“This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.”
This is the memory verse for my church for the month of February, and, for once, I am not mourning my lack of memory.
I don’t have the verse memorized, but I know and remember enough to be able to find it again and again. In the last three weeks, I have gone back and read this chapter several times, have run my fingers along the words, as though I was reading Braille. I have done a tiny amount of research on the prophet Ezekiel, have written a poem based on this verse.
And now, as I sit here in my recliner and think once more about this verse, I see the final knitting threads that will tie together Polishing the Bones, my former Pear Tree House.
I had decided on my new title a while ago; I liked the metaphor that my main character was constantly pulling bones out of the closet (the metaphorical skeleton in the closet) and polishing them to make them look better. As though in the process she could make her past look a little nicer, be reconciled a little more to her choices in her past.
But she can’t. No matter how much wax and shine she uses, no matter how hard she rubs her cloth in circles against the vortex of the bones, she can not reconcile herself to what she has done, to what her cousin has done.
No, the novel is not about sexual abuse.
But it is about choices and how those choices will have long ranging effects that no one can predict.
Yesterday’s sermon (let’s see how much I can remember, and I really did pay attention) was about how God took Ezekiel to a valley or a field of bones (sorry, I can’t remember the topography) and told Ezekiel how He (God), had the power to bring life back into the bones. And in doing so, God had the power to bring Israel back to Jerusalem and back to Him.
My pastor described how the bones were likely the remains of a military massacre and that the dead, after being stripped of any and all possessions, had been left to rot as both a celebration of victory for the victors and a reminder or a threat to the defeated. Ezekiel was a Levite, a holy man in the ancient Biblical times, and he would have not been allowed to touch dead bodies. In doing so, he would have been declared unclean.
However, God took Ezekiel through this literal wasteland which meant that Ezekiel was becoming unclean. But in this action, he was also giving glory to God because Ezekiel started to prophesy, just as God commanded, and the bones started to rattle as they moved closer together, as though they were being knitted together.
Now, I watch The Walking Dead, and I am not thinking that this was some early zombie apocalypse. I want to take the Bible literally and can’t help but wonder if God stopped the bone reanimation at this point, just enough bone rattling to get Ezekiel’s attention and make him believe just a little more.
Although, from what I can tell (and I’m likely wrong), God didn’t need Ezekiel’s attention. God wanted Israel’s attention.
Regardless, yesterday, as I sat in church and listened to my fabulous paster talk about Ezekiel and this field of bones, I could feel that urge to write, to go back and just once more start the over-hauling process on The Pear Tree House/Polishing the Bones.
I have set it on the literary back-burner for the last couple of years, became worn out with the travels and travails of Beth Grayson and her stupid father and the wonderful Anderson sisters. I didn’t really care anymore about Beth and her husband Michael.
But, yesterday, I thought about this verse, thought about Beth polishing the bones. Thought about what it means to be re-made and re-created and re-animated. And I felt it, this tugging, this thematic approach to the novel that it has been missing for a long time, missing since I first started writing it.
The first draft, written nearly ten years ago, was nothing more than a National Novel Writing Month attempt. And I did it and I’m proud that I did it.
Then, it started going through regeneration and editing and revising. And the characters changed. Antagonists completely disappeared. Beth’s age changed. New plot lines were created. Marriages that had ended were reconstructed.
And now, I’m sitting here, once more, staring at my computer with my literal eyes while my mind’s eye is somewhere in Bedford, just south of Peaks of Otter, looking up a hill where a house sits, the original inspiration for the Pear Tree House.
The muse is singing my name. I know that it’s only a matter of time, hours…days…weeks…before I will finally submit and start re-drafting. Because I think that I need to redraft the novel one last time. Maybe not completely start over at square one. Maybe start at square ten. I’m not certain.
I think I’m going to put it back in the alternating time line. I don’t know.
I do know that I’m keeping the major points. But I’m going to tease out the thread a little more. This idea of reconstructing one’s self after all these years. Because that is what Beth has never done.
I wrote a novel about reconciliation. I didn’t write a novel about reconstruction. But I’m ready to stand at my field of bones and blow at least one more time.
Really hard, feel the bones knock against one another…
Come to life one more time.