Saturday, April 11, 2009

i saw a modest dream, the kind that can't speak up

There is a story to tell, though it hasn't found its way through me yet. It hasn't formed the words clearly enough. They are still unfolding and forming into cohesive groups as I type. I work in phases like my father - life becoming a series of desperate love affairs quickly burning down the wicks that bore them until there is no more fuel. Maybe that's all this is too, a thing to keep me warm at night, an exciting idea whose end is deliciously unknown. Or worse perhaps, this is my True North.

I am a product of a swarm of things, but as my dad reminded me the other day, "I guess you can't take the country out of the girl." Part of me cringes and withdraws from those words, the part that still lusts after a tiny, 1000 flight walk-up in Manhattan, the bustle, the peace-like-waves of hurried traffic, the need for human life tucked closely around me. And yet time and time again, no matter what my heart is most currently fixed on, I arrive at the question: Why are my loves and inclinations unprofitable desires? Ah, the prompt.

[and as I proof what's written so far, I can see a difference in my headspace, that I like very much]

Let me tell you about the limbs that grew before me. My mother. One of my earliest memories is picking peaches with her before I tortured the tree with my need to climb it, and it died and rotted. Making cobbler in the kitchen with brown perpendicular linoleum rectangles and her hair, curly. She would spend what seemed like days in her gardens, always in that lavender terry-cloth get-up, shorts and tube top connected, slender work gloves and sun visor. In those memories her hair is also curly. Her bounty would be bright roses and okra, bell peppers, tomatoes, summer squash. Cooking the harvest promoted such blissful Southern staples as fried green tomatoes and fried squash, and fried okra for that matter. And when it wasn't gardening season I would still watch her move in the kitchen. No matter how many hours in the week she worked, dinner was always relatively homemade. As I got older she developed an affinity for figs, and soon we had numerous fruit bearing trees growing along the chimney side of the house. She made preserves, although I can't recall this being an intensive process, so there may not have been bundles of them. Nevertheless, this was very normal in my existence, not critical or praised like faith from the stem or from the hands, but performed like rituals with great reverence and joy.

My late great aunt, Mom's side. Influenced by The Depression, she developed a need to horde, cultivate and feed. Another dated memory is being put in a highchair hooked to a diner table in her self-named restaurant. She manned the register and the kitchen simultaneously, along with several acres of row gardens heavy with everything: grapevines, cherry trees, vegetable plants, nuts, fruits, leafy greens, etc., etc. And canning was an event, a near daily event. I still have jars in my pantry waiting for the right rainy day to make peach pie with her filling, and green beans that rival anything store bought. She did it all even until the end. After a partially paralyzing stroke the walker accompanied her garden work, and the kitchen was never empty of something earthy and quaint in its conception, but radiantly and perfectly full of Home. She served humanity from the ground and from humble hands.

These are the only ones that I know or have known. I hear that my mom's mom was quite thrifty as well, and my dad's mom had the chickens that I want now. Maybe he's right. Maybe some things are so vital to a person's make up that they can't be denied. This somehow seems to edge up awfully close to a vast pondering of the meaning of life. My "mother in law" asked if I expected the economy to get bad enough to warrant all of this simplifying, which caused to me to look at my motives. The economy was never behind it. I answered that part quickly and with ease. That explanation is a part of the story that hasn't quite formulated. There is something crucial feeling in watching a seed grow or kneading dough that will become the foundation of sandwiches, and in knowing that if all the world fell down around us, I would, in some small capacity, be able. And besides, it's in my blood. This, whatever it is becoming, feels like faith and purpose, like joy.

1 comment:

indiana.girl said...

Beautifully put. There *is* something crucial in it, something inherently tied to identy. I've been feeling like I've stepped more into my identity as a woman as I put my hands in the soil and look with pride at what I've accomplished. It was an unexpected feeling.