Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Pictures, Words and Stories

Happy first day of Spring!  I know friends have snow on the ground as I write this blog post and I'm hoping that it's at least sunny for them today. It's a beautiful morning here.

"A picture is worth a thousand words."

The adage refers to how ideas can be conveyed by a single photograph. In writing novels, however, we need the thousand words or more to convey the idea. My historical novel, A Decent Woman, clocks in at 85,950 words. That's a lot of words :)

I took this photograph last Spring and I could tell you so many stories about this photograph. You might think it's just a nice photograph taken of a cat lounging on an overcast day and of course, that's true. It's much more than that to me.

The wicker table sat in my maternal grandparent's white clapboard country house in Cacao, Puerto Rico, high up in the mountains where they grew coffee, banana and plantain trees, oranges and lemons on their large farm.The ceramic pot belonged to my girlfriend K's father who passed away a few years back in Winchester, Virginia.The black cat I've named Noir belonged to my next door neighbor, Mr. Don who passed away a year ago. My friend M and I found the unpainted wicker chair next to a dumpster in Northern Virginia.The mountain laurel in the pot on the small retaining wall came from a holler in Front Royal, Virginia. A man I was seeing brought me the plant on our first date.

The little wicker table belonged to my maternal great-aunt Paquita who gave it to my grandmother. I don't know who owned the table before that. My grandparents took it to their coffee farm where it sat for decades before the farm was sold. My cousins and I played on that table, used it to play school and had tea parties on it. My mother packed this little table in brown paper and tied it with rope like a present and checked it in as luggage on a TWA flight from San Juan, Puerto Rico to Alexandria, Virginia in the days when we could travel with two pieces of luggage.

In those days, my grandmother and mother traveled back and forth from Puerto Rico to the US with plants with clean roots, plant clippings, food, clothing and anything else that fit in two suitcases. My Polish grandmother used to visit us bearing huge kielbasa, Polish sausages, in her luggage! A suitcase to us kids always meant it was Christmas. We couldn't wait to see what our relatives had packed and whether or not the items for us was still exciting.

The well-traveled little table. It traveled by jeep from the mountains of Cacao to the city of Ponce where my grandparents lived and then, to Alexandria, Virginia where my parents lived. The little table traveled with me to California, Austria, back to Virginia and when my mother passed away, we headed to Belgium where the table lived for 13 years. I packed the little table and drove it to France where it continued to be an end table in my daughter's bedroom. When my kids and I left Europe, the table traveled to Maryland, Virginia and now, it sits on my patio in West Virginia. The little wicker table has traveled almost as much as I have!

I hope one day that the little white wicker table will sit in one of my children's nurseries, so I think it's time for it to come inside. I know Noir will miss it :)

Peace and love,
Ellie




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