“A story is not like a road to follow … it’s more like a house. You go inside and stay there for a while, wandering back and forth and settling where you like and discovering how the room and corridors relate to each other, how the world outside is altered by being viewed from these windows. And you, the visitor, the reader, are altered as well by being in this enclosed space, whether it is ample and easy or full of crooked turns, or sparsely or opulently furnished. You can go back again and again, and the house, the story, always contains more than you saw the last time.”
― Alice Munro
When I was ten and riding in the back seat of Dad’s Ford on Highway 61 out of Memphis…
Suddenly, from the top of a ridge, the road went down—straight down into unending flatness. That last hill always caused a stir in me, a funny feeling in my stomach. I believed Almighty God started digging here and scooped out a big basin of rich land so farmers could plant cotton and kids could grow up looking at it.
The Delta began here. It was bordered on the east by the Yazoo River, born of the confluence of the Tallahatchie and Yalobusha near Greenwood, and on the west by Old Man River, who “must know somethin, but he dont say nothin, he jes keeps rollin along.”
Cotton fields stretched out before us all the way to the end of the sky. The fields parted just enough for a road to pass through. Highway 61 cut straight down through Delta cotton—two lanes with just enough room for two cars to pass, one going north, one going south. The whole earth outside my window was cotton. Row after row, pressed against the road, running all the way to where the earth stopped and the blue of heaven started. Nothing but cotton as far as I could see and I could see maybe fifty miles. I smelled the dirt, I smelled the green, I felt the hum of growing things. I thought it was mine, all mine, because I was born of it. When it was cotton-pickin time in the fall and the fields were white, I knew God was on his throne and all was right with the world. …
COME TO THE DELTA! COME TO CLARKSDALE! COME TO CREATIVE NONFICTION AT THE CROSSROADS!
Neil White will be teaching a workshop on writing true stories, September 21-22 at Shack Up Inn. Message me for more details!
COME AND EXPERIENCE ALL THAT IS — OR WAS — THE DELTA.
The backyard is coming along nicely. I’m not finished yet. But I have six trees, a vegetable garden, an herb/perennial garden, and a few other planted and decorated spots.
And this rain should help the grass along!
Some special things: part of my Revolutionary 4th great grandfather’s original tombstone from 1799, an old brick from West Kemper Baptist Church, statues of my mother’s, a flat rock from the original land grant of Jacob Boone’s farm in Kentucky, my husband’s arrowhead collection, my mother-in-law’s shells, a pick from my grandfather’s farm, a gull from my Oregon trip, as well as a cobalt blue sea ball, and so on…
Here are pictures of the progress…
Sometimes life takes you by the throat with both hands, cracks the cartilage, and throws you breathless to the ground. Well, in fact, most of the time it does that. After all, it [life] can’t let anything good happen and last. At least, that has become Truth for me. I find myself expecting that, more and more in the days at hand. It’s not that I’m cynical. It’s just … the way it is. After all, I am one of the very few who became that awful “W” word in our fifties. You don’t easily get beyond having a life and your life ripped away from you without lasting fears and consequences.
Maybe it was a sin to love this new house so much. To keep looking around with pride and claiming perfection here, beginning to worry I couldn’t find anything to put on a list for my builder to fix. Everybody has a punch list—bulleted items to be addressed during a one-year new-home warranty period. I didn’t have one. I swear, the house was perfect.
Little did I know that the HVAC company, C&M Heating and Cooling of Franklin, had installed a faulty part (referenced in a previous blog) and furthermore, did not seal it adequately, upstairs in the attic, out of my sight, and that for weeks, a little water condensation had been dripping between two walls, down to the subfloor under my hardwood.
And so now, this perfect house is down to its feet and back to its original state in some places and not so perfect right now. But I know that in a matter of days, it will be. It will be at its best. Because I honestly do have a good builder.
As I let my thoughts roam, I realize that this is what I deal with every day. Peeling something back and restoring it even better. I do this with stories, as a writer and editor. My own stories. The stories of others. I can deal with this analogy, understand it, and make it through this little disaster.
So as you look at the pictures of the state I am in physically, think of your own life and stories. That faulty construction. The problem you have. Getting back to the basics. Going deep to the core where things are not good. Suffering through the rebuilding. Becoming whole. Polished and pretty.
Restoration company and builder’s team
My hardwood floor
Hall subfloor and drywall
Kitchen — granite and cabinets pulled out, down to the subfloor
Turbo fan behind the pulled-out appliances — loud!
Kitchen wall opposite the damaged hall
Dehumidifier in the breakfast nook and turbo fan #2 — loud, loud, triple loud! I can’t even hear the phone ring. Forget TV. And it’s drying me out, too. I’ll be a raisin by Monday.
I still watch the Andy Griffith show almost every night at ten. Barney died of lung cancer in 2006, one month before my dad passed away from end-stage dementia. And now, beanie-wearing Goober…George Lindsey, took his final bow May 6.
Here’s what my dear friend Bill Peach said about the local resident.
“I lost a good friend yesterday — a tribute to George Lindsey:
George was schooled in the New York stage; he was an accomplished actor. His role as Goober brought him fame and into the hearts of his many fans. Several years ago, George lost someone whom he loved very much and had a brief period of unhappiness, unlike the man we knew. He wanted to be George Lindsey, the actor, and his public wanted him to be Goober. During that period, in a painful moment for me, someone approached George and excitedly asked, “Aren’t you Goober?” He replied, “No ma’am, I am George Lindsey.” It was strange that often when we were engaged in a serious conversation about theater, literature, or film festivals, it was not unusual for him to pick up a much-too-big-hat from our stock [Pigg and Peach men’s clothing] and put it on and shift into his comedic persona. One day George came to see me on his way back from a classroom visit to one of our schools. He was in his brown work clothes with the funny hat. He was in a good mood. He had become himself again. Ironically, it was just a few days after Sarah Cannon had died. We discussed how much we appreciated who she was and the awesomeness of her talent, and how the world had come to love two great women. I remember telling George that he and Goober were much like Sarah and Minnie, whose simultaneous death was a two-fold tragedy for the people who loved them. He agreed.”
HAS CHANGED MY LIFE.
Round smooth plastic piping, with curves and white purity, like a new bride in a silky white gown…
Except … there is a hole in that gown, an imperfection, a gap like a sliver of moon at the end fitting where the pipe is out of round. C&M Heating and Cooling happened to overlook this faulty part when they installed the HVAC system in my new house. The condensation water leaked through that tiny hole … gosh, it’s so small … and insignificant … and found its way down my wall and under hardwood flooring, and set my life on a new course.
Backtracking — removing flooring, cabinets, granite. Rebuilding, replacing, packing up the kitchen again after being here only five months, restoring my brand new house to a brand new house like it was before the damage caused by the air unit. Interruptions, turmoil. Life upside down for two weeks or more, then
maybe peace again.