Thursday, August 19, 2010


I think today should hold a lot of House-Righting and Dish-Washing and Clothes-Folding, for I’ve sadly neglected all three this week. It’s a sort of jumbled chaos downstairs, with so many things out of place, and so I’m headed off to a big I-Tunes Fest of Sense and Sensibility to entertain as I work.

Perhaps when things are a bit more serene and livable, some time out in an arbor chair, with the overhanging limbs and the hot breeze giving the proper reverence and setting to Faulkner (he’s always a Summer read, I think. You get the tastes and the sweat and the sheer overlying weight of the weather to set the stage, as well as the theme), I may continue reading As I Lay Dying, swapping the genteel pomp of the Dashwoods, with their soft intrigues and loves lost and misunderstandings and honor-well-served, for the grim, homemade-coffin trek to bury Addie Bundren amongst her Own People.

And it's not a sad book, as you'd think---it's just a well-told journey, seen by six different sets of eyes. It’s tiny glimpses of each family member as they gather for their Mother’s last days, as they take her home to her family graveyard, told in small moments of their thoughts---tiny half-page blips, sometimes, like the eye of a camera panning a crowd and snapping this one and that for one brief glance.

I've known ALL these people, especially in my childhood, when the old times still lingered and the old ways were still the norm---the sitting-up-all-night, the wakes and the singing, the gathering of the men in the stomped-down yard, passing bottles and time with a quick wrist-swipe at both whilst the women tended to things in the house.

I can remember four all-night-sit-up-with-the-deads in the house of my childhood---the shining metal caskets were wheeled in through the front door, through the vestibule arch, and parked square-ways right in front of the big double-windows of the living room like a new piano. Quiet voices, bowls of potato salad set down on the kitchen counter by kind neighbors, the scent of bouquets of garden-cut blooms set head and foot of the casket, the pile of hats on the hall bench, as the men removed them to honor the house and the dead, passing by on the way to the kitchen for a cold drink. For the first time, I was allowed to click the lock on my bathroom door for my bedtime bath, and I wore the new nylon duster from two Christmases ago over my gown for the five steps to my room, where I closed myself in, listening late to the soft murmurs in the house.

Even the names in this book are notional and obscurely odd: Anse, the shirking, whining father and Cash who builds the coffin in full view and sound of his Mother’s bedroom window; Jewel-who’s-a-man and Dewey Dell the only daughter and Darl and small Vardaman, whose name is the only one I've ever heard as a person's name, and at least recognizable as a town in my state.

They are of their age, of the wagon-and-horse, of the overalls-and-sweat and dipper-and-bucket age, pondering or mutely accepting or cursing the fate which set them in such a hard place, in such times.

And I’ll go out into the quiet breeze, sitting with a pitcher of well-iced tea, frivolously reading in the afternoon, but from a background of knowing these grim, enduring people, smelling the scents of their journey and their trials---remembering it, being FROM it, but not OF it. Not any more.


Maggie McArthur said...

Rachel, you go from strength to strength -- this post is so beautifully whittled, so evocative, so downright beautiful. The Dashwoods and I are dear friends but I admit that (cue gasps) I've never read a word of Faulkner. I see I have to set that right.

One of the many details I adored -- that you locked the bathroom door for the first time. I bet I'll find that WF hasn't a patch on you.

racheld said...

Oh, Maggie. I borrow your "I faint, I fail" when you say such beautiful things. I do think that of all the things folks have ever said about me, the word "whittled" has never come up. I tend to plaster, to trowel with a heavy hand,to clump on that frosting like a kindergartener's first cupcakes.

You are TOOOOO kind, and you know what your opinion means to me---beyond stars.

Thank you.

AND DO PLEASE START WITH THIS BOOK---some of the rest are like beer or olives---an acquired taste. This one is just little nips and sips, and settles you in easy for the long haul.

Justabeachkat said...

I sure do love your posts! It's always a treat to visit you sweet friend.


Keetha said...

I'm with Kat - always a treat!

Kim S. said...

Rachel, you kill me daid, girl. Just when I think that I've settled in to know who you are and what you can accomplish and how I respond to what you write, you surprise and astonish and touch me. I've said thank you before for the gifts that you offer everyday and I wish that I could come up with something original, but I just find myself saying, again, THANK YOU!

racheld said...

Oh, Y'all!! What lovely things to say!! You three "K's" can be counted on to comment so sweetly every time.

And Kim---You're one of the people in my life who can strike me absolutely mute.

jane said...

I loved this. As I Lay Dying, brought to life again by your words as if I just read it yesterday instead of 40 years ago.

racheld said...

Jane!! You made it!! I'm glad you're there and settling in---we love that town.

Glad you found an interesting "share," for I'm still with the clan, hurrying them on (but I'd like to abandon Anse at the nearest deep gully).