The Knot Hole (The Crossing Series)
“I hate this old wood paneling,” Taryn said aloud as she poured more Liquid Gold onto the soft cloth, continuing to rub new life back into the old wood. She had been doing this job for years now. Actually, since she had been a little girl.
Some people had a favorite picture, piece of jewelry or even a special tree. Her mother had a favorite room, this sewing room, with its four wood paneled walls. It couldn’t be the kind of paneling which required only a quick wipe with a damp cloth, no, for her mother it had to be real wood, the actual smell from the wood carried through the room and you felt like you just walked into a home design store.
Each year since her mother’s death five years earlier, Taryn had threatened to tear out this paneling, or paint it . . . or something, but she never did. Taryn would curse and give the wooden walls stern glances. It would seem almost sacrilegious to remove it though. As a child, this wood paneling was at the center of their family. Her father had sanded and stained each panel to perfection, and then added the final coat of finish to make it as smooth and shiny as glass.
It had taken her father many evenings and weekends to complete the room making it as her mother had dreamed it should be. Her room in which she could sew, read, relax, and escape to her dreams. When her mother was in this room with the door closed, everyone respected her need to be alone. When the door was open anyone could wander in and out.
Taryn recalled these memories of her early childhood as she continued to restore the life back into the paneling. Those memories seemed to surround her in this room, and they appeared like a play in three acts. First there was the joy and love her parents shared during the timeframe that it took to complete the walls. She recalled the renovation party her mother had arranged when it was completed. It was almost as though they were welcoming a new member into the family.
The next several months had been spent in finding just the right things to go into the room. Soft shades of yellow were the dominant colors, with beautiful tan thick pile carpeting. Each frame on the walls displayed a picture or painting that held special meaning to her mother. A vision only she could “see” as she created it.
The third act occurred every summer. When school was finished for the year, her mother would bring out three cans of Liquid Gold and a bag of soft cloths she’d been accumulating for the past year. She’d hand a can and several cloths to me and to my sister, Carolyn, and we would begin a week long project of rubbing new life into mother’s precious wood paneling. An annual ceremony.
It was an almost solemn experience, such was the reverence we were taught in the care of mother’s wood. We worked together for several hours a day, and as we worked, my mother would tell us stories. Each one so descriptive that they gave us a visual we still carry in our minds. We knew she made up the stories and they were very good, we could hang on her words for the entire time. Each year she repeated some of our favorites from earlier years, as well as adding new ones.
As I recall some of the stories, I still find them amazing and timeless. They weren’t fairy tales. They seemed real, just as though mother were telling us about a friend of hers and the experiences this friend had; conversations that had taken place. Mother loved to dream, and apparently dreamed so vividly that she was able to tell us such beautiful and seemingly real stories.
Taryn raised herself up from her knees and stretched her sore back, rubbing her tight arm muscles and rotating her head to release the kinks. Again she said aloud, “I hate this wood paneling, now that I have to do it by myself, now that there are no more stories.” Taryn stood with her shoulders slumped and felt defeated by this chore. Despite this, to remove it or change it in any way would cause her mother’s spirit to become restless, of this she was sure.
She could always feel her mother’s love, her essence, in this room. Taryn wondered if indeed a tiny piece of her mother’s soul had remained in this room to enjoy it, in peace, throughout eternity. Taryn knew she could never change the wood walls in her mother’s dream room. “Well, that’s enough R & R for one afternoon. Reminiscing and Rubbing!” She threw the towel into the bucket making the statement that she was done for this day.
Taryn let the water from the shower spray over her body for a long period of time. She felt the soothing sensations of the warm water refresh her from being hunched into the corner polishing the baseboards earlier. Next she quickly dressed as food was needed in her home and the weekly grocery shopping was next, along with several other stops along the way. This was always her busiest week of the year. She was determined to keep to the schedule of devoting several hours each day, in order to finish with the wood panel cleaning in one week’s time.
The next afternoon Taryn was back at work, continuing to restore the shine to the walls of the sewing room. As a child she had always been amazed at the many patterns the grains in the wood contained. As she sat back in her mother’s favorite chair taking a much needed break, feet propped up and drinking a glass of iced tea, she followed some of the patterns in the wood. Her hazel colored eyes came to rest on the dream spot. To anyone else it appeared as a flaw in the otherwise beautifully patterned wood. She remembered asking about the one dark spot on the wood, and her mother’s smiling reply. With love in her eyes, she’d said she and her father had searched through many pieces of wood paneling to find the perfect circle that would be her dream spot.
It was a perfect six inch circle, darker in color than the rest of the panel. Taryn learned when she was older that it really was just a knot hole. Her mother told the story of how rough that spot had been when she’d found it, and that her father had worked sanding it by hand with very fine sandpaper to make it perfectly smooth. Once, when asked where she got all of her beautiful stories, her mother smiled that twinkle-eyed smile and told them the stories all came from her dream spot.
The first year they’d polished the wood, she noticed her mother took great care to polish the panel particularly around this area. The second year she’d told Taryn she could have the honor of polishing that panel. The third year the honor went to Carolyn. And so it went year after year, each taking a turn polishing that distinctive area. Taryn returned her attention to polishing, in order to finish the last panel for this summer’s ritual cleaning. The last panel was always the one with the knot hole. Another half hour and finally it would be done.
As Taryn rubbed the familiarly scented cloth up and down with the grain of the wood, her cloth passed over the knot hole. She experienced a moment of shock as she thought it felt hot beneath the cloth. “What the hell!” she said aloud. She rubbed over the same spot again, and yes, it did feel heated. She transferred the cloth to her left hand placing her palm over the dream spot. Several things happened at the same moment. Her hand pushed easily through the knot hole, all the way to her elbow. Her body became rigid so she couldn’t move.
Panic and fear immediately set in. However, she seemed unable to move, to react physically to the situation. All she could see before her was the wall and her arm from the elbow up. The rest of her lower arm and hand had disappeared into the wall . . . without a hole to disappear into! In her panic, Taryn thought this must be what it felt like to be confined in a strait jacket, fully conscious, but unable to move a muscle in her body.
“Okay, Taryn. Get a grip,” she said, “breathe, in and out slowly.” The fear receded a bit, as she concentrated on breathing. She’d always been the very practical member of the family. Now was the perfect time to be realistic. “Get real here, Taryn. It is impossible that what you think you see is real. Right? Right! My arm is not stuck in a wall with no hole in it.”
She couldn’t move her arm. Screaming for help would do no good, since no one was close enough to her home to hear her. A strangled laugh emerged from her very tight throat as she said a silent thank you that no one could see her, or she would certainly be deemed crazy. She slowly became aware of the feeling developing in her missing hand and arm. There was warmth on the skin of her hand . . . no, heat on her hand. No, her hand was enfolded in heat.
“Of course,” she said, “my hand is outside and the sun is shining on my hand. Right, Taryn. You stuck your hand through the wall and it’s dangling outside. Where is the blood?” She concentrated on her hand and the heat and felt suddenly calmed. How could she feel so calm when her . . . “Taryn” . . . a long silence followed but she was sure she had just heard her name spoken. If someone called her name then . . . “Oh, my God. Someone IS outside. They see my hand.”
“Taryn.” She heard it again. She seemed to recognize the voice, but couldn’t identify it.
“Taryn, don’t be afraid. It’s only me it’s your mother.”
“Mother!” Taryn screeched, “Mother?”
“Yes, Taryn, it’s me. Really.” Her mother’s voice responded. “I’ve been waiting for you to find the secret of my dream spot. I knew you would. Do you feel my hands on yours, Taryn?”
“I feel the heat, yes.” Taryn answered.
“I’m holding your hand, Taryn.”
“Mother, this isn’t real. It’s impossible.”
“No, Taryn, it isn’t real. It’s a dream experience. Do you remember the stories I used to tell you when you were little?”
“Of course, Mother. I could never forget your stories.”
“Those stories were my own experiences, Taryn. I knew you children would be frightened if I told you the secret of this room and the knot hole, so I never did. I knew someday you would discover the surprise on your own, in your own time. And now you have.”
“Mother, my arm can’t be stuck in a hole that’s not there. Nor can I be talking to you. You aren’t there either. I must be stressed out and don’t know it. I’m hallucinating!”
“No, Taryn. You are perfectly healthy and in your right mind. It’s only that your mind cannot accept what it’s seeing and hearing. It’s a totally foreign concept to your mind. I have been allowed to remain nearby until you discovered this, just as I knew you would. Now that you have found it, my dear child, I can continue with my own journey. Your father has been waiting for me for a long time now, so I will join him. Together, we are off to more adventures. Have a wonderful life my dear Taryn, and enjoy the dream spot. It’s now yours. It will provide adventures you cannot imagine. Remember my stories, Taryn. They were my adventures. I must go now, dear. Remember always that I love you.”
Taryn was stunned. She couldn’t speak. She felt her muscles begin to relax and saw her arm and hand slowly emerge from the wall. She stumbled over to her mother’s favorite comfortable chair and collapsed into it, totally drained and exhausted. She fell immediately into a very deep and dreamless sleep.
Taryn awakened feeling happy and refreshed. Then she remembered her experience . . . or . . . had she dreamed it while she slept? If it had really happened, it wasn’t real anyway. Her mother had said it wasn’t real, that it was a dream. A waking dream?
Still feeling confused, Taryn busied herself and gathered the cleaning supplies together, she quickly realized the can of Liquid Gold was on the floor in front of the last panel. The cloth was on the floor as well, just where she must have dropped it . . . if what she thought she’d experienced really had happened?
* * *
Taryn slept until almost noon the next day. The long nap the afternoon before had kept her awake until the early hours of the morning. In order not to think about the afternoon’s experience, she read well into the middle of her latest paperback. The heroine’s troubles kept her mind well occupied until sleep finally came.
She heated a cup of water in the microwave, added a tea bag and took it out to the deck to enjoy the warm summer sun. All was well with the world that spread out before her eyes, BUT, she wondered, was all well within herself, with her life, with her future? She had a good life, an easy life, a contented life. Then why am I so restless lately, she wondered. She swept back her bangs from her forehead and played lightly with her hair deep in thought.
Last night was a perfect example. She enjoyed Brandon’s company and felt comfortable with him. She had been dating Brandon on occasion for about a year, but that’s all it was. It was comfortable. She routinely attended fund raising events for various causes. It was always more enjoyable for her to attend with Brandon, than alone. He wasn’t the great love in her life, and she knew he wouldn’t be. The love that she knew would be hers someday was not there, not like the love her parents shared. She knew she wouldn’t settle for less in her mate, but then, she wasn’t really anxious to get married right now either. She was only twenty-four and felt she had plenty of time. He did serve a purpose aside from good company. His presence seemed to keep others from being as blatant as they might have otherwise been about their expectations of her. Taryn enjoyed a relatively easy life. She had a comfortable income, and most of her peers knew she didn’t have to work for it. As a result, they had expectations that she give to each and every cause. Taryn would have done it anyway, but their attitude soured the experience for her.
She had a number of friends, but they weren’t close as she and her friend Ashlee were. Ashlee had moved to the west coast when a great job offer came her way a year ago. She had met Ashlee the first day on campus as a freshman, and it was “like” at first sight. They had roomed together for the next four years. Ashlee had been her source of strength when her mother died so suddenly in her third year at State. Sadly she earlier lost her father who had died while she was still in high school. Her sister, Carolyn, had married during her senior year in college and now traveled from post to post with her career Navy husband. She had only seen Carolyn twice since her mother’s funeral.
Taryn was therefore alone when she graduated from college. Ashlee accepted the invitation to come to Virginia with her, to get a job in the area and share Taryn’s home. And so it had been, until Ashlee received a reply to a resume she’d sent to the west coast. It was the job she’d wanted, in order to get started in her Hollywood career as a costumer. She’d moved to California a year ago.
It was funny. Just the other day she had been rushing around with so much to do. All busy work! I really don’t have anything important to do, and I’m still not sure what kind of a future I want, she thought. I don’t have a burning desire for a husband or children. I’m a writer, but I don’t have a fiery aspiration to write, I just do it as it comes to me. There is no strong yearning to find that grand, passionate relationship right now or if I ever will encounter that in my lifetime. Mentioning lifetime, hers had taken a very different turn on one particular day a while back.
* * *
The summer after graduating from college, she and Ashlee had started out early one Sunday morning to spend the day at the shore. They’d stopped at a mini-market to fill their cooler with drinks and to buy some beach snacks. They’d also bought one lottery ticket with the change from their purchases. A few days later they found themselves with the winning ticket. They both already had what they considered comfortable incomes, but now they were guaranteed a very sizable check once a year, for the next twenty years. That’s when Ashlee decided she could pursue her dream of living in California and began sending out resumes. Ashlee would definitely fit into the California lifestyle. She was a beautiful girl with long blonde hair and built very nice as well as already having the look of one of those female Baywatch lifeguards. Her eyes always captivated the people she met. They were a bright blue and she was often asked if she enhanced them with color contacts. Her smile too was not to be missed, it was a great asset and would be a plus to get her into the doors of the Hollywood scene.
Taryn had resigned from her job to chart a new course. She started that journey by buying out her sister’s half of the house their mother had left to them to share. She had to consider that this was, at least in part, the problem. She couldn’t help but wonder if it was because she didn’t have to work, that the need to work was missing. During the year she’d worked as a writer for the Sun Times, she had enjoyed it. But when she no longer needed the income, it had been so easy to leave the job and take some time to decide what she wanted to do with her skills that might be a little more exciting, more rewarding somehow.
“What are you waiting for, Taryn?” She asked herself aloud. “Where is your new venture? Writing a few articles now and then? Spending long research hours at the library for the Pulitzer Prize novel you plan to write someday? Waiting for love to come and find you?” Enough already!
Taryn made it to Wednesday without giving into the nagging thoughts of the dream experience with her mother. She also pushed back her thoughts of what her path in life should be. She had not entered the sewing room since last Saturday afternoon. She knew she was no longer afraid of what might or might not have occurred in that room, but still she hadn’t been ready to go back in and face her questions.
Taryn entered the room and walked around slowly, lightly sweeping her fingertips over the sewing machine, the love seat, the picture of a beautiful thoroughbred horse, the lamp her mother sat beside to do her delicate hand work. She stopped and turned. Slowly, she walked to the distinctive panel across the room. She thought, once again, about her hand and arm being IN the wall, of her mother’s touch on her hand, and her mother’s voice. Slowly, she raised her right hand and touched the knot hole delicately with her fingertips. It was cool to the touch, not hot. She hesitated a moment, then placed the palm of her hand completely over the spot. It was still cool to her touch. She waited, with her hand still on the wall. No movement. The wall remained the same.
Almost relieved that nothing had occurred, she released the breath she had been holding and turned to walk over to her mother’s favorite chair. She glanced at the door as if it had spoken to her, wondering if her mother had her dreams when the door was closed and the family gave her privacy. She walked over and slowly closed the door.
She returned to the chair and sat down, tucking her legs under her body. Feeling comfortable now, Taryn wondered how her mother had used the dream spot when she’d been sitting in this chair. Feeling very foolish, but too curious not to follow her thoughts, she spoke aloud in a sarcastic tone. “Mother said you belong to me now, dream spot, and that you will show me adventures I couldn’t begin to imagine. Do you have an adventure to share with me?”
Taryn kept her eyes on the knot hole, holding in her mind the memory of her mother’s warm hands holding her own, as she had the other day. Taryn didn’t believe that anything would occur, but the dream spot began moving slowly, as she continued to watch it and concentrate on it. It gradually increased its counter clockwise movement until it was spinning so fast it was a blur to her wide open eyes.
There was a whirring sound, like a top spinning. It was coming across the room towards her. The faster it spun, the louder it sounded, and the closer it appeared to her. The sound seemed to slam hard into her solar plexus and she gasped for breath. It hit her like when the floor moves with a loud clap of thunder during a storm. She then began to spin, faster and faster and in a split second it stopped, she stopped, and there was total silence.
Taryn was aware she had squeezed her eyes tightly shut and now hesitated opening them. She didn’t know what she might see, or if she really was being given an adventure. This is silly, this is impossible, she thought. Open your eyes, Taryn! You’ll see there is no adventure, only the sewing room. Right! Okay! Here goes!
As she relaxed in order to open her eyes, she became aware of a smell. Quickly she squeezed the lids tight shut again. Smell. What do I smell? Fresh air. Sunshine. Grass. Flowers. I hear water running. I hear birds singing. I’m outside, not in my sewing room.
Slowly she opened her eyes again. Very slowly, so she could shut them quickly again if she had to. Silly, silly, Taryn. Eyes open or eyes closed, I swear you are outside, so you might as well look.
She peeked through narrow slits between her eyelids, and sure enough she was outside. Her eyes opened wide now in surprise. She was standing in a meadow filled with all kinds of wildflowers. Some she recognized, such as beautiful purple liatris, stargazer lilies, and black eyed susans’. . . others she had not seen before and therefore could not identify but their colors were all so incredibly vibrant. She could smell the light fragrances, and combined they reminded her of a bowl filled with potpourri.
She found that she was standing beside a stream. The scent was of a cool crisp rain that just passed over. The water was slowly flowing past her, lazily washing around large stones breaking the surface. The stream was very clean and clear, allowing her to see the pebbles on the very bottom.
Taryn began walking, following the direction of the water. It seemed so silent, and yet there were many sounds. The birds, the leaves rustling in the trees, the sound of the water washing around the stones. She felt very peaceful even though there were many questions hovering just out of reach of her mind. She could only feel. Calm, relaxed, peaceful. It didn’t seem important, at the moment, how she had gotten here or even where “here” was.
The stream appeared to end just up ahead of where she was walking. As she got closer, she realized it was taking a sharp turn to the right. She followed around the turn and saw a wooden footbridge crossing over the water a little further ahead. The footbridge wasn’t new, but it looked very sturdy. Maybe someone took special care of it as she did with her mother’s wood paneling.
She walked part way across the small bridge and decided to sit down. Dangling her legs over the edge of the bridge, Taryn watched the water flow towards her and then pass beneath her. Adventure! The water was having an adventure and so was she. A career, a family, a passion for living and creating a course to follow in her life seemed very far away now, and totally unimportant.
Suddenly, she felt more than alone when she saw a movement off to her right. She turned her head and saw a man walking toward the footbridge from the opposite bank. As he came closer he raised his hand in greeting and said, “Good Afternoon.” Taryn could feel him speaking to her, but it felt like he was speaking directly into her head. She knew it was crazy, but she heard him even though she was not really hearing his voice. She wondered if he was a ghost or spirit. She could see him and feel a presence but he wasn’t real. She thought if she put out her had to shake his that his would pass right through hers. Taryn returned his greeting and began to stand, but he raised his hand again indicating for her to stay seated.
“May I join you for a few minutes?” He asked.
“Yes.” He had nice eyes, smiling eyes, and she felt that he was a gentle man. He was tall and very lean, his skin was pale but his eyes told the story. They were gray in color and looked so deep and endless. She asked, “Are you the owner of this beautiful meadow?”
“No I’m only the caretaker or one who oversees things that occur.”
“I feel like I’m trespassing. Is it okay that I’m here?” Taryn asked concerned.
“Of course, Dear. You are most welcome to be here. Are you enjoying your first adventure?”
Taryn was stunned and sure that her face registered the surprise she felt that he should know about her adventure. She asked, “How did you know why I am here?”
“Well, Dear, I’ve been the caretaker here for an endless amount of time, and I have dubbed this place The Passage.”
“It sounds like the name of a secret place,” she replied.
“Not a secret at all but for select individuals to experience.” He smiled at her to put her at ease.
“I think it will be fun. Am a little nervous as you can see. Do many people come here for an adventure?” She asked.
“Oh, my, yes,” he answered. “Many people have come here for their first adventure. Many people who decide to try a dream adventure have questions and doubts as to whether it’s real. You might say it’s a sort of the training ground for future dream adventures.”
“Have you talked with many of these people?” she asked.
“Yes, that’s my job. I welcome new visitors and make sure they feel comfortable. Some have expressed great anxiety over their visit here and make the choice of not having any more dream adventures.”
“My mother seemed to enjoy hers long ago. She told us such wonderful stories about them. Of course I didn’t find out they were real occurrences until just a few days ago. I always thought she was just a very good storyteller.”
“Did you ever wonder how so many writers could write so many books and articles, and all have a different story to tell?”
Again surprise registered on her face. “You mean some authors really are writing about their adventures?” Taryn asked.
He nodded his head methodically in response to her question.
“Are you saying this place is a starting point for would-be writers?” she continued.
“Not at all. I would describe this place more as a starting point for a creative person to explore and expand their imaginative powers, no matter what their talent. However, don’t limit your thoughts to that idea, for this place is far more than that.”
“My mother was a very creative person in her passion for making clothing. She was a seamstress, but she only produced clothing for me, my sister and herself. And she took great care in creating her sewing room. Is that how she came to visit here?”
“Yes. In one sense. Her creativity had no boundaries. She loved to work with fabrics, textures and colors. However, she placed being a mother and wife above a career, so she never allowed her artistic ideas to reach out into the world of fashion, where, I might add, she could have been very successful. Because she was so very inventive, she extended that ability into creating a perfect room for herself. Her innovative essence was still not satisfied and that’s what led her to discover the dream adventure. Many times I told your mother she should publish her stories so other people could appreciate them. She always said they were only for her children to enjoy. It was her boundaries that caused her to decide that she couldn’t take a chance on becoming a known author. In her mind, that would take her away from her family and home.”
“I’ve thought about publishing some of her stories. But mother was so against the idea, I haven’t dared to do so . . . as of yet.” Taryn smiled back.
“You may do so if you like, for they are now your stories. Your mother gave them to you as she gave you the dream spot to explore if you choose to do so.”
“So you know about that?” Taryn questioned.
“Yes. We keep track of our visitors and their progress.”
“Somehow through that knot hole I got here, but . . . how do I get back?” Taryn questioned as she wrinkled her brow.
“Well, as soon as you have decided your dream adventure is completed you will find yourself comfortably back in your chair in the sewing room.”
“Is it always that quick and easy?” Taryn voiced.
“No, Dear. Not always. Sometimes you’ll find that you’re not finished with your dream adventure, but that you go back anyway.”
“How? Why?” Taryn was confused.
“For any number of reasons. Your body may require a meal, the phone may ring, someone may come to your door, or you may have an appointment to keep.”
“You mean I can never get stuck in an adventure and not return home?”
“You, Dear, will never get stuck anywhere. You will always return home. Your mother always returned. It wouldn’t be considered an adventure if you stayed in it forever. It would create a crisis in your world”. He stood up. “I’ll continue my walk now. Enjoy your adventures.” He smiled and raised his hand in farewell. Taryn curved her lips into a soft closed lipped smile and raised her hand, offering the same gesture. Within moments Taryn heard a distant whirring sound and before she could locate its source, she was leaning back in her chair in the sewing room.
Her first thought was to wonder how long she might have been gone. She checked the light on her answering machine, but there had been no calls. She turned on the TV and flipped to The Weather Channel. It was still the same date and no more than a half hour could have passed. Funny, it seemed like hours must have passed during her adventure.