Sitting on the old front porch swing, Julianne waits for the arrival of the unfamiliar, for the seventy-year-old-woman who gave her life. Gently pushing the toes of her left foot against the floor in rhythm with the suspended motion, Julianne is struck with the profound comfort of her own immobility. In the midst of the constant procession of life, I wait here, she thought. Had always waited, it seemed to her now, while her environment ripened around her, touching her, sustaining her, as the patterns of living changed routinely, yet predictably, through the years. Continue reading The Family
Crockett rode up one morning wanting to know if I’d be interested in doing some exploring, a little surveying in the territory northwest, almost halfway to the Mississippi, and thought I might want to look around there, perhaps laying claim to a homestead for myself. I had been splitting logs close to the boat’s mooring when he rode up behind me. Everyone else was over at the Wilkes place. I was glad it had worked out that way. Continue reading Choices: Chapter 4
We got married on June 30, 1820, on a Friday evening at the Wilkes’ house. The preacher came down from Pitts Burg Landing to perform the ceremony. He was a Baptist, quite young, a red-faced Scotch-Irish fellow, another Wilkes’ relative. Danny was not a religious man, as far as I knew. The subject never came up. I had been baptized at Christ’s Church in Montreal, but had never taken to the church life myself, having found it to be an inconvenience, as had my parents. Mana and her family, on the other hand, were Baptists. Mrs. Wilkes belonged to The Primitive Baptist Church, but Mana must have taken after her father in that respect, for Homer rarely attended services. Mrs. Wilkes spent a lot of time excusing their absences. Continue reading Choices: Chapter 3
Way back there in birthing bed
alone again she’d weep.
Year after year, new flesh, new bone,
pushed out like temporal teeth.
Ripped from its sockets by the roots,
life gasped and screamed for air,
then quieted down in perfect peace
to rich maternal fare.
Grandmother soil, warm and fertile,
the perfect garden spot.
She was Eve in efflorescence:
Black-eyed Susans, Blazing Stars,
Snow-drops, Spring Beauties,
Ragweed and Clover.
She was Eden, perennially pregnant.
Wildflowers, we speckle the landscape,
earth’s laughter, we nourish and flavor the land.
Spawned one by one in darkened rooms,
loosed as fledglings from cradling hands:
we explore, we discover,
we dance, we sing,
Because you are
I’m fully conscious of unconditional love.
Because you are, I know the texture
of being the center of.
Your awareness of my being,
is not shared by anyone,
not by mother, sisters, father, brother,
not by husband, not by sons.
A daughter’s love, unique and pure,
cares as no one can.
As I am, you are.
as you are, I am.
She sat, reflected.
Locks of silver trembled in fingers reluctant,
The brush stroked indulgently,
One hundred times.
She sat, reflected.
Strands of silver shimmered in attraction,
Crowning highlights bristled in ritual.
Hair, alive and crackling, flew,
She arose, retreated,
Locks of silver tightly braided, pinned down,
Hair, alive and crackling,
When my husband was a little boy, according to court documents, his mother, a widow, left him and his sister in the care of “vicious and immoral people, without proper food or sanitation.” Due to her neglect, the county removed her youngest two children—my husband and his sister—from the residence and she lost all parental rights. The older daughter, thirteen-years-old and pregnant, was sent to a state school for girls, where her baby was born and placed for adoption. An older son, age sixteen, joined the army. My husband and his sister were ultimately separated from each other. When he was two and a half and she was five, they were adopted by different families. They never saw their mother again. Continue reading Women and Children in Need
On a Texas August day
Back in 1948,
Daddy took me for a ride.
How well I do remember there was no interstate,
Just a dusty county road,
One car wide.
Riding in the front seat,
All the windows down,
I sang along with the radio.
As the wind blew the music and the sweet gum scent around,
Daddy whistled softly,
Sweet and low.
On the banks of Running Creek,
We stopped by the bridge,
Free as the music and the wind.
Bending and swaying, we bowed to the breeze,
And Daddy took me gently
By the hand.
On the banks of Running Creek.
Me and Daddy danced,
In the middle of the dust and heat.
The woods gathered round us, ancient guardian trees,
And rustled with the rhythm
Of our feet.
Alex Haley’s book, Roots, first sparked my interest in the study of family history. It fostered an acute awareness in me of the strength, the pure willpower of each of our fore-bearers, to survive. The legacy we all share, regardless of our biological beginnings, is that we are all descendants of survivors—generation after generation of survivors. That book gave me a better understanding of the miracle that each one—in his or her own place and time—survived at least long enough to produce what would become us! You know, that is an astounding thing when you think about it. Continue reading Roots, Trees, Facts, and Fiction
E. M. Forster, the English novelist, short story writer, and essayist whose work was one of my earliest inspirations, remains one of my favorite English authors. Forster’s creed of life can be summed up in two words, “only connect”, taken from the epigraph to his novel, Howard’s End.
The first of Edward Morris Forster’s work I read was his essay, What I Believe, and his words had a very personal affect on me. It seemed as though I had met a new friend with whom I shared a “secret understanding” and felt reassured about my own beliefs. Continue reading The Spirit of Poetry