush enough to let her sleep. By the time Lovely peeked in, she was far, far off. Likely in space. She took a few steps in to read her. She watched her, saw herself -- pregnant and worn with the weight of a whole community sewn into her skin. Lovely found some smiles in her belly and shut the door ever so gently. Her Grandlady, she thought.
Lovely set on her big orange sun hat and went out back to nest in her deep, orange chair. She watched the butterflies and the ants and the worms and noticed the shifts in the wind. She too drifted. Drifted from study to meditation, from meditation to sleep.
A Lovely Sunday.