This is another exercise coming to you from Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg. In it, she suggests grabbing a line of poetry, and starting a story with it. (Her friend called it “writing off the page.”) I took this line from “All Souls’ Night,” by William Butler Yeats. This is the beginning of a story I may continue later, thought probably without the first line. Enjoy!
Midnight has come, and the great Christ Church Bell and many a lesser bell sound through the room. The lights from the street shine into the room, and make my curtains glow with iridescent light. The curtains themselves shift slightly from the air outside; they look like some spirit that’s not sure if it wants to stay or go.
Living in a Catholic country for a few months has made me superstitious. I was raised by atheists, so Catholicism is just as exotic to me as any pagan magical ritual: praying around a rosary is like mumbling an incantation, burning incense at the altar is casting a spell, and the saints are all like the lesser deities—a pantheon of piety.
I realize it’s Halloween, and no one cares. A town like Mendoza, Argentina has no need for that holiday. October 31st means spring is coming; and spring is about resurrection, not death.
I suddenly have the urge to visit a graveyard, or some other place of death. The Catholics of Mexico leave offerings for their loved ones, and they light candles so the souls don’t get lost wandering in the darkness. I should go somewhere people have died, and light a candle for their souls; no one else will. Besides which, my power wasn’t going to come back any time soon, and I was sick of reading by flashlight.
I tossed some scented candles from my bathroom into my bag, grabbed the matches off my gas stove, and went out into the street. The only working electricity on the block was from the emergency street lights. In their harsh light, you couldn’t distinguish the buds of leaves and blossoms growing on the trees; the trees just silhouetted crooked and knurly.
Not knowing of any cemeteries within town, I head to Parque de General San Martín, just a few blocks away from my apartment. The metal steps echo as I leave my entrance to hit the street. Parque San Martin is located just before the foothills of the Andes Mountains. There’s a memorial (thought it’s really more of a monument) up one of these foothills, just behind the park, called Cerro de Gloria. It’s dedicated to the people of the region who helped the famous General San Martin cross the Andes with his soldiers. It’s also a memorial dedicated to the people who died for independence from Spain. I figure if there are still souls wandering lost after dying in battle over a century ago, they need the guidance the most.