A Timeless

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My husband calls his nana a few times a month to catch up with her. They talk about her cows and her chickens and all of the quilting that shes been doing for some ladies in town. He enjoys their talks. And so does she. When the warm weather comes he flips through his farmer’s almanac and asks her if it’s the right day to plant our peas and how far a part we should place our beet rows. She always knows the answer. And she goes on and on about the seeds in her green house and the guineas that she has hatched in the pen out in the field.  There are tadpoles in her rain barrels and shes been taking meals to her daughter to help her after her accident. And don’t forget about the family reunion this year. All of the cousins will be there and they can’t wait to see our babies. While on the phone, she sits at her table in her kitchen, pushing broad beans that she cooked in fat back around her plate and sopping up the pot liquor with a piece of biscuit. Laughing at one of Jason’s terrible corny jokes, she takes out her handkerchief and wipes the sweat from her dusty brow and sighs the long day out of her chest. Her bobby pin curls are wrapped up in a scarf around her head and she’s tired but won’t hang up that phone for anything. She’s talking to her grandson and has important things to tell him. If she doesn’t tell him who will? How will he know that you don’t plant on barren days and how to pluck and butcher a hen? Her hands look frail but her muscles are stronger than his daddy’s and without her, well, all of the wisdom and history of their family would get plowed under. Walking around her fields with her is sacred. She commands each clearing with hollers and whistles, beckoning cows and shooing barn cats, all listening to her calls. And after she tells him all that she has to tell, it is her heart that she gives him last. In her plants and hot pot applesauce, faded jeans and love, nana gives to her family the knowledge of who they are and where they come from.


 

This was an essay in response to my last entry that I posted this morning.

There was some interesting conversation in the comments and on Facebook in response to that post. The biggest response was that women should have the choice to dye their hair or not, at any age, and not be criticized or judged for their choice. And I wholeheartedly agree. What I’m continuing from that last entry is the idea of a matriarch, or a sort of timeless figure, who holds the family’s knowledge and wisdom in her body and her mind. Here I have given you nana, my husband’s paternal grandmother. He looks to her for wisdom and advice on things that he cannot find anywhere else. Her timelessness is not just integral to our own family, but to everyone’s, and I’m interested in how we obsess over the youth of our women and neglect the importance of aging and the women who hold our communities and families up. The sewing, the cooking, the family ancestry, the farming, the child raising is all inside of her, this timeless woman, and we can’t lose her for fear of getting old.

Living or Dyeing

When my young boys see grey hair it scares them. They point and stare and consign the poor old biddy to the grave, wondering what she must have done to deserve such a fate. So, naturally, when my seven year old first noticed one of my new grey hairs, fear struck him like a bolt, paralyzing him with doom. “Mom, your hair! Are you dying?” He drew the attention of his brother and dad to the top of my head where the course white hair grew like a curse. All three of them moved in close, mourning my youth when I swatted them away with my cane, I mean hand. What had I done to deserve such a fate? A grey hair and a brood of children (and a husband) who have never watched a woman age up close and personal. As a child, I watched my grandma twist her puff of grey hair into bobby pin curls every night and helped her scrape the calluses off of her heels so that she could shove them back into her pumps in the morning. I dipped my fingers into her Ponds cold cream as she smoothed it on her soft, rolling wrinkles and smelled deep its clean, oily fragrance. She wasn’t dying. She was more alive than my mother, who dyed her hair a crispy black and slathered baby oil on her face when she sat in the sun. Age would crack through her scalp every 3 weeks and frantically she hung her head in the bathtub with a bottle of dye to shove it back in. But how could I blame her? Surely she was the only 40 year old woman dyeing of age. Such a shame. To whither away in a tub full of dye. And maybe that’s why I look at the boxes of dye on the shelves of the store and think of my grandma who had so much more; a womanhood that isn’t dying but living. No frenzy. No panic. A woman who touches her hair and her face and doesn’t despise the moving of time. What a gift I was given.

So, I answer my son, “No, I’m not dyeing. Not ever.

 

Scenes from a weekend

We had a nice long weekend with extended family who traveled in from far off and close places. The cousins just played and played and ate sugar and wrestled and raced and blew bubbles and argued and threw tantrums and slept all over the house in corners with sweat in their hair. (It reminded me of the children’s book The Relatives Came. It’s such a sweet book that, if you don’t have it, you should add it to you own library). When you don’t see family for months on end, you squeeze in as much love as you can when you finally get them in your arms. You memorize little arms and toes and noses and pray pray that they stop growing until next time. But they always grow. They just won’t stop. The next time they see me I’ll have 20 more grey hairs and another age spot on my face. Because as they grow, so do I. Pushing me on down the line. I like to grow old and watch this process of an aging family.

Here are some pictures from our weekend; snapshots and pauses in time.

Stories From Ott Street

Up in the Blue Ridge Mountains, where Ott Street meets Market Lane,

I have stories buried in a cemetery.

Stories I’ve never heard and stories I wish I hadn’t.

I thought I left them there, sealed up with pillows and roses,

But they sank low, low, into the limestone and that fresh underground

Mountain water.

And down they came.

Sinking into these salty marshes

Where they found me.

Soaking in through my soles,

They stacked straight through my spine

And burst into the base of my skull.

Just visiting, I’m sure. But how did they find me?

They’ve come such a long, long way.

They don’t even like it here.

But maybe it’s me

That they want.

I stop. And think. They stick thick to my heart.

Pausing a beat. Panicking me.

So I dig in the backyard, to put them back where they belong.

With dirt and dust.

Closing my eyes.

Laying in bed.

Breathing in deep.

But those stories from Ott Street keep following me.


This is a poem that I have already shared on my blog but thought that I’d re-share it for my new followers. This poem has a very special place and meaning for me. Many of my family and ancestors are buried in the mountains of Virginia and I often felt called to their peaks.

 

The Chief End of Man

The Holy Spirit breezed in and bellied up to my kitchen island bar, and

knocking his knuckles on the counter, he asked for a drink.

After I popped off the bottle cap and passed him a beer,

the Spirit asked, “What is the chief end of man?”

Man, I thought.

I settled onto a stool and

replied:

In the beginning a baby boy was laid on Eve’s naked breast where she filled

his belly with sweet milk and the dream of a garden he would never know.

The heir to an apple, he murdered his brother, and his mother’s tears

flooded the world. The wall of Jericho fell at her grief.

The edge of civilization, a pile of ruble and devastation //

this must be the chief end of man.

Particles of memories ran through generations of umbilical cords and

placentas, making its way to Jesus with milk on his chin,

who’s death was mourned by Mary at his feet.

More murder and tears, not flooding but soaking the earth drenched

with the pride. With more walls and a cross //

this must be the chief end of man.

The grief of our mothers bear the weight in their tears

of a chief end of sons, all heirs to an apple, from parents undone

by a curse that’s been broken through a son on a cross. All glory to him,

who wipes all her tears //

this must be the chief end of man.

 


Part of my journey through faith and feminism is my attempt at reconciling the two. They are not binaries and are not either/or. That is a false dichotomy that I often fall victim to. Here I am answering the first question to the Westminster’s Shorter Catechism with my answer to my faith and feminism. It’s imperfect, for sure, and something I’ve been playing with for a few weeks, but I’ve shared it with you today. Perhaps in the spirit of holy week. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

 

Agri-hood

Homesteading in the hood,
An Argi-hood,
Where it never rains,
In the desert.


My husband and I grow a lot of food and have 3 chickens where we live in the city. Sometimes it just sounds so absurd to me. Less than three miles around us in either direction there is a food desert; people who do not have access to grocery stores with fresh vegetables and good food. And here we are with chickens.