Saturday, March 17, 2007

A Rude Awakening

Yes, last week we romped in t-shirts and capris, teased by warm breezes and the scents of budding greens almost to the brink of packing away the salt stained snow boots, gloves and coats. But I became too busy, almost frenzied, potting vivid tulips, orchids, pansies and ivies to herald our first spring. For three nights I hauled in pots, scouring out old dirt and shriveled stalks and refilling them with pungent fresh soil and newly blooming petalled things until our house blossomed in color and fragrance. I served suppers outside on the deck as the sun slid down behind our field like a melting lozenge. We slept with windows open to the wind chimes and the trills of insects and woke to the hoo of an owl and a woodpecker already at work. And this is what greeted my bleary eyes this morning.

But after returning from a day's stint at a girl scout event, I found the snow had already gone though it's still chilly enough to require a coat. The packing and the planting will have to wait. Meanwhile, I think I'll read a book.

Two recommendations:

The Resurrection Trade by Leslie Adrienne Miller
I took a poetry workshop with Leslie in the early 90's which largely inspired me to pursue poetry writing myself. It was a treat to see her read last night in my new hometown, which was for awhile her hometown (she is a Stephens College and Mizzou alum, not mention an Iowa and Houston alum) and to say hello. This new book mines early anatomical studies of women's bodies to write about women's lives in a larger sense. Her reading was accompanied by slides of antiquated and disturbing anatomical illustrations and medical notes from which she drew her inspiration. I particularly enjoyed learning that certain afflictions of women might be attributed to a "dislocation of the womb" or "wandering uterus" (for example, according to Hippocrites, when the womb moves toward the liver the woman will suddenly lose her voice, her teeth will chatter and her colouring turn dark, the remedy of which includes pushing down below her liver while filling her mouth with sweet-scented wine and burning foul-scented vapors below her womb). Try this a home, ladies.

A lovelier thought: a woman is born with all the eggs she will ever have and, until birth, everywhere she goes she carries them with her. About her son, born late in life, she says in "Cherries":

The egg he was heard the voices
of everyone I desired and held itself

in some deep hormonal bloom,
taking whatever was remarkable
in my life into its possibility.
We learned not to hurry in Balinese rain,

to listen for the rumble of wild boar
in the Malvan woods. We climbed
into planes bound for cities we'd never
visit again...

And if fiction is your cup of tea, my newfound friend Stacy Barton's book of short stories, Surviving Nashville came out this week. Read the post of Dec. 20 to see how I got to "know" Stacy. I borrowed my friend Anthony's advance copy of the book and returned it afer I finished. My own copy is coming in the mail so I don't have it on hand to quote from. If you like stories with a twist, or a bit twisted, in a Flannery O'Connorish sort of way, you'll enjoy this book. Stacy has a real knack for character, place and voice, that sort of Southern Gothic thing, sometimes as weird, grotesque and sadly ironic as real life can be. This is her first book so support an emerging artist and buy a copy. She also has new stories in the current issues of Ruminate and Relief Journal.

Happy reading.


Karen Miedrich-Luo said...

I got bit by the orchid bug too. Mine are pale yellow with a hint of ochre at the centers - in a clay pot, on my secretary, next to my bed and a vase of blooming pear stems. Flowers make clutter look attractive, didya know?
As for Leslie Miller, was I in that class or was it the one you took after?
Thanks for the heads up on both the books. And now I've got a sentimental one for you: Finding God Beyond Harvard. You'll find many layers of nostalgia there, including "the way things should have been."

Jenni said...

Please teach me how to take pictures!

I love orchids, too.

Ok, you know what happens when you recommend Shelfari shelves grow!

Anonymous said...

oh thank you for the blurb on my book! it is a dreary day at my house - no snow to blame it on - just the fickle nature of this artist's mood. all that to say it made me tear and up - in a nice, grateful, rather than eeyore-y sort of way - to find a lovely note about surviving nashville.