The pond in the night

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WAKING FOR A spell in the middle of the night presents one with three options:

First, go right back to sleep. This is preferred. Second is chewing on a minor problem that, due to its appearing in the middle of the night, magnifies spectacularly in significance. This is your least desirable path. For me, there is a third.

Go to Wavering Pond.

I lived on my maternal grandparents’ 500-acre farm in southwest Georgia from the age of six months until I was on the brink of 7, which is when we moved to Florida.

I regularly traveled the 200 miles to the farm for visits, first to my grandparents and later to my parents who returned there to live after my grandmother died during a visit to New Orleans, and they inherited the place. My mother was an only child.

They sold the farm and moved to Atlanta in the mid-1980s.

That farm was wonderful. There were huge fields of cotton, corn and peanuts. There were Hereford cows and a grove of pecan trees. Then, due to a government program, that all vanished (not the pecan trees) and was replaced by pines.

The best part of the farm was Wavering Pond which was about a quarter-mile behind the old house, a short and easy walk. That’s not it in the photo, but that’s precisely how it looked. The pond was full of cypress trees that grew right in the water.

My grandparents always kept a rowboat there and a paddle. It was a rustic affair, a little leaky, but it worked well for sliding over the surface or for fishing. I never fished. I explored. I spent hours over the decades paddling alone and slowly across that pond, and it was a very large pond, two or three acres or so.

It was always quiet and, except right out in the middle, a bit dark and creepy. There were owls and crows. Long ago, perhaps in my 20s — I don’t recall exactly — I dreamed of building a home there just like Thoreau, a place to live alone and not be bothered by people.

Additionally, it was going to be an underground home, dug into the hillside that rose up from the pond’s dark, clear waters, dark due to the many cypress trees. It’s an idea that still appeals to one’s hermit nature.

So now, in the middle of the night when I awaken, I visit the pond. I’m in the rowboat alone always, looking over the side, seeing bass and brim, the occasional snake and turtle. And I go back to sleep drifting among cypress knees.

Man does not live by stew alone

(I wrote this years ago, and it’s one of my favorites. It demonstrates how something as simple as a Broken Staircase, which was the original title, can change lives. It’s the story of a man named Alcott and a red-haired woman named Vulpine.

(Though I was not conscious of it at the time I wrote this, I have come to believe there is a wishful autobiographical element to this story.)

* * * *

Stairwell in old house of Old Faithful Inn

Five steps rotted and collapsed in the middle of the staircase, and that’s how it all began. Alcott was upstairs. He never left his home again.

He decided to write a history of mankind. It would be thorough, but due to having no reference materials upstairs, it would be fiction by necessity, a history of mankind as it should have been, the perfect people. He liked the idea, and dedicated the rest of his life to writing fictitious history.

. . . which should not be confused with historical fiction. No, he wrote history hidden by a mask, creating a dream world, but really, after all, it was not so different from actual historical writing at times.

But first there was the matter of survival. For that he turned to his old friend Beaman whom he had known since boyhood.

Beaman lived nearby.

There was the question of food.

Beaman tossed up a rope, and that was how Alcott received his daily meals, a basket connected to the rope. Beaman’s wife, Aldyth, simply made a bit more than she and Beaman ate each day, and Beaman took the leftovers to Alcott.

We should mention that Alcott was married too. His wife was Godeleva, but Alcott had not loved — or even liked — Godeleva in many years.

As luck would have it, Godeleva was downstairs when the five steps rotted in the staircase. She noticed the problem even before Alcott. She smiled, walked into the downstairs bedroom, packed two bags, and headed to the beach.

. . . and never returned.

* * * *

Alcott was not a social man, so the upstairs isolation suited him, plus there was lots of time to invent fictional history.

Luckily, there was a bathroom on the second floor of Bockingfold and an antique typewriter.

Bockingfold was the name of the home, which had been in Alcott’s family for generations. Godeleva had always found it dreary there.

About a year after the five steps rotted in the staircase, Alcott awoke one morning thinking of Godeleva whose body was as fine as her personality was foul. That afternoon, during their daily chat through the second-floor window, as warm stew was ascending, he asked Beaman for a woman.

Man does not live by stew alone, he said, or something like that.

There was an obstacle. The rope was medium-weight, and the basket had been bought at a discount outlet that imported from India.

The woman, they concluded, must be lightweight and short, a wisp of a girl.

This was acceptable to Alcott, desirable even, because Godeleva, although quite beautiful, was big-boned. And Alcott was ready for new adventures.

Find a mini-version of womankind, Alcott said to Beaman, but she must be over 21 because Alcott wanted no problems with the police.

One week later, Beaman stood beneath the window with Vulpine, which means like a fox. She said she was 26. And she was quite small, a midget actually, which should not be confused with a dwarf. She was well-formed, firm and fine.

Her hair and full lips were flaming red.

She fit perfectly into the basket, holding the day’s stew in her lap. Alcott, with a bit of extra effort, hoisted both dishes to the window sill and inside the room to which Vulpine hopped effortlessly and looked up at him, smiling.

* * * *

Vulpine did not speak much about her past. There was something about a circus, a prison and horse rides through the mountains with a man named Smoke.

Alcott and Vulpine hit it off immediately. She liked the security, the daily stews, and he liked the look of her, the red lips, the hair blazing like a bonfire.

redhead1And that’s how it stayed. The years passed, and Alcott wrote. In time there were 35 volumes of fictional history. He grew old and gray and stooped. But Vulpine never changed a bit.

She was like magic, and that was what he wanted. No one ever repaired the staircase of Bockinfold, and when Alcott died one day, Vulpine kissed his cheek, shimmied down the rope like a child and walked off into a sunny winter afternoon, her hair lit like Christmas candles.

Any ole thing

john

BEACH DENIZEN and blogger buddy Steve Cotton recently wrote about the tendency of some Mexico expatriate bloggers to run out of material, letting their blogs lie dormant.

When this happens I think it reflects a lamentable lack of imagination and/or lack of a camera.

Just this morning, while resting on the throne in the upstairs bathroom, I noticed this scene, one I spot daily about that hour. But today it hit me that it’s a bathroom scene rarely seen above the Rio Bravo, so I photographed it.

The upstairs bathroom is colonial tile, floor to ceiling. We have two other spaces that are colonial tile, floor to ceiling.

That would be the downstairs bathroom, which is far larger than this one, and the spacious kitchen.

Making this photo black and white instead of color caused nothing to be lost because the colonial tile is black and white, which was my idea. It was a favorite accent I used when I painted art furniture in a previous life.

The mirror over the sink reflects what’s behind me as I shoot the photo. The light in the mirror is on the ceiling.

So if one runs out of good material to write about, just grab the camera and shoot any ole thing. It’s fun, and then you can blab about it down below … or wherever.

* * * *

To  Mexico City!

Switching gears now, tomorrow my child bride heads off to Mexico City for three nights with a nephew, age 13.

I had planned to go too, but at the last moment I changed my mind, plus they will have more fun without the old codger in tow. It will be the boy’s first visit to the capital.

They will ride the Turibus. They will visit Chapultepec Castle. And they will spend nights at the Casa González just off the spectacular Paseo de la Reforma.

I’ve been in Mexico City a million times. It’s a hassle to get there, and it’s a hassle getting around while you’re there.

It will be the first time in almost 15 years that my wife and I have been separated more than one night.

I’ll be like a bachelor again.

Kite country

STANDING ON the upstairs terraza today at roundabouts 5:30 in the afternoon, I see four kites flying high.

kiteThere are two more — fatalities — dangling in a distant tree on the far side of the railroad tracks. Another one — also deceased — hangs atop the pole where electricity enters the Hacienda.

It’s the same situation every year about this time, but it seems accelerated this year, the kite phenomenon. Do youngsters — or anybody for that matter — fly kites in the United States nowadays? Or does everyone have his face stuck in an iPod? Are kites sold in five-and-dimes? Do five-and-dimes exist? We have a Woolworths in the state capital, but they’ve vanished from the United States, I hear.

I’ve seen lots of kites — both aloft and downed — hereabouts, but not one was store-bought. They are made by kids who tie and glue sticks together, and then they connect a thin plastic sheet, often cut from trash bags. The tails are pieces of trash-bag strips tied together. You gotta have a tail.

I find all this interesting, and for a few years I collected and saved the deceased kites that fell onto the Hacienda or into the yard. But the collection got too large and unwieldy, so I trashed them. The kites of Mexican kids have a high mortality rate because of the string they use. Regular sewing thread, which breaks on a whim.

Last week we were having lunch in the dining room when I looked out the big window and saw a young boy straddling the wall that surrounds our property. He was nervously retrieving a kite that had crashed into the grass. He completed his mission without actually jumping into our yard.

It’s good to see kids with imagination, inventiveness and skill.

* * * *

(Note 1: I found the photo online. It appears to be a Mexican child, but the kite is bigger and a bit better made than those found in my area. It might even be store-bought. Click on it for a closer look.)

(Note 2: The Woolworths link takes you to a photo of the old New Orleans store. I remember it well, and I shopped there now and again in the 1970s.)