In Chapter 3 of The Lost Codex, our heroine, Katherine, must begin to untangle the threads of her tumultuous past.
She would prefer to take the timeline of her life–and her relationships–and “… lay them out neatly in her mind like a strand of pearls, each one leading in natural, logical succession to the next…
“…but no. Her relationships were not that simple. And she was far too close to see where the damage began.”
Throughout the novel, Katherine struggles against any sort of reflection or self-examination. She doesn’t want to look. She doesn’t want to unthread those pearls. She has strung together a life that races forward and never looks back.
She strives forward and upward, always with her eyes on the prize. Her shopkeeper and confidant, Eugene, describes her like this:
Pound for pound, she’s tougher than any man I know. She’s driven in ways I never see in other women, and seldom see in other men. So many times I’ve watched her point a long, red fingernail in someone’s direction, and stare straight through their skin. Still, I wonder what she is holding back with that great force of energy that swirls constantly around her?
As the novel progresses, however, Katherine cannot stay safe from herself. She cannot escape the consequences of her past.
Like all of us, I suppose, we travel in circles until we find the way out. And the only way out is through.
Nobel Laureate, Nelly Sachs, wrote:
But perhaps God needs the longing,
wherever else it should dwell,
Which with kisses and tears and sighs
fills mysterious spaces of air –
And perhaps is invisible soil from which
roots of stars grow and swell…
I understand this longing. Unlike Katherine, I find myself compelled to understand what E.E. Cummings calls “the root of the root.”
This reminds of the time I was in Egypt and had hiked to the top of Mt. Sinai on a personal pilgrimage. Bedouins sell coffee, hot cocoa and chocolate bars along the route to top.
They also sell “thunder rocks” to tourists wanting to take a treasure from the mountain where Moses received the 10 Commandments.
These rocks, rather plain on the outside, once broken on half, reveal beautiful crystals on the inside. I was first in line, of course. And I purchased my treasured stones at the top of Mt. Sinai, after I’d watch the sunrise with 20 or so other pilgrims, and before I headed back down the mountain.
Back at St. Catherine’s, the oldest continuously inhabited monastery in the world…the street was abuzz with vendors and camels and kids, all selling trinkets, postcards, key chains, chocolate bars and…wait for it…rocks.
Here is an excerpt from my memoir, Lost & Found in Egypt: A Most Unlikely Journey Through the Shifting Sands of Love and Loss:
It is in my nature to contemplate rocks and sunrises and people. To scrape at the surface of things.
If a rock, broken in half, could reveal beauty, couldn’t it reveal wisdom? Couldn’t it whisper into my ear: Beautiful and ugly co-exist in the same spaces, in the same moments. Bad things happen to good people. Life is more than it appears. Grief is lovely. Grace is everywhere. Couldn’t it tell me that somewhere, broken into pieces, there was something beautiful inside of me?
I think of the grapevines growing in the rocky soil of Burgundy, France. Too sweet the soil, and the grapes become a plain and simple fruit. It’s the struggle that gives them their complexity; the journey gives them their character. Wasn’t the same true for me? Or was I just a dreamer, who purchased her rocks at the top?
Here’s a sneak preview from my next blog installment, coming soon:
Such things could be risked by a queen who was also an Amazon and an artist in love, since what she did was right because she did it; and not by a patriotic citizeness whose dignity was determined by the judgement of her fellow citizens.
~Emil Ludwig, on Cleopatra and Octavia