2011

Musing Post E. Annie Proulx

It was the way my ears crackled with the volume of the folk band’s speakers, the specific timbre of steel strings that signaled the arrival of fair season, music in the basement wood shop – that’s what sparked my musical inclination.

 

People always look for the roots. They want to see the delicate white underbelly, the place where something started. Whether it’s a knack for mathematics or the bone structure of a ballet dancer, people want to know who gave a child his or her attributes. Whose nose do you have? Was your mother an artist? Did your dad teach you to write? How many generations does your temper go back?

 

Neither of my parents is a fan of writing. My dad only started using email two or three years ago. My mom is an accounting genius and I scraped by every math classes I took in high school. Neither of my parents plays an instrument. My hair is white because of chemical products rather than genetic intervention.

 

The list goes on; it also stops.

 

Certain things are my dad:

I am convinced that I can find my way from one place to another without a map or GPS. If I know the general direction, I can get 5 miles SSW without a problem. Usually.

I am nostalgic for a lifestyle I never lived – something resembling Wyoming in the 60s.

I hate wearing shoes. Frye boots don’t count.

I love extremely moldy and/or creamy cheeses, sweet rieslings and raw honey on a spoon. Amber maple syrup still hot from the boiling room, sipped straight from the little paper cups people use for condiments.

My idea of a perfect morning involves sitting on the porch, watching the sun rise, sipping coffee. Sleeping in is overrated. I watch for details and colors.

My first lessons on art and color came from sitting on my dad’s lap as he flipped through his latest stack of photographs. He was drawn to flowers and farms, lots of landscapes. I lost track of how many hours my brother and I spent playing in Vermont cow fields while my dad spent all evening setting up the perfect photograph of the moon rising at sunset, over a sugarhouse near Brattleboro.

My first lessons on texture involved sawdust, freshly-cut grass, the warm steering wheel of dad’s John Deere, the honest grime of his yard work-jeans, and the sheep skin seat covers of his GMC pickup.

My appreciation for all things hardwood, handmade and homespun comes from my dad.

 

Then certain things about me are my mom.

There is nothing delicate about my bone structure. It’s all strength, all squares. Small but strong.

I have a deep, inner need to know the people I love are okay.

I fall asleep with my mouth open.

I always look at the structure of a garment, the way it’s tailored, the way a pair of shoes is constructed.

Confidence, drive and determination are something I learned from my mom. She’s a go-getter, a girl who graduated high school early, left the Canadian border of Maine to go to Washington D.C. during Vietnam, then came back to Connecticut – all on her own. She’s braver than I am even though it would appear I’m following in her ambitious footsteps.

I miss Connecticut with every fiber of my being. Certain things about me are strictly facts.

What comes from me? Paint. Piano. Questions.

How these are handled…those things have more complicated roots than any of the above.

 
 

Sugar Snap

 
When I open the back door to my apartment, the smell of grass and mesh screen flows in on the breeze. When I was little, I would press my nostrils to the screen in the sliding glass door and drink in the air, yell out to my dad or Jeremy to come inside for dinner. The soft flutter of insects’ wings against that screen, drawn to light and human flesh. Mosquito bites. Deet.

We’d spend evenings shelling sugar snap peas into Rubbermaid bowls and Ziploc bags to be frozen later. The braided rug left zigzag tattoos on my ankles from the way I sat, always indian-style.

“Those have to last through the winter,” my dad would say.  Everything in the garden was for some other time, it seemed. We ate our peaches, but most of them were canned. Vegetables were frozen fresh, occasionally pickled or cooked into casseroles, shredded into salads or kept interesting with assorted vinegars. My mother’s jams had drug-like qualities, an opiate sweetness that made my head spin. They glowed in the jars.

I had friends who didn’t know what vegetables looked like unless they saw a can of origin.

There’s a stretch of childhood when life cannot be imagined in any other way. The future is nothing more than Christmas, summer vacation and a glittery response for the question, “So, little girl, what do YOU want to be when you grow up?”

There is absolutely nothing I wouldn’t give for just one more vegetable-summer.

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