December

It is the opening day of December and it feels like I’ve stepped into a distilled version of the world. Nothing is left of the trees in the pasture but their bare bones. The light melts away at the end of the day, closing me in tighter and tighter. The slanting sunlight runs up the bark of the walnut tree in long stripes just before leaving for good.   The distilled bony forest is the best for exploring. Hidden treasures appear, mostly in the form of lichens, peculiarly twisted limbs, earthbound leaves that look like wood carvings of themselves. Just …

Our Angel

  In my mind, bringing my second baby home from the hospital and meeting Ophelia for the first time have merged into the same event.  Thirty one years ago Mrs. Ophelia Alexander entered my life when I called her about helping me with my children.   But really,  I have the odd sense that she was sent to us by some act of divine intervention.   My son, the baby thirty one years ago, said it was as though “we won some cosmic lottery”. Ophelia Lytle Alexander died this past week, on the same day that my baby granddaughter took …

Reentry

I  just woke up in my own bed for the first time in a month . Yesterday morning, up at 3 a.m., I drove through the French countryside, village after village, on the slowest route I could find to the airport. The spectacular full moon hovered all the way.  I noticed a while back that if I drove in the country with my windows down I could hear cricket sounds the whole time. This morning in North Carolina, I drove to the grocery near dawn so I could have milk for my coffee.  Over and over I have forgotten I’m …

The Big Barn

It is time to turn my attention to my 1949 barn or watch it crumble to dust. I’m starting with a new roof. The last one was installed 67 years ago. It doesn’t leak yet, but, it soon will, and I have an itch to set things right. The barn has called me down into the pasture many times in the last few weeks. There was junk to be discarded and damage to be assessed. I drove five truckloads to the recycling center, and uncovered some buried treasure… well, my idea of buried treasure: a door to replace an ill-fitting …

The Bradford Store

For ten years I have lived my idea of a fairy tale existence. It ignored the obvious— the world spinning by at 60 miles an hour, and focused instead on life turned inward on our family farm. The Farm is a term that can refer to my old homestead, or to the working farm and home that belongs to my brother and sister-in-law, Grier and Kim, or to the historic totality. Our little compound is bisected by a busy highway that was a dirt road before the Depression. As most of the farmland around us has been ceded to other …

The Mattress

  Four months ago I set out to clear my house of clutter. For forty years I have lived in the same place, with barns and chicken coops and rooms aplenty for collecting stuff, so this is no mean task. My sage son Gordon suggested I start with duplicates. As I gathered up my duplicates/triplicates/quadruplicates I began to see myself and my fears and sadness, cloaked in crazy, from some distance. I had three garlic presses, two blenders, three rasps, four sewing machines, two coffee grinders, four curling irons, five wire whisks, seven t-squares, and three rabbit puppets for starters. …

Miss Janie’s Green Tomato Pickles

  I found the yellowed half envelope in Mama’s green cloth-covered recipe book . Mama hated to cook, so I presumed the book was nothing of importance to her. When she died, I took the book home with me— it had outlived both my parents and was one of the few things that remained unchanged from childhood. For four years it sat on the bookshelf in my house with the other cookbooks. Then, one day I took it down to study. I discovered that it was, in fact, both a treasure and a time capsule. They say men marry women …

Green Pastures

“Pasture” is a wonderful word. It conjures up so many pleasant connotations. I grew up in a part of a small southern town that was called “the pasture” because that is what it had been before WWII. My favorite part of Psalm 23 is the image of God having his sheep lie down in green pastures. My kitchen sink overlooks a green pasture where I have often laid down. To watch clouds, to feel the sun, to soak up the beginnings of spring, or the endings of summer. Yesterday morning, as I was washing dishes and watching my pasture a …

Absorbing the Sea

For the weeks arching from summer into fall I have watched the sea all day long. And at night the doors were always open to the sound of it. By day the sea was the view from the studio, or from whatever restaurant I chose, or from the windows of the car.  I have looked so long, unable to look away, that it has been fully absorbed. Two nights ago, in the rain, through the murky window of a ferry close to land, I saw birds as they flew nearby, their wide breasts like the bodies of ducks. In my …

Grier

  Sixty years ago today my oldest friend was born.  Hurd Grier Bradford, III.  I was little and don’t remember much beyond slipping into my parents’ bedroom to sneak a peak at the baby and being scolded for waking him.  We were both curly tow-heads and at first we were each other’s only playmates.  I remember when we had matching seersucker shorts, and we both stood in the middle of the bench seat of the Chevy, side by side and I claimed we were twins.  I really wanted us to be twins. Even as a baby Grier was independent, self-determined …