Writer as Camera


I think most writers have a theme they keep coming back to, no matter the piece they are working on. Unless I have completely misunderstood myself over the years, I recognize that my theme is one of finding the sacred in the ordinary.  Ordinary things, ordinary conversation, ordinary kindnesses.  This is fiction/non-fiction hybrid. The rings on the sideboard have been polished, but not enough to erase them.

Ice filled glasses dripped right through the small linen squares that were inadequate against the condensation. The linens were not coasters, of course, but when your drink was freshly made and the glass still dry, you might hold the small square in your hand as a layer against the ice, not thinking ahead to when the glass would sweat right into the wood.

Pewter coasters with flying geese etched into them were set out, but after a few Manhattans, aiming to set the glass inside the lip was a challenge.  So the finely woven linens, freshly ironed that afternoon, stood in.

She didn’t want the scratches on the sideboard sanded away and varnished with a fresh coat that smothered the memories.  She dusted and polished it occasionally but not enough to disguise the patina. This sideboard held stories. Iron skeleton keys rested in its locks, linens were still folded in its drawers. When she opened a drawer, the skin of the wood released its breath of lavender, orange and cedar sachets that had long ago been discarded.

She only uses those linens on holidays. Then the ancient lace tablecloth comes out, gracing a newer cloth like a veil. That veil held Uncle Charlie’s stories and his laughter and the click of his bridgework and the saturated sweet red cherry sitting on ice that hadn’t had enough time to melt. The glass would be re-filled, cued with just a sad nod at its emptiness. Not a beat missed. Re-filled while we all laughed and Aunt Loretta sighed, Oh, Charlie.

Those tales are family scripture.  Tradition and history passed down around the table. It was holy like mass, only we didn’t think like that at the time. Later when the voices were faint echoes that lingered in the wood, on the lace tablecloth, worn into the silver pattern and the wedding china, then we knew, or should have known. All of it was sacred.

But when the darkness came, could the walls and floor, table and crystal contain the sacredness when it seemed most threatened? Could those threads and splinters and ancient clinking glasses hold us together when it seemed all would be broken in the violence of words and anger and misunderstanding, of words said and not said?

Communion of saints. Don’t be silent now. Speak up. Contain the overflow. Herd it back to where it, where we, belong.