A place. (After a visit with two friends Saturday)
It is the place where my grandparents chose to live, to raise their family, where my grandfather owned and operated a dry goods store and in the 1950’s and 1960’s served as mayor of the town and sheriff of the county. It’s where my grandmother figured large in bridge and garden clubs.
It is the place where my father and uncle grew up.
It is the place where my father chose to relocate our family after years in Atlanta, GA; Four Oaks, NC; and Greenville, SC. It is the place he practiced dentistry and served on the school board. It is the place my brother and I grew up.
It is the place to which I returned, after a decade’s absence after graduation from high school, as a young teacher to teach at the senior and junior high schools there and where I enjoyed participating in various community activities, including (for me at the time) the ironically named Optimist Club.
It is the place where I returned for the burials of my grandfather, my grandmother, my mother, my father. It is the place where my brother died.
It is a place a lot like the place I set my novel.
It is a place with a river boundary to the west and a land mass of fertile coastal plain stretching over a hundred miles to the Atlantic Ocean to the east.
Is it the place to which I will soon return to spend the last years of my life?
A Quaker meditation from John Greenleaf Whittier’s “The Brewing of Soma” :
Drop thy still dews of quietness
Till all our strivings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of thy peace.
Creatures. (On weeding and clearing the fence at the woods)
The earth under the north border, which I cleared except for the over-abundance of irises and one hosta, is filled with earthwords. It is earthworm-rich. The worms are large and active and until recently undisturbed. From under the weeds scuttled beetles, moving so quickly I couldn’t see to describe them. I encountered one slug, a beautiful brown and black-spotted creature that I didn’t touch or move, knowing it would move, well, sluggishly. Plants from the woods and yard had vined themselves thickly on the back chain-link fence. I found the fastest way to clear them was to find the plant and uproot it and then tug and clip at the vines. Good, fun work. And there I encountered one perfect rust-colored daddy long-legs.
Deal Orchard Store. An apple market between Taylorsville and North Wilkesboro, NC. September 28.
The Orchard Store is a large white barn with a large attached shed, the store. Outside is a large parking lot. The yard beyond is filled with large orange and white pumpkins. Inside are bins and bins of apples, bound in plastic in half-peck and peck sizes. The most abundant apples are Gala, Red Delicious, Rome, Fuji, Golden Delicious. In a room in the back one finds other items for sale: apple cider, country cured (salt) hams, corn meal, jams, honey, candy. Business is brisk. A couple runs the cash register, and a young man with red hair and beard stands by to help customers carry purchases to their cars and trucks. The store markets the tastes of fall, yes.
Reading. A Book of Luminous Things: An International Anthology of Poetry, selected and edited by Czeslaw Milosz.
The book was a gift from the Mullen High School English department staff in Denver, CO, in 1999. I had taught English and French there for seven years and served for the last five as the coordinator for the English department. Before last week I had read only selections from the book, mostly the ancient Chinese poetry, which Milosz emphasizes. It was an interesting experience this week to read the entire collection cover-t0-cover. Milosz writes short introductions to each of the thematic chapters and to most of the selections. Thus the reader is guided through the experiences of the poem, a personalized tour by an entertaining, knowledgeable, urbane guide.
It was a pleasure to re-read poems I had long known by Mary Oliver, Theodore Roethke, Emily Dickinson, Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams, James Applewhite, Constantine Cavafy, Walt Whitman. It was a rare privilege to find new poems which I am growing to love by writers I had not read: Joanne Kyger, Rolf Jacobsen, Wislawa Symborska, Francis Pong, Valery Larbaud, Jaan Kaplinski, Tomas Transtromer, Ted Kooser, Al Zolynas, Linda Gregg, Lawrence Raab, and Julaludding Rumi.
Thank you for reading. I will not post a blog next week, October 17. I’ll return with another posting on October 24.