Saturday, March 25, 2006

imagined jars of remembered landscapes

My grandmother, my father's mother, kept a cellar full of jars of preserves, pickles, jams, and other beautiful and glowing delicacies, neatly labeled and set on shelves.
The cellar itself was a strange place, dark and full of delicate spiders, but that's a different story.

I woke up the other morning thinking "what wonderful things I have seen in my life". And wishing there were some way to keep those moments, those glimpses, those bits of landscape and weather, so that I might take them out once more, and watch the changing of light and shadows. A list isn't a careful cellar; words are not glass jars--but I thought perhaps the list needed to be done.

Glimpse one: the light through the leaves of a white flowering lilac hedge. A very early memory; the hedge was my secret hiding place when I was 2 and a half or 3. (one of the virtues of having moved frequently throughout my childhood is that I can date memories with some ease, knowing where I was during a given time period of a year or two).

Tumbling the jars in no discernable order, glimpse two: Two white tailed deer bounding through dry, scrubby brush in the hillsides somewhere in the high desert. Beyond them the purple mountains, and a stretch of wildflower blazed spring, so orange-red the sky itself seemed purple blue.

A third jar: the beautiful, amazing blue of the Pacific held in a half circle of coral reef, on a tiny island that is merely a dot on the map (it is 3 miles by 5 miles, I think; Wake Island). There were terrible things there as well--left from the second world war; ships from which soldiers had jumped to their deaths, holes in which people had hidden and fought. But what comes to mind is the clear water, and the white shells scattered on the whiter sand, and the walk beside my father.

Jar Four: a wood on an English hillside, mostly dark holly trees. The ground carpeted with smoke blue bluebells, a sort of scilla that won't grow for me where I live now (the Spanish sort does, but not the English). Tender blue under the dark trees--and suddenly, a pheasant, golden orange, flying up and out of the woods to the nearby stretch of golden/green meadows.

And the fifth: another stretch of woods, these of mixed trees whose names I didn't know--some fir like trees, some maples, perhaps--but most of all, the violets carpeting the shaded ground. Deep purple violets and some bits of yellow violets. And the young saplings that I would climb, and think of as tree-horses, carrying me to a place of dreams.

Five jars. There are more. A second post soon.


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