This week, with my Spin giveaway for Claire Burge, I’ve been listening to memories, and places where people have drawn inspiration, and I can’t help feeling that it is only fair for me to share a paragraph or two of my own.
I baked pies yesterday, the same kind my grandma used to make, the kind she taught my mom to make for my dad, and then taught me how to make because she knew I would want to know when I had my own family. I always think about her when I bake. I think about how careful she was to scrape every last bit of everything out of the bowls with her spatula – in spite of my impatience. I think about the quick drop-flip of her satiny bread dough into a greased bowl for rising. I think about her almost-neurotic arrangement of dishes in the dishwasher, and about the way she let us make the biggest mess ever all over her kitchen with our own little loaves.
And then inevitably, my mind wanders out of her kitchen to the smell of bread and roasting meat in the house, the sound of her many clocks knocking off the seconds and minutes and hours of the longest, most wonderful days of my life. I think of her handwriting in the journals she kept, the weather report and the garden reports she recorded there, knowing that time wouldn’t last forever, holding onto the things that she wanted to remember.
I step outside the sliding glass door and onto the weathered deck (it didn’t used to be weathered – it was new when I was small), and amble down the deck steps past the laundry hanging under the deck covering, past the basement door that we always slammed a bit too loudly, and find my spot on the swing hung just beneath the deck outside Grandma and Grandpa’s bedroom, positioned perfectly so we could eavesdrop on conversations above, where Grandpa sat in his rusted, creaky iron deck chair and told his stories.
I never hear a crow now that doesn’t send me back to that swing again, dreaming about the future and the past and all the things I am still finding to photograph as I looked out at the wind in the trees surrounding the open areas.
Mom told me yesterday that the trees are gone, and the old split rail fence bordering the pasture near the road. The new owners have changed the place beyond recognition. Her voice trailed off on the phone as she wished that she and Dad had known before it was sold that they’d be retiring to the area – life surprises you in the strangest ways sometimes, doesn’t it?
Remembering the old has always helped me love the new. I think that is part of why I chose making memories for my job. We are all empty without our histories – they have made us who we are. Everything new begins with something old.
This post was inspired by the first story in Spin, about safety and finding your safe place. Today is the last day to enter the giveaway for the book – I am not even kidding you when I say you want it. Get over and leave me a paragraph of your own about a memory that inspires creativity for you even today!
I’ll draw the winner at random tomorrow morning and announce you on Monday.
It is decaf Lady Grey tea for me this morning, with fresh-baked corn muffins soaked in melted butter, and it is gray out – gray, gray, gray – so that getting out of bed this morning required having the lights on instead of the sunrise. I am listening to Christmas music and the non-stop chatter of the two littles in my house, Pip building her life out loud, Squiggy weighing in for his own right to live. I’ll start her on her schoolwork soon, and then the house will be filled with her teacher’s voice and I may put in headphones so as not to go mad for my lack of creative space.
It has been a different sort of fall for us this year, an autumn more full of change than usual, change that is more stocked with peace than usual. I haven’t had as much time as I’d like to process it all, not for finishing up the summer things that stacked up and overflowed into October and now November, but it feels okay somehow, as if I’ve just grown into my life and I don’t have to figure it out every day anymore.
I’m finally working on my new website, and I have a friend helping me this time, someone whose work I have admired for such a very long time. It is nice not to be completely alone on a project that has had me flummoxed most of this year for its hugeness, and my husband has told me that I am to spend any remaining money I make this year on business things like this new site so that we don’t have to pay as much in taxes. I believe this is a good thing, that I stand to make a profit in my third year of official business. It feels big.
I worry about my fourth year. I worry about the pricing guide that isn’t finished yet for the new hybrid direction I am taking my aesthetic to shoot both film and digital when and where I want. I worry about my 2014 bookings and remind myself to breathe because God has brought my business this far, and He knows who I am supposed to meet next year, and how much I can handle. He reminds me that this is a walk of faith – it always has been – and preparing for Him to work and keeping my heart open is the thing I need to do today, especially as He holds my tomorrow.
For all that I don’t know and haven’t processed and haven’t finished, this autumn is for me a mix of the precious past, the moments I have now, and some really wonderful hope for the future. It’s a favorite, and I wouldn’t really have noticed it if not for the gray today, and the smell of the corn muffins wafting into my bedroom as I was trying to talk myself out of bed.
What is your autumn holding for you? What makes you notice it? Tell me a favorite of yours from today.
It’s coming sooner, and Pete is hardly here for it anymore, the golden hour that doesn’t last an hour as the earth tilts away from the sun and turns the night blue with the moonlight. I soak it in, the light that is left, and I plan late autumn things, since Charleston clings to her into December. I think perhaps the people who decided the seasons lived in the South; winter doesn’t come until winter comes here.
I am increasingly quiet as the old year sets and the new year approaches. I’m playing the piano more often, bought some out-of-print music I wanted directly from its composer. The song I wanted was in six flats – I forget what key that is, but I’ll have to learn it now. The song is snow falling healing on heart-wounds for me.
I am reading more lately too. The music, the stories – they know my colors. I’ve started my yearly trek through Stories from the Old Squire’s Farm – I never get tired of the stories or the feeling of home. Pete bought me a new copy after we misplaced the one I borrowed from my mom. I can’t wait to read this to my kids, but they don’t sit still enough yet.
It’s sometimes hard not to try to paint my real life to look like others’ art, but I know my finest inspiration is right here, in evening walks and autumn light filtering through spanish moss and Piper’s hair, in twilit blues and soft reflections.
I’ve realized that my signature images are not images I created so much as moments I witnessed, when heart and life have crossed paths in perfect juxtaposition. They are my heart made visual, my joy, my pain. They are what happen when I am alive; they are the moments I want to remember.
What inspires you? Do you have a favorite tradition for late autumn, or does everything jump to Christmas right after Thanksgiving? What brings you alive at this time of year?
This. Cuteness. lives at my house. And he let me take his picture for a change. I got to take exactly fifteen shots, each carefully posed by His Little Self, and then it was, “All done now, Mommy,” and it was over.
I expect he’s probably the best teacher I’m gonna find for taking the shot I want on the first try.