Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Old Things

I had never been to Alabama, and then I plunged in head first, into an old farmhouse and a new house, joined together by one wrap-around porch, a linking of the old with the new. The stillness was the stillness of humid-weather bugs and soft warm air where the city is far away and old things move you away from busy-ness and slow the pace of your movements, your speech, your thoughts.

The story of the Pilot's grandparents' farm is an old story. I sat in the little front room, the scent of old hardwood floors curling through my nose to some relaxation trigger in my brain: the scent pleads with you to come and sit and be still.

It is these houses that have stories to tell. The worn cloth-bound books on the shelves, the paintings of flowers on the walls done by the brush of a great-aunt, pig figurines scattered about the kitchen, black marks on the hardwood floor in the living room where the great-grandparents' bed lived before an additional bedroom was built. The Pilot and I slept in a little bedroom that children long since grown slept in; I brushed my teeth in a little bathroom where the light over the mirror had a pull-chain.  

My father-in-law took the Pilot and I on a tour around the woods of the farm in a Kubota utility vehicle. The wheels gobbled up branches and pine needles and I sat in the Pilot's lap and hung on with one hand while we left the dragonflies behind. In the woods we stopped and looked at the creek. Every step crunched pine needles and dead leaves under my feet, and I reminded myself that all the bugs living in them couldn't eat much of me so there's no point to be worried.

 A yellow flower appeared in the leaves and it was a sunshine gift, just for me. I am a city-girl through and through, scared of the huge yellow-jackets buzzing sluggishly in the unusual warmth of March, skittish with other types of bugs, but here was the flower to remind me that gifts are everywhere and that humanity has lived with the bugs for most of time.

The terrain-hungry little vehicle jostled out of the woods and onto a red clay road that my father-in-law told us was probably hundreds of years old. Centuries. Did early colonists carve out the road on horses and carts? Did a settler stare into the southern jungle of trees and clouds like I did and even then feel the age of the land like a deep sigh exhaled?

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