Weather’s Store: How It Began
Weather. The word mesmerizes as it mystifies. All my life Weather has been a companion that I feared, hated, admired, loved. It was with me not only in the experience, but it wove itself into how I thought about and approached most aspects of my life. So, when I saw a sign on an old store in the northern New Mexico mountains that read “Weather’s Store” I could not get it out of my mind or my writing. “weather’s Store” what an enigmatic, enticing name. what did that store hold inside? Did it contain within its shingled walls the very essence of Weather itself”? Or was it holding back the forces of nature with the power to create or destroy?
That sign. That simple black wrought iron sign stayed with me on the long drive home to Albuquerque. It propelled itself into a poem, and then somehow it became a story that I was compelled to write. No character in that story was anyone I had ever met. There was nothing about the protagonist that I could identify with. It wrote itself in a rhythm like the vicissitudes of the wind, a prose poem full of color and shifts of direction and moods.
Below is an excerpt from the beginning of the book. Let me know if it reaches the secret weather of your heart. And if you want to read more go to Amazon or if you are in Albuquerque, try Bookworks or Treasure House. Your responses are welcomed.
THE FIRST ENCOUNTER
AN OLD DREAM
(excerpt from Weather’s Store: Encounters with the Sacred by Thelma Giomi)
Weather’s Store stood near the lakeshore, just close enough to the highway for me to read its heavy wrought iron sign in passing. Bone-white, but not dull in the afternoon light, the Store seemed, even then, like an old dream. And, like an old dream, the feelings it conjured as I approached were already etched in my mind; intimate and unsettling.
I stopped the car some distance from the Store and stepped out onto the narrow dirt road that led to it. Weather’s Store radiated a numinescense, something like awe or enchantment, or something much more startling, the unfolding of a new thought. The wind caught my open jacket and swept my scarf and hair across my eyes. I struggled with the wind and my apparel, until I stood a few steps from the porch.
From the first moment I saw the black iron script against the parched white wall, it was like a poem that seals the mind with its simplicity: “Weather’s Store.”
The grayish wood planks of the front porch steps sounded scratchy beneath my feet. An old red wicker loveseat tore esthetic joy from my eyes. The Store was desolate. It was ordinary.
My first encounter with Weather’s Store was in the deathly silent step of spring, when searching for a footpath between winter and rebirth was an aching, empty task. The scraps of snow that lay trickling into muddy ruts seemed dry and dusty to me. I looked again from the highway to the lake. The gray lake mockingly reflected the wispy clouds as if admonishing them for their absolute whiteness.
There was no one visibly present. The door was locked. I lingered without invitation. I could not see inside the sand-sheathed windows, but the stillness bespoke sleeping or waiting. The Store seemed to be its own proprietor, owning the space around it as well as the space inside.
I sat down on the top step feeling I was usurping a private space. I looked again at the hanging wrought iron sign, “Weather’s Store.” The name intrigued me. Was there a person named Weather or was this a place apart, a repository for something as illusive and powerful as the atmosphere itself?
I was cold. My nose always runs when it’s cold, but the sun felt good against my jean-covered legs. The breeze, taunting and lifting my hair from beneath the crocheted hat, seemed gently curious.
It was not a lonely place, but I found it unsettling. I lay back on my elbows or alternated between wrapping my arms around my knees or leaning against the post. I saw no one, yet I felt certain the Store was aware of my presence. Why I waited, slipping into a numbing, warm escape, I can’t remember now.
I was there, at Weather’s Store, waiting. Waiting and listening to the lake murmur casually against the shore. It carried a message around its circumference and left it to be deciphered from gurgling bubbles and feather-foam tracings on the wet, dark sand. Lulled by the afternoon’s whispers and the sunlight, my mind halted its perpetual motion of thoughts. For the first time in years my senses were primary, immediate. The wind came gusting across my face. I felt it sting and smelled the dust laden with heavy mountain scents.
From where I sat, the road to the highway arched out in front of me, a track of dirt and gravel. To one side was the lake, and on the other, the forest crept up within a few meters of the Store. My mind followed the course of the narrow road back to the highway. At the highway one had a choice, southwest toward California or northeast toward Colorado. I was in the high mountains of northern New Mexico, a place as enchanting as it is remote.
Sitting on the porch step separated me from that nexus. At last I was apart from choices. I let my thoughts skim over problems like stones across the lake surface. With no demand for choice, I was enveloped in a sense of safety. The ripples the stones of my thought created seemed to skip lightly over the surface of my mind and then slip gently into a waiting darkness.
Sai-ya-ya, ya./To Be Free.
Before I set out on this impulsive adventure my life seemed dry and hot. It was the kind of heat that draws the moisture from your mind as well as your body, leaving thoughts and tissues tight and brittle. My futile attempts at renewal were like pouring life-fluids into the thirsty earth. Even as I watched the water darken the ground beneath me, the perimeter was lightening, drying up, asking for more.
Soul-weary, I closed the door on life as I knew it, on the every day expenditures of my energy. As I turned away from everything familiar, I understood that although I was young in years, my vitality was draining away.
One sells one’s soul outright. My choices with their accompanying successes or failures seemed to block something intrinsic to who I really was. What did I want? Who was I really? Were all these questions arrogance and absurdity? I walked around with dry eyes and dry spirit always aware of a brown-robed hooded phantom at the edge of my thoughts. I named him, Despair.
Before I left my everyday life behind, I had stood in my garden. The early spring air moved through a mid-morning that ached with emptiness. Each day seemed strained and dry. People and things drew chunks of life—time from me and left holes of chaotic, aching space. Long hours became longer inseparable days. No beginnings. No endings. Just work, effort, and survival. Sadness rose with me in the mornings. Tears chilled my cheeks and woke me in the night. Words chased through my mind after something; an excuse for the sadness, permission for the tears. The word-chase whirled round my thoughts, missing its illusive prey. The murmur of that obsessive word-chase penetrated every moment.
I yearned for escape, but I didn’t know how to run away. So I sat in my garden amid the inside noise, praying without intent or understanding.
I sat there for a long time, aware only of a chill breeze that gathered strength and volume as the sky darkened. Gradually, I became aware of the garden’s rhythm. It was alive and the sounds of its breathing were familiar. Intermittently, as a gesture, a chill mist would rise towards me and skim my presence with acknowledgement.
My gaze sank into the budding greenness of an old mulberry tree. The garden’s stillness was swept aside by an easy breeze. The rain came tapping against leaves and my cheeks, like a thousand hands clapping. Applauding.
When the rainstorm moved on, leaving only gray tracings and damp leaves, I was caught in a suspended reality. I got into my car and drove away from my garden, away from the city, without a map or a plan.
It was as if the incubus waiting had come to conclusion amid the sanctioning applause of the rain. As I drove I caught glimpses of myself. Life had not been kind, but neither had it been hard. It was perhaps narrow, unyielding, unwise. Now life was time-free, descriptionless.
I drove through flat-to-hilly country and up into the mountains on vacant roads where the sky marveled at my smallness and I tingled with anticipation. As I drove through the narrow, rugged Cimarron Canyon, excitement insinuated itself into my motion. I was certain an unexpected encounter, like the rain in my garden, that would release me once again, was just around the next curve in the highway.
Weather’s Store was half-hidden from the highway by a warp in reality as much as by the curve in the road.