Sunday, February 03, 2013

Where I'm From


Molly, who posted a wonderful piece about where she was from, suggested at the end of her post that some of us give it a whirl. There is a template if you want to try it, too. It's fun to see what comes to mind at the prompts.


Where I'm from.
I am from the depths of the round, gold mirror that hung over the fireplace mantle, reflecting my first homecoming, from the unremitting ticking of the Seth Thomas clock that bonged on the hour, and from the voices and faces that morphed slowly into mother, father, brother, sisters.

I am from the beamed and shuttered farmhouse whose walls hugged me close and kept me safe, from the giant maple that leaned over the road and the locusts that dropped their sticky yellow catkins on the broad lawn; from apple trees bent low for climbing, from stone walls where snakes lazed in the summer sun, from stream and pond and open meadows, and woods that begged to be explored. I am from a place of gentle blue hills and lazy river valleys and small dairy farms, a place of Yankee ingenuity and rock-ribbed landscapes.

I am from shy purple violets, delicate lily of the valley, milkweed and chicory and Queen Anne's lace, giant mullein and sugar maples, tall hollyhocks leaning against the side of the barn; from golden roadside grasses and the sunlit ripples of the brook that bent around the yard like an elbow; from the wild blackberries and raspberries that grew in a tangle and scratched the unheeding hand; from the deep rich loam that fed the lettuces and carrots and round, red tomatoes; from the small ring of fairy flowers that grew beneath a slender birch.

I am from songs sung to make work less arduous and feet that danced when chores were finished; from a distant Native American woman of the Anishinabe tribe, from French explorers and settlers with names like Desrochers and Brien and Guertin; from the Dutch Longstreets and the English Clarkes; from the Bird Clan and the Hoof Clan, from Parisian huggers and kissers, and from cool, remote aristocrats.

I am from the lovers of sweets and the corpulent, from engineers and artists and explorers, from students of history and teachers of science, from Civil War generals, and shopkeepers. 

From Yankee thrift, from"a stitch in time saves nine" and "pretty is as pretty does." From "waste not, want not" and "make do or do without." From "never look a gift horse in the mouth," and "always wear clean underwear in case you are hit by a bus." From ocean goers and river-crossers, from survivors of two World Wars and a Great Depression.

I come from rosary beads, sacred Sunday mornings, and black robed men and women who preached one thing and practiced another, whose meanness was covered by a thin veneer of charity, who drove me, finally, to seek a kinder, clearer way. And I am from Native American stock, from those who respected the land and conversed with the spirits. 

I'm from far away places across the sea - France, England, the Netherlands. I am from remote Canadian settlements and bustling Canadian cities. I am from the New World - dense woodlands and wide-open plains, New York City and the Massachusetts mill town of Holyoke, and of the rural Berkshire Hills. 


I'm from tourtieres (meat pies) and fruit pies with crusts made in heaven, from homemade chocolates and handmade lollipops. I'm from real butter and fresh eggs and whipped cream, corn on the cob and Boston Baked Beans, maple syrup and hot hasty pudding.

From the grandmother who came down from a north central Canadian farm to work in the silk mills at the age of 14 and who spent her first week's salary on a hat so large you had to peer under the brim to catch a glimpse of her face; from the grandfather who was part carpenter, part artist, part photographer, part magician; from a third cousin named Longstreet who, in the 1800s, commanded the Southern Army at the battle of Gettysburg.

I am from the old black and white photos of my childhood farm, of a slow pony named Blaze and a female cat named Roger. I am from a blue plaster bunny that appeared in my Easter basket every year for as long as I can remember; from the green china teapot my mother used every day; from the blue Columbia bicycle I helped to buy for myself with chore money. I am from the colored photos of cousins as teenagers, of weddings and the next generation dressed in old family christening gowns. I am scarlet sunsets over blue mountains, the hiss and tumble of coastal waves, the yellow corn pollen dust in August. I am birdsong and raindrops and star-bright nights. 

I am from the dust under my feet and the air that I breathe. I am from beauty and sorrow. I am.

14 comments:

Brian Miller said...

absolutely love this excercise...and your creativity with it...the depths of the mirror hooked me straight away...the songs sung....yes me too...and the dust of the feet...that i can def relate...this says much of you thought...very cool...

Tabor said...

One of the first exercises I did was this one on blogger. I should re-visit it with an eye to making it more complete. Yours was nicely full.

Judith said...

One reads this, and one knows you.
I prefer my poetry in prose form, and this is one of the most beautiful poems I've read in a long long time.

Friko said...

If I could do half as well as you I’d think I’d done it justice. I must and will have a go myself; this is a wonderful exercise to delve into the past in all sorts of ways.

I am so glad you came to me, making me come to you. This is a piece which I will remember as one of the best I have ever read in blogland.

Hilary said...

I agree with Friko. I've read many versions of this "template" but none as beautiful as this.

Molly said...

So sorry I haven't been by sooner! A small matter of the birth of a new little grand daughter! This is absolutely beautiful! You could flesh it out to make an entire book. Well done---it's so nice to know more of where you're "from!"

Joanna Jenkins said...

This is so beautiful-- really priceless writing.

Well done.
jj

Pauline said...

Brian - I still have that mirror, and I'm still in its reflected depths.

Tabor, I'd love to read it when you do.

Thank you, J :)

Friko - I hope you do. It will make marvelous reading! I'm glad we got to know each other, too!

Hilary - I loved Rise's take. Hers was truly poetic. (Check Molly's sidebar for her sister's take on this template.)

Congratulations Molly! Such delightful news! And thanks for the link to the template. I enjoyed this.

Thanks, JJ :)

ganching said...

Really lovely.

Pauline said...

Thank you so much ganching

Marion said...

Oh my gosh. This is unbelievably creative wordsmithing. You are a master, Pauline, I loved this. Thank you. xx

Ali Honey said...

I loved reading your story. Thanks for sharing.

Kerry said...

What a gorgeous piece of prose, Pauline. How I respect you for your writing.

Pauline said...

Thanks, Marion - glad you are back in the blogging mode!

Ali - so glad you came to read and comment :)

Thank, Kerry. That's a nice compliment from one whose writing I admire.