When I submit my draft to Lauren, she gets the big red pen out for any passage that takes too much off the pace. I went through some of my writing from today and decided to make the cut myself.
I’ve been asked a couple of times to post examples of these clippings here. I’m usually reluctant because often I use them later, or they contain spoilers. Every now and then there might be a bit like today’s post which is (almost) pure atmosphere. I’ve kept a little bit of it in Cool Hand. It does have a meaning and a message, but it’s not really a spoiler, so here it is. If it’s popular, I’ll look for others.
Amber’s waiting for Felix to come down from the mountain behind Coykuti Ranch. She’s at the little cemetery behind the ranch house, where Felix’s wives and his son are buried. She’s talking to Martha, Felix’s sister, who wasn’t very talkative last time they met. Martha’s been clipping the hedge…
“Felix said he didn’t know why it’s called the tree of life,” I said, stroking my fingers through the leaves.
“That’s because he’s dumb,” she said. She took a brush and began to work gently on the headstones. I went around the semicircle of the hedge, picking up clippings that had gotten away and waiting for her to continue.
“Candy didn’t want headstones,” she said quietly after a while. “She planted the hedge, made it like it is; a mother’s arms reaching out to comfort. She wanted all the pack’s dead to be buried here, one on top of the other. No markers, because we’re all just pack in the end. And she wanted this tree.”
She sat back on her heels.
“You know, parts of the yew die and rot and feed the rest of it. It lives off itself. It makes itself new from all it has ever been. The pack’s like that. It’s all the things it’s ever done, all its loves and hates, all its desires and fears, all its triumphs and failures.”
I got goosebumps. I finished the circuit of the hedge and put all the bits I’d collected into the bags. Then I went over the Candy’s headstone. Martha had moved to the next, and I traced the fading dates with my fingers, like I’d done the first time I saw them.
“The pack gives and it takes away,” she said. “If it needs you, it feeds you. It needs Felix. He’s strong like an ox. But me? I’m just around, and I been around for a long time. That means I’m getting old for a werewolf.”
“Some just stop changing and die. Some take up dangerous sports until their reflexes let them down. Mostly, we start to listen to the wind and we hear the last call.”
“Come here,” she said and pointed up the hill. “Look over there, beneath the trees. Tell me what you sense.”
“Go on. Feel. Smell. Just say the words as they come to you.”
“The wind from there, it’s colder.” I drank the scents in, rich and sharp. The more I concentrated, the more I could untangle them. “There’s hot dust, cool pine, dry timber, wet earth.”
“More! Smell it. Taste it.” Her fingers were like claws in my arm.
“Earth. It’s slow. It’s cold. It’s full of life. Just…paused.”
“Yes. Cold earth. All still, underneath. It seems to us that life bleeds away into the earth, but that’s nature’s trick. You never die, but you’re gathered up. Like the yew feeds on itself, the pack remembers and you never die.”
“Now, close your eyes, and listen. Listen with your whole heart.”
Silence that had form and movement, nebulous as cloud, came rolling down the hill.
My eukori reached and blended with the Call and stretched and stretched, thinner and thinner.
Trembling. Something just beyond my reach. Sighing – singing; there were words on the wind. Too soft, too faint to understand.
She shook me and my eyes snapped open.
I was leaning into the hill. I’d forgotten to breathe.
“That’s where I’ll go,” she said. “I’ll follow the song. Next winter or the next or in ten years’ time. Who knows? I’ll go to my wolf and I’ll run and run until I’m so tired I can’t run any more. Then I’ll lay down beneath the open sky and rest. And by and by, I’ll be part of that song.”