Some Short Stories
There are a number of absolutes in this life. And they, it would seem, are invisible. One is that pink asks for green. And so, while my pink summer bedroom has stayed relatively neat after it was restored to itself after the toss and get it out of here demands caused by the visitation of the Martha Stewart living staff, it has not been satisfactory to my eye. Until a few minutes ago, that is, when a bunch of green leaves made its way into a stone jar on the little lace covered table attached to the window seat. I had positioned an oval beveled glass mirror on the sidewall in such a way that I can catch the light coming in behind it. And I have been known, on rare occasions, to lie on the pink and faded quince colored cushions and watch the sky roll on by. The room is best appreciated, however, in its entirety from the summer bed that doubles as a couch. The black chair, edged in gold, a little painting by Valerie Rasavi, three guaches by my daughter, and the inevitable print of a shepherd and his flock that Ernest Westcott gave me shortly before he died. However, it was the bunch of green leaves that was lacking. But, no more.
I've yet to re-hang the ivory linen drapes on the three windows. They've sat, inviting themselves to the ironing board, in a basket all summer. They, too, shall add a missing element to the room. But their absence does not detract. It was only the green of the leaves that was most insistently missed. But for now, and the next week or so, won't be.
I had determined, a long time ago, to keep this room as quiet and empty as possible. Nothing was to be on the walls but an ivory and ebony miniature, and, perhaps, only perhaps, the small, beveled glass mirror. I wanted no visual intrusions. Only calm and silence in this room. But, bit by bit, over time, a painting, or a drawing, or a photograph manifested on the walls. I began to embroider on one of the linen panels, the pine trees outside of the windows. And now, although the two windowless walls are still nearly bare, there is more of self than I ever intended in this room. But, in compensation, it is prettier than I had planned. Shades of pink. White woodwork. A stenciled floor. And a bunch of green leaves in a jar.
Glencora MacCluskie has been trying to get in the habit of wanting to use my neck, or the top of my head, for that matter, as a chin rest. I haven't let her make a habit of it. Or even a minute of it. Somehow, this puppy, becoming a dog, likes to position herself a little higher than I am, whenever she can, that is. This morning she discovered how nice it could be, for her, not for me, to curl up on a pillow behind my head. She looked so comfortable, I couldn't bear to move her. She is now stretched out, asleep, in a variation of her favorite position, her chin resting on my foot as I lie in bed, her front legs wrapped around my ankle. She is getting long, my little puppy. She recently discovered the joys of a split in the garden hose, by the apple tree. Water sprang out in a fan from the ever widening tear. She's come to me, of late, soaking wet. I didn't realize why until I noticed a rainbow in the air one afternoon. She hadn't been a water loving dog. Perhaps because water has been my disciplinary tool when she barks too much. Oh, I need some barking, of course. Out the kitchen window, nights. "At what," asked a
friend who was trying to have a conversation with me over the phone. "I don't know," I replied. "A wolf. A coyote. The donkey. A spider. Sometimes she is letting me know the sheep are out. Sometimes that someone is here. And sometimes, I just don't know."
One very hot day when I was returning from the upper pastures I saw Glencora race to the brook. She found a shallow pond and lay down in it, looking up at me. This was the first time she hadn't leapt over it, ever reluctant to get wet. Glencora becoming a dog. Her ears perk up now. I loved them when they were bent over like a puppy. They are still a little too big for her face. She is a pretty little thing. Beginning to stretch out as well as up. I want a red rolled leather collar for her. One like my dog Samantha wore. And a red leather leash. Like the one I had for Steele. Glencora MacCluskie. Farm dog in the making.
Nature has a tendency to avoid curves. It likes straight lines. Mountain sides. Rivers. Tree trunks. Even brooks, at times, seem to try to straighten themselves out. When nature curves, it is often in an erratic sort of way. Juts and jogs. Angles. Man makes curves. My driveway curves. And because it is symmetrical in shape with the lay of the land on both sides of the house I suspect a case could be made that the land surrounding it was created by the hand of man. Or the shovel of men.
The south corner, by the road, has suffered of late. The lawn mower was in the shop, three shops, as a matter of fact, for most of the summer. My tenant mows the lawn, sometimes. Did it three times this summer. His machine was malfunctioning as well. I didn't mow until a few days ago. Weeds and burdock had grown in the spot where the driveway meets the road. The corner of the lawn was overgrown. A nice bit of stone wall was no longer visible. I'd dropped Sweet Cicely seeds, along the wooden fence, roadside, some time ago. The seeds took but the plants are not as lush and formidable as the ones that have taken off in the perennial border. As yet. It has been, nonetheless, a pretty little place. It shall be again.
I mowed. And took a knife to the burdock. I pulled what weeds could be pulled. A strand of Golden Rod extended the line of quince bushes along the driveway. I left it. White clover now grows on the little bit of lawn. I planted it, hating to mow the June grass and gravel combination that once was there. Bare dirt surrounded the Golden Rod where the burdock leaves prevented anything from growing. I strew some clover seed. Tossed over it some straw from the carriage house manure pile. Patients. There is now a curve once more along the south side of the driveway. The eye takes you around it. To where? There is a small piece of mowed lawn beyond the Golden Rod. Although it is only a few feet from the road, it is quite private. A low stone wall and some choke cherry trees that remain in the bush stage obscure the road. Once, before sheep, I thought to build a gate there. The pasture had not been enclosed. The gate was to have been between the stone wall and a massive Maple tree. One of the few left along the road. It was to have now been a gate to nowhere, enclosing nothing, easily bypassed by simply going around the Maple tree. I thought to put a bench there facing it. The gate to nowhere.
Yesterday my tenant, very late with last month's rent, and not paying anything on this month's, was to work here for a few hours to reduce the amount of money that he owes me. I have the curved faces of three dresser drawers in the carriage house left behind here by a tenant who has become completely forgotten. They would seem to make a very appealing lawn chair. Or, if he finishes fixing this, checking that, repairing the other and mowing the south pasture, I can have him build the bench. There is some dark green paint. It will be most unobtrusive sitting on the little curved lawn behind the Golden Rod facing the gate to nowhere. He disappeared as is his custom when it is time to address the rent. It depressed me. I had become attached to the idea of having a little curved bench on the little curved lawn facing a gate I hadn't had yet built. A place to sit sometimes and think about nowhere.
August 23, 2006
There are more stories in the Farm Stories Archive