It started at breakfast in the Main Street Café, just down the street in Stockbridge, Mass., from The Red Lion Inn, where my dear friend Judy Kelliher and I are were weekending with Judy’s brother Bill, our host extraordinaire.
We were just brainstorming names for my memoir about my late husband, Ed Godleski, while we waited for our eggs and hash. I have been using a working title of “More Every Day: A Journey of Grief” for over a year, but I wasn’t in love with it; it seemed too heavy, and even though the book is heavy, I wanted a title that offered a glimmer of hope.
I used my napkin and a pen Judy handed me to jot down some words and phrases, like “Following Ed,” “Soulmate,” and “Soulmate strength.” None of them were remotely interesting or appropriate, and the brainstorming effort fizzled out.
But then we started walking, and the process became something else entirely.
We’d crossed down and were doubling back up a hill in a sparsely populated residential area. As we climbed a hill and admired Stockbridge’s beautiful homes, I was stuck on musing about book titles inside my head, and I threw one out as we neared the top of the hill.
“How about ‘Soul Search’?” I asked them.
Two blank faces told me it was not the right name, which I knew, but the question reinvigorated the process, and as we walked and pointed out beautiful homes, we also began to throw out more names and possibilities.
We passed a sign for the National Shrine of the Divine Mercy, and I asked, “How about ‘Divine Interventions?’”
No one mocked this one. Judy’s eyebrows rose, and the look on Bill’s face didn’t immediately say, “No.” We talked animatedly, and then a quick stop back at The Red Lion Inn and a Google search for “Divine Interventions” told us this particular title was taken.
We were across town and walking on a footpath along the Housatonic when we got brainstorming again. I began to think instead of “interventions” about “renovations” and the theme of carpentry. After all, I met Ed when he came to renovate my kitchen in 2002, and that’s when I stumbled on this:
“Divine Renovations: A Carpenter and His Soulmate.” I said it aloud, and it sounded good. I liked the ring of it, and I could see that they did, too. Even Bill. We had the male vote.
We agreed this was it. This was the book’s name, and there was squealing and high-fiving and the repeating of the name over and over.
Filled with the success of it and a general optimism from the 90 minutes of walking we had already done, we headed up to a lookout tower on a nearby hill, telling each other we would stop and turn around if it was too icy. But it was icy, and even though some of us fell and got bruised and battered, we refused to turn around. We were stubborn and determined.
We reached the peak, climbed the tower, oohed and aahhed over the view, and then when we saw a descending trail that was not covered with ice or snow, as it was on the south side of the hill, we figured we’d try to go down the hill that way.
But this trail took us along a summit instead, toward Lee, and we walked and walked and talked, and finally, we gave in and turned around, heading back to the treacherousy-icy path that we knew would be harder to descend than it was to ascend.
There was swearing and some sincere fear as we made our way down the hill, trail blazing through the woods because it was actually safer than the trail itself. We grabbed trees to stop ourselves from careening, and we scooted on our rears when it was imperative.
A full six hours after we set out on our simple walk from The Red Lion, we were back inside its warmth. In the bar, we toasted to our climb and to the naming of the book.
And I thought about how many times life throws us divine renovations. I thought about how many challenges we are forced to accept in life and how many we take on just because we can’t bear to give in and turn around.
I was glad to be in the company of life’s divine renovators, and we toasted to friendship and challenge. And when we awakened the next day, our bodies were bruised, but our spirits were very much intact.