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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A fine edge, a jag

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The maids are long gone who dusted the porcelain and fluffed the down. Bone-white pressed linens on pillows and perpetual shine on mahogany are visions of the past. A few of my grandmother’s things are here on windowsills and in corners, some broken—the Staffordshire cow and calf with a horn missing, a gap in a piece of trim on the Hepplewhite, the lip of the Baccarat decanter chipped, a threadbare velvet ribbon streaming down like a wilted vine from the needlepoint stool where a fine 19th century bustled lady picks flowers in accumulated dust. It is no longer fashionable to be counted among the 1%, though courting fashion has little to do with why we live here on this piece of land, with no hired help, and time-worn buildings.

Here they are, lovely whatsits transported from a fine house, yet belonging in this old farmhouse with us, though I do not love them well enough. In my way, I kiss them all—the crystal arcs on the hip of the decanter, rising like a tide in waves along the sand, one by one. Such a fine edge on each scallop—perfect ellipses, lip upon lip, then the smooth neck, and finally the jag where someone (maybe a servant) banged it on the mouth with the stopper or a glass, and perhaps cognac bled to the floor. I love her, that maidservant, and the lady who yelled at her too.

Somebody loves us all, Elizabeth Bishop said. What a privilege. See how someone planted the trees—to stand, long-necked, perpetually being, shading—and simply and dotingly witnessed.


 Mr. Baccarat decanter with a broken lip seems to watch
the maple sap buckets on the trees
and wonder how much of that elixir has accumulated overnight 






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30 comments:

George said...

A lovely little meditation, Ruth, one which makes me think of both grace and wabi-sabi. Perhaps the reason we are attracted to wabi-sabi is that grace tends to reveal itself unexpectedly in the impermanent, the incomplete, and the imperfect. Missing horns, chipped decanters, threadbare ribbons, jagged edges—these could be chapter titles in almost any person's autobiography.

Maureen said...

Love that fourth image from top.

Your prose is poetry, Ruth.

rosaria said...

There is always a moment of meditation when our hands pass over an object belonging to someone we knew, or knew of, a hint of the past we had, or could have had.

Even simple things, a scarf, a cup, would bring as much back from the past.

The Broad said...

I can really relate to this post. Because I live so far away from where I was brought up there are few objects from the faraway past -- but I have a few that are very precious that I love to run my hand over and wistfully say, 'hello, you are not forgotten'...

Friko said...

Impermanent, imperfect and beautiful, these objects left over from past lives teach us to look and live in the moment.

I have a few items which are precious in their worn and marred presence, reminding me of what was and what will be, regardless of whether I am here to touch them.

hedgewitch said...

Our things do define us, and the desire to own things of beauty is just a slight perversion of the desire for beauty itself. I never curse the idea of affluence, for affluence gives us the space for beauty, and many times, enables art that couldn't come into being elsewise. I like the way your own modern and unique poet's perspective is so much more active than passive in this piece, even when observing, not judging, just being and seeing.

Louise Gallagher said...

In your words memory and place come alive.

In your words beauty meets pain and is healed

and in your words, my heart greets your hearts and says,

I am beautiful in my heart for you.

elizabeth said...

Loved the dusting of snow!

musicwithinyou said...

I love this piece. I treasure the things I have that once belonged to my grandmother. I think it makes us feel like they are still there some how. Love the photo of the snow dusting the ground.

erin said...

you touch me very tenderly when you say you do not love these things well enough. i wonder if we ever love anything/one well enough.

what are these objects but tiny mirrors to the people and the times, the small turnings, the intimations which composed lives before us, and which reflect, in turn, our own lives? we all share a common energy, i think, animate and inanimate.

i like to read you thinking. no, no, i love to read you thinking. i was just saying to james today how much i miss your presence.

i hope you're well.

xo
erin

Ruth said...

George, I really appreciate your word grace because I think that captures what I feel from these old things. It's funny isn't it how we come to accept and even value what has broken in ourselves and our life as time goes on. I love thinking about these characteristics as chapter titles. Thank you so much for your beautiful comment.

Maureen, thank you very much. Glad you like that photo, which I took years ago of the barn.

rosaria, I love that with a little attention we can remember a loved one this way. I did not know my grandmother, so what I feel is a bit different. I do wish I had a scarf or a belt, but I do have some of her spoons which I use on holidays.

Ruth said...

The Broad, that is so precious. Thank you.

Friko, time is an odd mystery to live with. I love when it disappears and I am with grandma Olive, which is strange, as I never knew her. Thanks for your comment and reflections.

Hedge, I so appreciate your perception, always. Have fun in the garden.

Ruth said...

Louise, in your words, I feel beautiful, and healed. Thank you.

elizabeth, yes, it's pretty, isn't it?

musicwithinyou, welcome and thank you for your lovely comment. It's good to know that you treasure the things from your grandmother, which means that you treasure her, I think.

Ruth said...

erin, thank you for your warmth and light this morning, with tenderness. I miss you too. Slow going for a while, which means I don't get around to see you as often as I'd like. I hope this will change soon. xoxo

"Auntie" sezzzzzz... said...

So many layers, in this wee bit of a post. So many layers...

"The only stupid thing about words is the spelling of them." ~Laura Ingalls Wilder

Peter Olson said...

The more I see from your country house and garden, the more I wished I could visit it one day... , but it's probably more likely that we will meet in Paris one day? :-)

Barb said...

Intricate memories from the past - your treasures have formed a bridge to the present. I like seeing your sifting snow, Ruth.

Brendan said...

I remember once hearing E.L Doctorow speak and he said that the writer's responsibility was to "bear witness to a magnitude" -- to be the eyes and ears and voice of the world as it is today, in its recombinant present and past selves. So much of that here. Exquisite.

Arti said...

"Somebody loves us all... What a privilege." Indeed. Too bad I can't read that poem. When I clicked on the link embedded in "said" it said those outside of the US cannot read it due to rights issue. Oh well, I've enough to savor here. How I enjoy all your photos of your blue farmhouse, the ageing wood, the snow silently falling. That's poetry. Thanks Ruth.

Jeanie said...

Oh, yes, how beautifully you express something I oft experience -- the leftovers of the lives before me, treasures about which they cared that as you say, "I do not love them well enough." And yet, I cannot let them go. Some find their spots in spaces of the house I don't see, only to be discovered when digging out something else. Others, yes -- they are there, where I can see and honor.

Honestly, Ruth, your words evoke such mood, such emotion -- and of course the photos, as always, dazzle.

Ruth said...

Auntie, and there are many more I can't see, no doubt. Thanks.

Peter, I would love to greet you here, you would be most welcome. But you may be right. In fact just yesterday Don said "Let's plan Paris for our 35th anniversary next year." !!!! And then we wondered if we might want instead to go somewhere we haven't been, like Spain.

Barb, thanks for reading and for your thoughtful comment. We've had very little snow this winter. We were supposed to get 6-12" last night, and this morning we have maybe 1', with more falling, but only up to 5" expected. Not exactly skiing conditions!

Ruth said...

Brendan, what an elegant quote; I appreciate you for bringing it here to this piece. There is always more to dig for, isn't there? Inexhaustible. And it's as much inside as it is outside. Thanks.

Arti, thank you for your kind words. Sorry about the exclusive link. I have changed it to poemhunter, hope that works. I really love the poem, which is titled "Filling Station." If the link doesn't work, maybe you can find it online.

Jeanie, thank you very much for your generous comment. We've been thinking we should dig out some of our buried treasures to give to our soon-to-be-married son. I wonder if he and his bride would want them.

Reena Walkling said...

Love the snow flurries! Your words are pure poetry Ruth!

shoreacres said...

How this resonates! I've just written of my mother's autograph albums, and how intensely pleasurable it is to spend time with these newly discovered bits of her life.

In the end, it seems to me all of these prized pieces we cling to are about relationship. The album, the decanter, the ribbon, the cow - they help us to stay in relationship with the past and those who have gone before. That's what makes digging up and passing on treasure so deeply satisfying.

Vagabonde said...

I like the picture of your barn in the snow – we are still waiting for snow here. It is nice to have old things around us from family members – we feel the continuity of life. Luckily I brought many objects from Paris when my father passed away – several clocks including a grandfather clock. I can close my eyes and see them in the apartment in Paris – and I am there. Lovely post, Ruth.

Marcie said...

What beautiful images. Love what you wrote about the memories these 'things' carry. Wonderful!

Ginnie said...

To think I'm part of this same heritage...that continues to get passed down and down and down. What will these things look like many years from now, I wonder. Will there be any memories left? Or will they become "legends" unto themselves. I always wonder.

Only one post from you today, this Monday when I come to look. I, too, hope you're okay. I'll see you on Wednesday....

Shari Sunday said...

Beautiful things. Slightly faded and worn. They are where they belong and loved and memorialized in the best way.

Ruth said...

Reena, thank you for your kindness!

Linda, I look forward to catching up with you to see what you have written about your mother's autograph albums. Your riches in writing show how deep meaning can go with these things that pass through our hands.

Vagabonde, it's beautiful that you have things of your father's from Paris. It must have taken a great deal of effort (and resources) to get them to Atlanta, especially that clock. But this makes them even more special.

Boots, just yesterday Peter was here, and sat on the couch that was Grandma Olive's. He began sneezing in an allergic reaction. Don's theory is that the very fabric of the couch must be breaking down, since no matter how much it is vacuumed, it still seems to poof particles into the air. :(

Shari, thank you, I'm glad you understand.

Soul Dipper said...

Is it okay to describe the rising figures while holding the aged object? Do I need to worry about right/wrong? Or do I go ahead and let the pulsating aura present its sensual unfolding of comely characters and vibrant living?

Without a dollop of disrespect, as the visuals dance, I grow courage.