All pictures from Internet
Some time after we built our first house, way back when the children were very young, we brought a great bucket of rose cuttings from the huge, floppy-armed grasping old floribunda by Mammaw’s back porch. The next morning, the kids and I went out and started digging holes around the two walls of the house not already gussied up with a row of boxwoods.
About 8 inches or so down, we struck a layer of gummy white stick-to-the-shovel stuff. We proceeded to trace it sideways and out into a circle, and it was about 14/16 inches wide, and ran N/S as far as we cared to dig. It was a very pale gray, and we figured it went down several feet below that section of the yard. If it had been a foot wider, I imagine it would have probably been discovered when they dug the foundation.
The kids got out great bucketfuls of the clear, clean clay, and modeled and sculpted and smeared it on the outside of flowerpots and the birdbath and lots of lawn stuff. It was just the most malleable, wonderful material (except, of course for the odd little hunk of dirt or rock, brought up in the excavating).
We bagged up some and they kept it moist and took it to school for other kids to see. It didn’t have the distinctive smell of schoolroom clay---that one of several ingredients which make up the unmistakable scent of learning: that blackboard and chalk and mint and rubber erasers and little children fresh in from a run in the cold, and maybe strawberry lifesavers and apples. Occasionally perhaps there’s the lost fragrance of the cheapest toilet water the kids waveringly chose for Teacher's Christmas present---the kind that comes in bottles with a little maelstrom of glitter or a faded plastic daisy inside.
We kept digging that clay up for years, and as far as I know, it still stretches on forever, from way out at the barns on the South, far and away to the woods a half mile north across our fields. It also may flow for miles in both directions, and might account for the hundreds of pot-shards that the boys found all in the fields over the years---as soon as the first rain after First Turning, they’d walk and look for hours of the day, finding bits and pieces of past lives---some with scribbles and incisings, some with little corners or swoops of patterns and pictures, mostly indecipherable from such small samples, but occasionally recognizable as a bird’s wing, a snake, or the arc of a moon.
The finding had been so long ago, that I didn’t think to mention it when we sold the house after moving here, but I don’t suppose the young man would have had any use for it, or would even care to know.
So it was privately, exclusively ours, and lent a little aura of cachet to the children’s standing at school---their own CLAY MINE. I have no idea why I thought that stray thought early this morning, but there it is. Memories, no matter how insignificant or fleeting, are the WE of us.
And the roses---they still flourish. Last time I was there, the immense brambly arms with their blood-red burden reached up and up, scraping the eaves and barricading the windows like Sleeping Beauty’s hedge.