Thursday, June 24, 2010

inexpressible privacy


My parents left yesterday morning after a long and pleasant visit.   All week I had wanted to show them . . . the sights.  What now I love most about where I live.  It used to be, when first I came to live here, that my parents' visits were excuses to range from city to shore, miles and miles of forest and river's edge rushing by on our way to museums and parks and formal gardens.  This house, this town, only a place to sleep and wash.  But my bliss has contracted these days.  The sights I wanted them to see were all within a smaller circle now.  Or I thought they were.  I kept trying to take them to see . . . something.  But nothing seemed to be here.

In the car . . .  and maybe that was the first mistake.  In the car, you must have a destination firmly in mind: you must make up your mind before setting out because you arrive so quickly.  In the car, the trees shrink, the hills flatten, the breathing world goes silent and solid as you blur past. 

We drove down by the river.  The weather was too cold.  The sky leaden.  If I had been alone it may have felt moody, atmospheric.  But with my parents at my shoulder I couldn't help but feel that the town was purposely holding back, recalcitrant, sullenly refusing to perform. 

There's a reason no one comes here as a tourist.  There's a reason a proportion of eager home-buyers put up For Sale signs again within three years.  This town has felt for years as if it's on the verge of becoming something.  When newcomers realize that this town is becoming ... just more itself, some people move away in disgust, eager for better shopping and reliable amenities.

You have to stay for seven years before you begin to see what's really here.  This morning, my parents gone, the sun came out dancing in a clear sky, like a child no longer under pressure in front of company. 

There was a rummage sale outside the front door of our town's indoor swimming pool (a basalt rock foundation, plexiglas like a giant's garden-shed greenhouse).  They're raising money for a new slide.  I browsed through the used books while waiting for YoungSon to finish his swimming lesson.

Nothing worth looking at - brightly painted porcelain candle holders, ugly chairs.  A broken dollhouse handbuilt by someone's Uncle Voyse (per the brass tag built into the roof) - meticulously wired for electricity.  And piled up on long tables: fuzzy-headed dolls, lampshades, shabby piles of clothing, paperback books and unpopular movies on VHS. 

I bought two books: Dear Mad'm, a bio written in the 1950's by a witty-voiced and feisty 80-year-old woman who goes off to live alone for a year in a cabin  in the Northern California woods, and The Portable Thoreau.  Walden (Complete).  Essays~Poems~Letters.  A dollar and fifty cents for both.  Better than a bargain.

And then I wished for my camera, admiring the sunlight tossed off a jumble of mismatched glassware.  The bright stripes of a fat man's shirt.  The round-eyed baby balanced on a skinny girl's hip.  Here at last were the sights I'd been wanting to show.

And on the way home, a handkerchief backyard full of red poppies.  The willow growing into the road.

Says Thoreau this morning, while we're sitting together in the sun:
When I detect a beauty in any of the recesses of nature, I am reminded, by the serene and retired spirit in which it requires to be contemplated, of the inexpressible privacy of a life - how silent and unabmitious it is . . .

6 comments:

ArtSparker said...

Sweet recognition here.

Neighbor Jane Payne said...

Yes! Yes! Favorite haunts just don't show off well. I know the feeling.

Lisa B. said...

I love this--the Thoreau quote, which I saw from you on Facebook yesterday, especially. The word that stands out for me is "unambitious." I have a lot of thoughts about ambition. One thing this crystallizes is how ambition interferes--tends to interfere?--with loving what is. What is right there to be loved and seen.

John Romeo Alpha said...

I call this neighborhood proprioception, this sense of deeply knowing the place where you live and bike (or run, or walk, or lay in the grass watching the clouds go by). It's a connectedness to your surroundings, the places and sensations, the people, climate, geography, wildlife, architecture, changing of the seasons, the whole picture. It's the feeling of knowing which plants or trees will have berries or fruit you can grab on the way home, what time of the year. You have to feel the fog on your face, and have some of the local gravel ground into your knees, to really know the place. You feel it, but you can't share this private sense readily with others, much as you need to.

suzanne said...

Smiling. Oh, dear. I...try showing your in-laws Kanosh. And why you're going to live there. With their son. In an old house you'll have to gut. Smiling. Sighing. Oh, dear.
Hey, find me on Facebook! I'm easy and I don't think I even know your last name!!!!!

Emma J said...

"neighborhood proprioception" - JAR, I love your definition. Exactly.

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