I am in my space, please do not talk to me. In June 1998, I attended a weekend workshop called Solstice Retreat. Each of us attendees was given a piece of red yarn. We were to lay it out when we were writing and did not want to be interrupted. Since one of the instructors was a poet, and the other non-fiction, images were used to springboard our writing. I adore imagery. Diana recently brought memories through images of grandparents, and Jackie uses memory and images of farms and animals quite often.
On a hot and sunny afternoon among the boulders and cactus at Picture Rocks west of Tucson, and using the tools given for a quiet writing morning, I laid my piece of red yarn across the top of my notebook. I took a deep breath and went back to a memory of when I was nine. One can write a piece using several memories formed into one tidy ball of yarn. All to be valid.
I stood on the wooden porch, stomping my booted feet. The fire from within steamed the door window pane and caught the colors of the stained-glass border. I drew a kitty with a happy face and long fluffy tail on the glass. Grandma opened the door, rushing me in so the late afternoon cold January wouldn’t invade her warm family room. I kicked off my rubber boots and the snow and mud immediately began sliding into puddles on the newspapers. I tossed off my wooly gloves and Grandma shuffled me in front of the warm stove.
A bucket of wood with a few lumps of coal sat in the corner next to the recently vacated chair. Grandpa, whom we called Pop, usually sat there stoking the fire, keeping the door open against Grandma’s wishes. He liked to flick his cigarette ashes into the stove. A habit Grandma tolerated. His stale smell of whiskey hung in the air and mingled with the ashy mustiness of the black coals. This habit she quietly fought.
My hands warmed and I rubbed my sock toe over small burnt craters sprinkled across the linoleum. I smiled hearing Grandma say, “Lee, now you keep that door shut or you’ll burn the house down.” Twice Grandma had come downstairs in the middle of the night to find bits of clunky ash smoldering on the floor while Pop dozed with his head bent over on his chest. She’d give him a swift kick with her small foot and help him to bed.
Each time I came to my grandma’s and stood before that stove, I would count the new little craters that tattooed themselves into the worn linoleum floor.
Sometime after Pop died, the stove was replaced with a floor furnace, and a new carpet was laid. Grandma was so humbly proud. Yet, each time I looked, the corner seemed so large and empty and not quite as comforting, or interesting knowing a threat or thrill no longer lingered in the evening shadows.
Her house still stands. When she died in 1982, her house was left to her three daughters and one son. All had long been settled in their own homes and properties, yet Grandma’s home would be kept in the family. An older cousin, a granddaughter, did want the two-story house and lives in it still to this day. The original colored beveled glass remains on the doors and over the picture windows, and the kitchen and downstairs bathroom remodeled along with minor upkeeps and major when needed. The gingerbread facia in all the peaks of the roof has been carefully redone and beautifully in place. Wild blackberries and raspberries still climb and produce lush berries and her favorite daffodils still come forth each spring. I am always looking in a corner, climbing the stairs, or picking and plodding in her garden. In my heart and mind’s eye, these images continue to bloom and produce whenever I choose.
Images are like a salve for writing.
…to perceive the extraordinary within the ordinary by changing not the world but the eyes that look.” Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World.