Ch. 1 Scars of Flesh and Soul pt. 2
With only my loyal red mastiff and rifle for company, I wandered many weeks without thought of so much as shelter or direction. On through the summer we hunted and survived by living off the land. Much as possible I avoided the townships and hamlets of men, for my mind yet floundered in a well of self-pity. Knowing the guilt I endured would be apparent in my gaze, I could find no desire for the companionship of others.
Still, as the days rolled on, the loneliness suffered by Anne’s loss did finally begin to change. Slowly transforming into a sense of utter isolation, this state, of being alone and responsible for no other than myself, was something I could endure. As it will sometimes happen when a man is bereft of what he adores, he will struggle to find something to replace that which he has lost. But for me, all that once brought pleasure was receding into memory and starting to fade. By suppressing those memories of family life, they eventually became nothing more than swirling motes of dust seeking a ray of sunlight in the dark void of my heart.
It is nature’s way that when a man thirsts he will drink and when he is cold, he will seek to find warmth. Perhaps it is also true that time is a healer, for when the first cooling breath of autumn found the mastiff and I in the foothills of the Margeride, not far from the banks of the River Truyere, I undertook the construction of a cabin in the woods. The dwelling we built was a simple abode with a single room, but for two destitute wanderers it was home.
Unlike most men I have known, the benefits of having a wife were more for me than just the obvious. The presence of a mate helps to insure we are not made to delve too deeply into those solitary places where the soul resides. For it is there that is hung a dark and sinister veil across that inner realm. It is a drapery of fear, but a drapery a man must face and penetrate before he can discover what truly lies inside him.
Throughout that first winter our existence was harsh and spare. Without Anne to guide and distract me, I spent much of my time confronting that inner darkness and my sanity became a tenuous thing. Realizing in a moment of clarity that I could not continue in my current state, I remembered Anne often proposed that salvation lay in forgiveness. Attempting this, I did discover a means by which I could tolerate myself. It was not from the church however, nor even from my blessed Anne that I sought this absolution. Believing their blessing useless and knowing forgiveness was nothing Anne would ever withhold, I realized it was a forgiveness of self that was needed. By accepting possession of those frailties that defined me as a man, I could continue without the burden of guilt.
In many ways during that cold entombment, I did reconcile the man I once was with the person I was becoming. And so it was that when spring arrived in the Gévaudan, I emerged from hibernation lighter of spirit and willing to reenter the world. After a season of brooding in the silence of inner realms, I was determined to salvage what I could of my existence.
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