In The Eifel Uplands

She wakened and looked at the clock on the hotel night stand. Ten a.m. Three in the morning her time, yet she felt rested. Had she overslept? Were the others already on their way? She saw the blinking light on her room phone and took up the receiver and listened to the message. It was from Jacob. “Hey, we’re not gonna push things this morning. I’ve ordered breakfast for you. Call the desk and they’ll deliver it. Take your time. Let’s try to meet downstairs at noon or so and we’ll take it from there.”

At noon she met them in the now bustling lobby where the fire continued to burn. They took a cab four blocks to the Brussels office of Simpson and Slater. The office was the top floor of a fifteen-story building. The windows in the reception room overlooked the city’s skyline and men in white shirts and ties and women in white blouses and black skirts came and went, quietly and orderly ushering waiting clients into the offices beyond.

“Jacob Eaton.” The tall man smiled and stretched out his hand to Jacob. “Long time, my friend. And this must be Rachel. I’m John Cavendish. So pleased to meet you. I hope you’ve dressed for the weather. We’ve got some miles ahead of us and we’ll be in the field in a couple of hours.”

They were not dressed for the weather, but that was soon remedied. At a nearby outfitter they bought wool sweaters, scarves, underwear and insulated pants and jackets, gloves, high boots, and walking sticks and a rucksack. At a coffeehouse Jacob bought quarts of coffee and cocoa, four ripe pears, two baguettes, a red-wax cylinder of Edam cheese, and a bagful of the best Belgian chocolates and stuffed them all into the rucksack.

They left their street clothes with the firm’s receptionist and went upstairs to the roof of the building and boarded a helicopter. In moments they were outside of the city and cruising over hills of winter-bare forests and pastures white with snow. Rachel looked down onto the back of a hawk that soared below them and watched its tiny shadow skim across the white surface beneath. In less than an hour they landed in a field behind a large farmhouse, the blast from the helicopter’s rotor slinging powdered snow in rising and expanding circles.

They sat until the blade rested and then John Cavendish deplaned and helped the others to the ground. A woman was standing at the back gate of the farmhouse and motioned for John to come to her.

The four of them sat in the spacious kitchen where a big pot of potato soup simmered on the stove, the widows were sweated and a fire blazed and crackled in the hearth. John and Janet spoke with the woman in Dutch. The old woman was animated and full of hand gestures. She spoke loud and fast and repeated herself again and again. John and Janet translated for Jacob and Rachel that a big storm was coming and that it would not be safe for them to make the trek to the cave that day. Even as they spoke the sky began to darken. The woman went outside and began closing the shutters. When John and Jacob saw what she was about, they went out and assisted her. By then the wind was whipping along the hills, lifting and scattering sheets of powder like the seeds of some giant sower. Inside she led them to their upstairs rooms, one for each of the four guests, and told them that their dinner would be on the table in an hour.

The woman went outside and began closing the shutters. When John and Jacob saw what she was about, they went out and assisted her. By then the wind was whipping along the hills, lifting and scattering sheets of powder like the seeds of some giant sower. Inside she led them to their upstairs rooms, one for each of the four guests, and told them that their dinner would be on the table in an hour.

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In The Eifel Uplands

She wakened and looked at the clock on the hotel night stand. Ten a.m. Three in the morning her time, yet she felt rested. Had she overslept? Were the others already on their way? She saw the blinking light on her room phone and took up the receiver and listened to the message. It was from Jacob. “Hey, we’re not gonna push things this morning. I’ve ordered breakfast for you. Call the desk and they’ll deliver it. Take your time. Let’s try to meet downstairs at noon or so and we’ll take it from there.”

At noon she met them in the now bustling lobby where the fire continued to burn. They took a cab four blocks to the Brussels office of Simpson and Slater. The office was the top floor of a fifteen-story building. The windows in the reception room overlooked the city’s skyline and men in white shirts and ties and women in white blouses and black skirts came and went, quietly and orderly ushering waiting clients into the offices beyond.

“Jacob Eaton.” The tall man smiled and stretched out his hand to Jacob. “Long time, my friend. And this must be Rachel. I’m John Cavendish. So pleased to meet you. I hope you’ve dressed for the weather. We’ve got some miles ahead of us and we’ll be in the field in a couple of hours.”

They were not dressed for the weather, but that was soon remedied. At a nearby outfitter they bought wool sweaters, scarves, underwear and insulated pants and jackets, gloves, high boots, and walking sticks and a rucksack. At a coffeehouse Jacob bought quarts of coffee and cocoa, four ripe pears, two baguettes, a red-wax cylinder of Edam cheese, and a bagful of the best Belgian chocolates and stuffed them all into the rucksack. They left their street clothes with the firm’s receptionist and went upstairs to the roof of the building and boarded a helicopter.

In moments they were outside of the city and cruising over hills of winter-bare forests and pastures white with snow. Rachel looked down onto the back of a hawk that soared below them and watched its tiny shadow skim across the white surface beneath.

In less than an hour they landed in a field behind a large farmhouse, the helicopter’s rotor slinging powdered snow in rising and expanding circles. They sat until the blade rested and then John Cavendish deplaned and helped the others to the ground. A woman was standing at the back gate of the farmhouse and motioned for John to come to her.

The four of them sat in the spacious kitchen where a big pot of potato soup simmered on the stove, the widows were sweated and a fire blazed and crackled in the hearth. John and Janet spoke with the woman in Dutch. The old woman was animated and full of hand gestures. She spoke loud and fast and repeated herself again and again. John and Janet translated for Jacob and Rachel that a big storm was coming and that it would not be safe for them to make the trek to the cave that day. Even as they spoke the sky began to darken. The woman went outside and began closing the shutters. When John and Jacob saw what she was about, they went out and assisted her.

By then the wind was whipping along the hills, lifting and scattering sheets of powder like the seeds of some giant sower. Inside she led them to their upstairs rooms, one for each of the four guests, and told them that their dinner would be on the table in an hour.

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Morning Poem, Nov. 16, 2018

I watch the wind drive the smoke west from my neighbor’s chimney

Like tongues of fire

And listen to Marvin Gaye sing about getting it on

While I fry my eggs

My yard is covered in the leaves of the maples and oaks

Black with rain

I will get to them soon, I resolve

Next good warm day

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Rachel Arrives in Brussels

As she stepped down the stairway and onto the tarmac she was surprised by the cold and the wind. While she had thought of little else other than the purpose of the journey and the man she would be taking it with, she had given no thought at all to the actual location of her destination. She had never thought of Belgium – to the extent she had ever thought of it at all – as a northern country, but the little walk from the plane to the airport taught her that she was indeed farther north than she had ever been. This wind tasted of the Arctic. Even the midnight stars looked different.

The strange sky, the flat horizon, the north wind, the languages being spoken by the workmen attending the plane.    The ten-foot-high walls of bladed snow along the edges of the runways and the gigantic, orange snowplows and trucks at rest just beyond.  All of it shocking; all of it bringing home to Rachel now the immensity and improbability of it all, this last 48 hours of her till-then quiet life.

She allowed herself to believe it.  That she was here, three thousand miles from home, surrounded by luxury and walking beside a man from whom she had been three thousand emotional miles distant until only a few hours ago.  In this buoyant rush she let herself think that it was all making sense, all of it fitting together.   They would find the cavern and in it they would find the grand stash of art and artifacts of the high Habsburg Empire, half a millennium old.  She would have her share of the spoils and all of her money troubles would disappear.  She would finish the house in the grandest of style, even above that which she had before allowed herself to imagine and, more importantly as of only a few hours ago, as a rich woman she could respond freely to anything that Jacob might propose.  If she had remained on the edge of destitution she could not have sought or even encouraged his attentions.  She would not allow herself to be seen as taking advantage of Jacob’s wealth when she had so cavalierly dismissed him before.  But now they would be equals – or close enough to make any alliance proper and not appear as mercenary on her part.  That was surely where this story was going.  That was the way of Jacob Eaton’s life – to take the current as it served and on to the goal.  Now she was a part of that onrushing stream.

At midnight the vast terminal was nearly empty.  They walked past uniformed security guards but almost all of the airline windows were closed as were the restaurants that lined the endless hallways.  Rachel smiled when she saw the McDonald’s sign.  Halfway to the baggage claim Janet looked up from her phone and informed them that their ride was waiting.   Inside the baggage claim a uniformed man held a sign bearing the name of Jacob’s law firm.  Janet spoke to him in Dutch and he loaded their bags onto a cart and led them to the doors where his limousine idled.

The roads were quiet and in minutes they drove under the marquee at of the hotel Rocco Forte.  Janet took care of check in, speaking again in Dutch to the night clerk.   Jacob and Rachel sat in leather chairs before a fire still burning in the lobby’s tall fireplace.  It was then that Rachel realized how completely she was exhausted.  Neither of them spoke until Janet came and gave each of them a key and told them that their bags were already being delivered.

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Mid-day Post, Nov. 15, 2018


Posted on November 15, 2018by labeak52

It was late April after a long winter.  It seemed to us, young as we were then, that our lives were destined to be lived indoors.  We wore coats and hoods and boots and ran from one building to another in ice and snow.  But on this morning, while the school’s furnaces were still burning, Miss Grey, our librarian, opened one of the windows that faced the woods behind the school.  Then the smell of the opening earth and the new, unfolding leaves crept in.  Our faces lifted from our books and we remembered summer, the life lived in t-shirts and jeans, the free running in the night,the dive into the warm river.

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Arrival in Brussels

The strange sky, the flat horizon, the north wind, the languages being spoken by the workmen attending the plane.    The ten-foot-high walls of bladed snow along the edges of the runways and the gigantic, orange snowplows and trucks at rest just beyond.  All of it shocking; all of it bringing home to Rachel now the immensity and improbability of it all, this last 48 hours of her till-then quiet life.

She allowed herself to believe it.  That she was here, three thousand miles from home, surrounded by luxury and walking beside a man from whom she had been three thousand emotional miles distant until only a few hours ago.  In this buoyant rush she let herself think that it was all making sense, all of it fitting together.   They would find the cavern and in it they would find the grand stash of art and artifacts of the high Habsburg Empire, half a millennium old.  She would have her share of the spoils and all of her money troubles would disappear.  She would finish the house in the grandest of style, even above that which she had before allowed herself to imagine and, more importantly as of only a few hours ago, as a rich woman she could respond freely to anything that Jacob might propose.  If she had remained on the edge of destitution she could not have sought or even encouraged his attentions.  She would not allow herself to be seen as taking advantage of Jacob’s wealth when she had so cavalierly dismissed him before.  But now they would be equals – or close enough to make any alliance proper and not appear as mercenary on her part.  That was surely where this story was going.  That was the way of Jacob Eaton’s life – to take the current as it served and on to the goal.  Now she was a part of that ongoing stream.

At midnight the vast terminal was nearly empty.  They walked past uniformed security guards but almost all of the airline windows were closed as were the restaurants that lined the endless hallways.  Rachel smiled when she saw the McDonald’s sign.  Halfway to the baggage claim Janet looked up from her phone and informed them that their ride was waiting.   Inside the baggage claim a uniformed man held a sign bearing the name of Jacob’s law firm.  Janet spoke to him in Dutch and he loaded their bags onto a cart and led them to the doors where his limousine idled.

The roads were quiet and in minutes they drove under the marquee at of the hotel Rocco Forte.  Janet took care of check in, speaking again in Dutch to the night clerk.   Jacob and Rachel sat in leather chairs before a fire still burning in the lobby’s tall fireplace.  It was then that Rachel realized how completely she was exhausted.  Neither of them spoke until Janet came and gave each of them a key and told them that their bags were already being delivered.

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Rachel Deplanes in Belgium

From the book

As she stepped down the stairway and onto the tarmac she was surprised by the cold and the wind. While she had thought of little else other than the purpose of the journey and the man she would be taking it with, she had given no thought at all to the actual location of her destination.  She had never thought of Belgium – to the extent she had ever thought of it at all – as a northern country, but the little walk from the plane to the airport taught her that she was indeed farther north than she had ever been.  This wind tasted of the Arctic.  Even the midnight stars looked different.

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Mid-day Post, Nov. 15, 2018

It was late April after a long winter.  It seemed to us, young as we were then, that our lives were destined to be lived indoors.  We wore coats and hoods and boots and ran from one building to another in ice and snow.  But on this morning, while the school’s furnaces were still burning, Miss Grey, our librarian, opened one of the windows that faced the woods behind the school.  Then the smell of the opening earth and the new, unfolding leaves crept in.  Our faces lifted from our books and we remembered summer, the life lived in t-shirts and jeans, the free running in the night,the dive into the warm river.

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Morning Poem, Nov. 15, 2018

The tick of the clock

In rhythm with time

The light in the east

Sunrise sublime

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Evening Poem, November 14, 2018

On another grey afternoon

We hide from the cold wind

Here among the scents of woodfire and stew

We think this day is like any other

Until we see them through the window

These strange birds

In a strange formation, soaring

copyright 2018

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