Friday, December 31, 2010

The Accumulation of a Century of Dust

A very old steamer trunk followed me home. It belonged to my paternal grandmother and quite possibly to her mother. My father remembers it as always being at the top of the stairs at the Riverside house when he was a child. It had stuff in it.

From the moment the building of the cozy cabin was announced my sister has been trying to unload the old and dusty steamer trunk on me. I always refused until now.

She had come into possession of the trunk by buying the house we grew up in. I remember it in the house when I was a kid. We kept stuff in it. As long as that house was in the family, things got abandoned there. People moved on more than they ever officially moved out.

The trunk moved with her when she bought another house on the other side of town. I wonder what else she found when that house was emptied and finally abandoned. She used the old steamer trunk as a coffee table in the new house for a while. Then it was placed in the foyer and used to keep stuff in.

I don’t know why she got tired of it and I don’t know why I finally said yes to taking it, except it looked like I could keep stuff in it and the cozy cabin is lacking in closets big time.

This trunk is old. The painted linen on the outside is scratched, faded and wearing thin. The wood slats are marred in multiple ways. The metal straps are rusty. White paint was dripped across it at some point in time. The lock is keyless. The linen lining the interior of the trunk is halfway home to dust. It is in dire need of restoration.

The old steamer trunk also came with a nice collection of dust bunnies, spider webs, hairballs and tiny bits of flotsam from multiple users. It had sat undisturbed in a corner of the entry hall for some time, a staging ground for stuff inside and on top.

The trunk was not going to enter my somewhat pristine new home without a good rub down. A hard dusting led to the vacuum. Looking close I saw dust balls wedged in the cracks between metal and wood. The top edges of the wood slats looked to have a centuries worth of dust embedded in the grain. I think it will need a real bath before it can be restored.

One more year has piled on top of all the years that came before. I don’t have much desire to rehash the newly finished year. It is like so much stuff inside an old steamer trunk left to gather dust.

Almost unknowingly our trunks get full and they get old. Every so often, by circumstance, by choice or the pressing passage of time, the trunk gets emptied. Maybe it even gets cleaned. Stuff is scattered to the winds and we can begin anew, freed from the past. Or so we think.

The old steamer trunk follows us home. It is home. It is me. I fill it back up with new stuff hoping for the best, but the past is never fully cleansed. It lingers in cracks and crevices, in the dust lacquered by tears and fog and time into the very grain of the wood.

That old trunk is in dire need of restoration.

The old steamer trunk is empty now. It has had a good scrubbing. The restoration is underway. When fully cleaned and with new paint, new fabric, new stain and looking kind of new – it is an old trunk and only getting older – it will be time to greet the new day and the new year. Then I can put new stuff in it.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Shovel Inn

High on the low spot of a North Carolina mountain top

A narrow trail through the heavy wet snow is examined by a creature in a much better mood upon my return this year than last

When they were left out in the elements with a dispenser of food.

With a little encouragement it was felt safe enough to venture outside.

They are no dummies and were quite content in the snug accommodations of the Shovel Inn while the Christmas blizzard of 2010 raged around outside.

It is good to be home with all systems go, even if I had to shovel my way in.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Gardens At Cummer Museum

Along a winding road beside the river through neighborhoods of historic upper class homes is the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens. There are places I have never seen and never been in Jacksonville, Florida. It was never my home. More time was spent just to the south along a winding road beside the river in Orange Park, Florida. That too was not where I grew up.

Today a late afternoon excursion was taken to the art museum and the historic gardens of the museum linked to notable landscape names like Ellen Biddle Shipman and Olmsted.

Formerly the homes sites of lumber barons, Arthur and Waldo Cummer, the gardens were saved when the homes were demolished for the present museum.

Formal Italian and English style gardens were laid out by the designers.

Statuary, planters and fountains grace this garden throughout.

A garden down by the river. Yes that is a river, the St. John's River.

And very near the interstate and a view of the down town skyline.

I want one for my garden, but I think I lean more towards a gargoyle than a griffin.

Because my garden will have its living kings and queens of the varmints.

Or maybe I need Diana, the patroness of the hunt.

But it is time to say goodbye to Florida. Until we meet again.

And the first thing I will need when I get back to the low spot on a North Carolina mountain top is the shovel of the snow kind.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Ancestors

The trees were here when my grandparents bought this land in the 1920's.

These trees were already full grown when my mother was a little girl and they towered over my head when I played in this garden as a child. Time has thinned their numbers, but giants still march in place. Four Magnolia grandiflora of such stature as to lose resemblace of form to their smaller relations still grace a garden carved from a southern forest a hundred plus years past their birth.

My own history with these trees stretches back in time further than I want to admit.

It's a foreign land now that echoes and resonates with more intensity than the new forest that is my home. Time spent will make the new forest resonate more deeply, when the trees fully trust that I am kama'aina.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

From Outside Clyde on hiatus in Orange Park, Florida while a foot of snow accumulates on the low spot of a North Carolina mountain top. I have a feeling I'm gonna have to shovel my way back in.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Autumn In The Deep South

If it's going to happen, it is going to be much later than in other parts of the temperate northern hemisphere.

But every so often the conditions are just right

And the deciduous trees that can do fall color, do do fall color, way, way down south where the world stays pretty green through the winter.

Hickory trees can turn golden.

The bald Cypress can turn a coppery bronze before going bald.

The Spanish Moss will stay a dripping grey through the winter. It stays that way all year.

Berries ripen and turn red. My best guess is this is a Yaupon Holly, Ilex vomitoria.

So I drove south to head back in time.

To a land were red maples are just now turning red.

And the daytime high of fifty degrees has me still covered in layers, minus the long underwear for now. It's a might nippy out there.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Pilgrimage To Pearl's

The Topiary Garden of Pearl Fryar

The neighbors have been inspired.

Back at Pearl's

The man named Pearl.

Pearl's is one of sixteen exceptional American gardens slated for preservation by The Garden Conservancy.