Posts Tagged ‘home’

One day I was walking through a parking lot with some groceries and I hear a small voice say, “Excuse me, excuse me, can you help me?” I pause and from around a big car steps a small woman, smaller than me and I’m not big. In short, she’d locked herself out of her car and she was barefoot because she’s just had her nails done but she stepped out of the car to pick up something and then the door shut and so on and so forth and her cell phone and purse were inside. Luckily I had my cell phone and so I called a locksmith who said it would be awhile and after asking her “would you like me stay with you?” she nodded emphatically and I just hoped that the scallops I’d purchased would be okay in the blazing sun. And in this age of COVID of course we were socially distant so that made it okay that she stayed in the shade of the car and I stayed in the sun of the parking lot. We bantered a bit and then she asked, somewhat shyly, “Where are you from?”

Now I am brown and she was a beautiful darker shade than me with a creole accent. And people with that accent “up here” in New England have often asked me that same question. Though corporate training sessions will tell you that is a politcally incorrect question to ask these days, I took no offense. I said what I always say, “I am from Virginia.”

She nodded slowly. And with a smile, I added, “I do have to tell you that that is not the first time I’ve been asked that question.” She perked up. “You see, when I first moved up here, there was a fellow I’d see on the greenline train every now and then who’d say to me every single time, “You’re from Dominica.” I’d say I’m from Virginia and he’d frown perplexed and just walk away.”

She laughed.

“I didn’t even know what Dominica was,” I admitted to her. “I thought he meant the Dominican Republic.”

She laughed again and described Dominica to me.

I then shared, “And when I was in the hospital with my husband one of the aide’s asked me, “Where are your from, girl?” And when I told her Virginia, she just shook her head and said, “Ah. You’re one of those brown people who don’t know where they come from.” She looked me over and said, “You just tell people you’re from “de island.” I asked , “Which island?” She just shook her head. “Just say “de island!”

The woman laughed again. She looked away and then she looked back at me. “I’m from Haiti. You look like you’re from Jamaica.”

I have never been to any of the islands. The islands of the British West Indies that were part of the Atlantic slave trade triangle. I don’t know specifically how my ancestors made their way, enslaved and otherwise, from Africa to the British West Indies to the southern British colonies of Virginia and North Carolina. I still think I am from Virginia, from the foothills of the Blue Ridge Moutains, especially at this time of year when both there and in New England the landscape is a riot of color as the trees change.

Where are you from? Such a loaded question. Such a gentle question. It all depends on who speaks the words and why.

Now this young woman in the parking lot also asked my name. She nodded. “Cynthia is a nice name but I am going to call you angel. God sent you to me. You’re my angel today.”

I opened my mouth but decided to close it and just smile.

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a warm corner

I was originally planning to title this post, “phoning home.”  I’ve not yet become comfortable taking photos with my phone but I really wanted to try capturing the fast falling light in this corner of the living room.  Most of the items lit are gifts from friends and family.  It was a grounding moment, reminding me once more that I am a very lucky person. 😉

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And so the morning began with sounds.  Laying in bed listening to snow slide from the roof.  Over breakfast listening to Steve tell stories of his night.  My brothers’ voices, one via voice mail, him singing a made up song about getting up and getting started with a cup of coffee.  His words inspired me to pour some beans into a white cup and photograph a single image and hope it came out well.

I continued to take random shots about the kitchen, of lemons in bowls and of rosemary.  I don’t think I’m supposed to let indoor herbs bloom but I couldn’t help myself. No sounds there, just lovely periwinkle silence.

During the midst of all this, something happened.  Nothing serious but one of those incidents that can color a day, darken it … if you allow.  I told myself to let the incident go.  To help me do so, I pulled from my bag a list of desired tasks.  One of them was to look up composer Peteris Vasks.  I’d only learned of him yesterday at an organ recital.  The organist had played one of his pieces, Te Deum.  During my research I came across this piece, Dona Nobis Pacem.

A beautiful, calming piece.

As it played on repeat in the background, I wandered around taking other photos, indoors of items on tables

and through windows of ice melting beautifully.

What that music inspired exactly I can’t say.  It did encourage me, remind me even, to be present, to appreciate the beauty before me that I could see, that I could hear, and that I could imagine.  We all need reminders on occasion. 😉

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the day was cold but beautiful

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Growing up in Virginia, my parents made clear quite often that “times are tight.”  Many a fellow classmate wore more expensive clothes but mine were just as clean and it didn’t matter that they were purchased via layaway.  And my brothers and I still share stories of how well my mother could stretch a can of Campbells soup.  But it wasn’t until I was accepted into college, completing financial aid forms and trying to figure out how my family’s income fit on various grids … that’s when one day I looked across the table at my parents and said, “Did you know we’re classified as poor?”  That I did not feel poor despite my family having little money says a lot about my parents and the neighborhood in which I walked.

Virginia Dogwood

It is a very different neighborhood in which the little girl Dasani lives.  It is a Brooklyn neighborhood in transition.  Thanks to the New York Times series, Invisible Child, readers can journey with her through that changing world.  You the reader can walk with her, run, kick, and dance.  You can even hear her voice and those of the people around her because it is a multimedia presentation with short videos at the end of each of the five parts.  It is a series provoking a lot of conversation, dialogue, debate … and hopefully, most importantly, some good actions.  It can sometimes be tough to read and to watch but I hope people do.

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Joy is also found in Steve’s cheese bread that he likes to make on a whim and never the same way twice!  I should have photographed the finished product, all golden brown out of the oven, but somehow eating seemed more important.  I’ll try harder next time. 😉

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We spoke by phone.  I sat in my kitchen in Somerville, MA while my younger brother sat outside his home in Lynchburg, VA.  After I had described my latest walk by the water and what I might write about, he said, “Mmmhmm.  I think you should write some more about porches.”


“Yes.  About what it’s like to sit on the porch steps at night, in the quiet and in the cool, with fireflies in the distance.  They look like stars.”

I imagined him sitting on his little back porch.  I thought about the seeds I had sent him and his family.  “Next year, I am sending you night blooming flowers.”

“That’s fine,” he said, and then he added, “And you should write about wearing glasses, how we wear them to see clearly, these wire frames that are not heavy but somehow you feel their weight all the time, and if you have long eyelashes you’re constantly batting them against the lenses.  Yeah, there’s always contacts … but somehow when you wear glasses and then you sit and you take them off … you can’t see as clearly and yet there is a certain sense of freedom.  A weight has been removed.  Though your view is a bit blurry somehow you can see with greater clarity the beauty all around.”

“I gave you a blank notebook.  Why don’t you write these things?” I say.

“Because you’re the writer,” he said.

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It was a delight to receive an email from graphic design artist and photographer Cindy Dyer earlier this year.  I had “liked” a post on her beautiful blog and she had visited mine in response.  She liked enough of what she saw to invite me to include my essay, Seeds, in the Spring 2013 issue of her digital magazine, Celebrate Home.  The issue is on newsstands now, so to speak, free to download and print issues can be purchased.  Seeds can be found on page 95 but I encourage to check out all of the writing, imagery, and recipes to found in this lovely publication.  And you can check out Cindy’s blogs via the following links:  http://www.cindydyer.wordpress.com/ and http://www.gardenmuse.wordpress.com/

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I have learned that my brother and I have been independently dreaming of front porches.  We live in homes now that have porches of a sort but not the porch of our childhood.  Each of us is feeling that call that comes at this time of year to make ready the porch.  Paint and put out the chairs.  Hope the maple tree next door will provide enough shade.  Try to grow some potted plants.  And so on.  In honor of those memories, I share this link to an essay I wrote not long after moving up north from down south:   Sitting on the Front Porch.

By the way, when I wrote this essay, my brother still lived in the house.  He now rents it to an older lady who likes to grow tomato plants in all available space including along the front porch.  And the elderly lady who appears near the end of the essay is still alive.  I visited her during a trip back to Virginia.  She was very welcoming from her front porch and even took us inside to sit for a bit where her children had to remind her at some point, “Mama, you are 99 not 89.”  Her response was “Is that right?”  And so it goes. 😉

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