White Wolf on Wyoming Avenue

outdoor living roomA terror-inducing darling of a storm blew through Nashville last night. As I sat in what I like to call my “outdoor living room” (carport-turned-porch) with my November issue of Gourmet and as a calm instrumental played, I commenced to enjoy one of the last warm evenings of the season. The rainfall soon began with a gentle patter on the dead leaves that covered the ground. Just a lovely addition to my soundtrack, I thought. Then the rain decided to come in sideways. This annoyed me greatly and I resolutely hunched my shoulders against it. You will not force me inside, I muttered under my breath in the face of the horizontal shower. The pesky little drops persisted, became much larger than little, and within moments my magazine and I were drenched. I ran for the back door, which I could barely pull closed for the gale-force wind. I felt a good deal like Dorothy when she struggled to pull the storm door shut in those dark beginning frames of The Wizard of Oz.

All of this to say, along with the rain came some dreadful cold. The dreadful kind is my favorite. It must be the staunch, stubborn Swedish blood that runs in my veins. I dressed accordingly as I got ready for my jog this evening and pulled my green woolen hat as far down over my ears as possible. The jog itself is of almost no consequence but the return home in the dark, starry night — quite strange and wonderful.

There’s a song called “Dirty Knife” from Neko Case’s newest record, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood. It played on my iPod as I struggled to put one foot in front of the other, breathed the sharp, cold air deep into my chest and rounded the corner of Wyoming Avenue. This song has a macabre tone, haunting chords, and tells a story that one might not instantly understand and, furthermore, might not want to. (Turns out it’s based on a story she heard from her grandmother as a girl about some of their ancestors who went insane, but it sounds oh-so-much more marvelously murderous than that.)

I came to the intersection at 44th and passed the place where the neighborhood Cat Lady lives. In the warm summer months, when one passes this house, one can smell…cats. Lots of cats. Tonight there were three huddled on the hood of the packed-with-trash pick-up that sits in the drive, four in shadow underneath it, and one beside the mailbox, trying desperately to derive some heat from the wooden post. Poor delusional cat. The very moment I passed the house (and the excessive number of felines), the following lyric floated through my earbuds: Cascading letters pool on the stairs / The grass is high, the cats are wild / You can’t even touch the tip of their tails / And the blood runs crazy with giant strides.

wolfNot even a block further in the dim street, closer to 43rd, there was a white shape in the middle of the road, lit from above with an eerie orange glow coming from the only functioning street lamp. As I came closer I noticed it was a creamy white dog (which looked a terrible lot like a wolf), lying low but eyeing me carefully. I was only slightly spooked, until the moment I came up on him and heard the following lyric: He sang nursery rhymes to paralyze the wolves that eddy out the corner of his eyes / But they squared him frozen where he stood in the glow of the furniture piled high for firewood / And the blood runs crazy with giant strides.

Does this happen to anyone else? Is anyone else served these little slices of happenstance? And are they really just happenstance? My thinking is that it’s one more area in our earthly existence where God can sneak in some magic. To me, it’s another sign, a more innovative one, that He concerns Himself with things that may seem trivial, unimportant or unholy to his children. Tonight in the dark street as I stood and watched that white animal (from a distance) I knew that Someone was paying attention and smiling knowingly. I did a double-take and exclaimed in my heart, “Did you see/hear that??” Of course He did. He created that thirty-second episode just for me. He is with us, in everything. Everything. In a world so bedraggled with general unrest, does He really care about providing us with these small trinkets of enchantment?

I say, as my breath forms a white vapor in the cold, Oh yes. He does.

Here are the lyrics in their entirety, but please promise me that you’ll head to iTunes and search for a snippet of the audio. Her voice is such an important part of the story.

neko case So suddenly the madness came
With its whiskered, wolven, ether pangs
He locked the door
And shut the blinds
He laid down on the floor and he slept like iron
While the dirty knife worked deep
Into his spine
The blood runs crazy
The blood runs crazy

Cascading letters pool on the stairs
The grass is high, the cats are wild
You can’t even touch the tip of their tails
And the blood runs crazy with giant strides

He sang nursery rhymes to paralyze
The wolves that eddy out the corner of his eyes
But they squared him frozen where he stood
In the glow of the furniture piled high for firewood
And the blood runs crazy with giant strides

And the woodsman failed to breech those fangs in time
So they dragged him through the underbrush
Wearing three winter coats and a dirty knife

(Ukranian) Krichit shaleno, strekoche zubami
(He shouts very loudly, grinding his teeth)