¡Hola amigos! Today, I’m writing to you from the bottom of Spain where a few days ago something rather unexpected happened. Meandering along the edge of the Mediterranean, eyes sweeping the sand like a metal detector, I was looking for cockleshells for a watercolor I wanted to paint in my journal when I noticed up ahead a blue something perched on a brick. I felt the titillating azure rush of adrenalin, which I’ve come love.
When I was small and because I have blue eyes, my mother dressed me in in everything blue, including blue blouses, blue socks, a blue parka and itchy blue wool mittens and a cap, which I hated. She did this for years. By the time I was in elementary school I had so imprinted on “your color, Princess” that for weeks I wore only my powder blue poodle skirt until my best friend, also the head of the 4th grade fashion police, announced, “Nobody wears those anymore.”
To this day, my blue-dar remains finely calibrated. In fact, if I were to write about my cerulean addiction I would title the book Sixty Plus Shades of Blue, even if it does sound like the rantings of a heartbroken woman of abundant age gazing out at the cobalt sea, her lapiz lazuli earrings fluttering in the same wind that carries her lover to a younger woman’s shores.
Moving closer, I realized that this was no ordinary blue object basking there in the sizzling Andalusian heat. It was e, the letter e, a blue plastic lowercase magnetic one like you’d find in every kindergarten class in the U.S. before iPads were invented. Someone, perhaps a high priestess or a gull, had placed this priceless relic on a brick altar stamped with what remained of the mysterious incantation “ante.” It was magical!
R walked up just then. He’d been sketching a house down the beach with two roosters on the roof. I pointed to the e. “Look what I found, R. Isn’t it cool!”
“Wow! You found the Internet Explorer e. Congratulations.” Sometimes my husband is a bit long on the obvious.
“Nah ah,” I told him. “It’s way more vital than that. Somebody put it on that brick so the right person would find it. There may be a message here of cosmic importance for me…and for us by extension.”
“Let’s check it out on the Internet,” R suggested smiling and scratching his head. His white hair looked like an Einsteinian halo in the glow of the sun. “You seem dehydrated. Can I bring you a glass of Rioja?”
Rehydrated, we sat on our balcony parsing the meaning of the e, now moved, brick and all, to the glass coffee table on which we keep our journals, pens and watercolors. I had already started to build a shrine around the letter out of stones and green sea glass. I lit our 6 votive candles, though it was early afternoon. We thought of e-words.
“What comes to mind when you look at e ?” I asked R as he sketched the Moorish roofs between the water and us. “I think of enthusiasm, ecstasy, Europe.”
“Europe starts with a capital e,” R reminded me. “Let’s see, there’s energy and euphoria, euthanasia. E coli? No, that begins with a cap, too. This is a lot like scrabble. How about a game tonight?” He was now daubbing terracotta paint on the clay tiles of a roof, yet playing along with me at the same time. I love this man. “Edith, for your mom, but then again there‘s that capital.”
Edith…edith. Just the thought of my mom makes me laugh. She’d been quite a trickster when she was alive. Despite having to raise three kids on her own after my father died, she rarely lost her sense of humor. Instead, she expressed it in weird ways, like sending me to school with a single sardine tucked between two slices of bread, or hiding one of each pair of my socks so that I had to wear an unmatched pair (white and blue) to my First Holy Communion.
Edith loved messing with the status quo in both tiny and huge ways. A couple of years after she passed, R and I were weeding tomatoes in the backyard when we noticed a pair of ravens circling overhead, dangerously closer than one would expect. They were watching us. I thought of Poe, whose poem “The Raven” my mom would recite from memory,
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore-
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“Tis, some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door-
Only this and nothing more.”
and I knew she’d come back as her favorite bird, with my dad, of course. Mom loved ravens, as I do, and often joked about how in her next life she would be reborn a raven. “I’m not talking about crows,” she said, “they’re far too sneaky.”
My husband looked at me for a long time. I could hear the synapses firing as his analytical mind weighed and measured the logic of my assertion. He looked at the e on the brick altar and at the little shrine I’d build around it, then he looked out at the Mediterranean, across which we could now see a faint outline of Morocco’s Rif mountains. “I believe you, Darling.”
Below are two pages from my journal on Spain. The first is the painting I made of cockleshells. On the second, R drew the big e just the way the real one looks. I painted it blue.