Homebound: A Tour Of Mersea

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Christie and I are homebound. She, an author and writer of contemplative prose, is bound to Maplehurst, a red-brick farmhouse built by Pennsylvania Quakers in 1880. And I, a writer of poetry and prose, live in a small southern shrimping village. My home, Mersea, is an old white Victorian built in 1904. We are both writers, wives, mothers, but nearly twenty years and hundreds of miles lie between us.

Christie and I exchanged a few “Homebound Letters” over Lent. The nature of a letter is to communicate over a distance, but the season of Lent introduces other distances — there is the space between winter and spring, the break between longing and fulfillment, and the chasm, so like a tomb, between death and new life. But what is Lent, after all, but a kind of long homecoming? It is a practice of return and a way of erasing distance.

 

“Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them”Psalm 126:6). This is the meaning of Easter.

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Easter is watching all that miserable distance shrink, almost to nothing. Easter is no more letter-writing but a face-to face encounter. Christie and I haven’t yet achieved that, it remains our not-quite-yet, but here is our literary equivalent. Here, for you Christie, and for each one of you reading along, is your very own tour of Mersea at Easter time. I am so glad you’ve come to visit.

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Christie, welcome to Mersea! Not only do I welcome all of ya’ll, but the sounds of the sea gulls and songbirds, and the sweet smells of salt air and sea spray coming on shore, they welcome you too. As if on cue they are singing their own songs of gladness and welcome. Shrimp season has just re-opened here so Sweet, my english cocker spaniel and I walked to the end of the road to the seafood market this morning and bought fresh shrimp for our lunch. So I can promise the shrimp salad is fresh! And the girls provided the eggs for the deviled eggs. So they are fresh too. (Perhaps we can exchange recipes. I’d love some from you all.)

Let’s have lunch on the front porch in the spacious wicker rockers with all the cozy colorful pillows. You will learn so much about this small village by watching the locals walk up and down our sidewalks. There will be lots of bicycle riders too, of all ages. I hope my neighbor rides by today, the one who pedals her tricycle with her big fluffy dog tied to the handlebars. She always makes me grin. My hope and dream and wish is to ride my own bicycle into my seventies and eighties. She is an inspiration.

We will not be bored, watching the world go by, you and I and our lunch of shrimp salad, fresh lettuce greens from my garden and fresh picked chocolate mint in our glasses of iced tea. Every once in awhile a crabber will go by with his or her crab pots in the back of the pick up truck. There is such beautiful simplicity in the design of the pot and in making a living from the sea. The village will tell you some stories, if you sit still and listen.

This wobbly old front porch has recently won my heart and become my favorite room in the house. It doesn’t hide its age or the wear and tear of living. It flaunts the fact that it has survived at least two major hurricanes, if not more. I am sure you saw the sign posted on the front column when you arrived, the one presented by the Village Museum. I will tell you over lunch a little more about my decision to name the house Mersea. You see she already has one “official” name, The Thomas William Graham house. As you will see in a moment, she not only has two names, but two front doors as well.

I suppose I could be a bit prideful about how desperately we need to paint the exterior of the house, but change and renovation take time as you well know. There is a certain special kind of peace which comes in loving Mersea in her in-between place. I am beginning to wonder if she will be too shiny, too new, too polished once her new paint is applied to her old white boards.

Now, which door shall we enter. These two front doors of ours, I find them to be at once doubly welcoming and a bit odd. I have a passion for doors, so this suits me just fine. But when folks come to see us they are just not quite sure how and where to enter when we say “Come on in!”

In the springtime and anytime the weather is showing off, we leave the front doors open so that the outside can come in and bring its goodness. Fresh air and cool winds flowing through Mersea is one of my greatest joys. Open! Yes, open is always preferred. And two open provides double the sea air and gull cries and birdsong and smells of spring.

But we must have screen doors. As you know, the gnats and mosquitoes and the “no see ums” can be unbearable. We joke and say it keeps the village small, as it keeps folks away. One screen door slaps so hard you will likely remember its slam even when you return to Maplehurst. The other door is so loose it sometimes requires an intentional closing. This is one of many juxtapositions and idiosyncrasies you will see as we continue on the tour.

Let’s go through the foyer and through the dining room. Try not to peek as I want to show you these spaces a little later after we go to the kitchen to grab our lunch. You must be hungry as you have come so far. I made a pecan pie and we are having fig preserves with lunch. Both are a hat tip to the pecan and fig trees out back. I don’t make good biscuits, but I buy great biscuits. The biscuits are just a placeholder for the spoonfuls, plural, of fresh fig preserves. Bought too. But this summer I have big plans to make my own, like my mother used to do with figs from her fig trees. I am missing mother this first spring without her. Spring was her favorite time of year. So many things here at Mersea were gifts from momma. I will point them out to you as we go.

Would you like coffee or hot tea with your pecan pie?

To be continued…

(Follow along on Instgram @graceappears for more photographs of Mersea)

 

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Christie Purifoy has offered to give all of us a tour of her home. Click the link here to follow along on her Homebound Home Tour of Maplehurst At Eastertime.

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On New Birth

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On New Birth

I remember. Forgetting is not an option. And if it was, I would choose to recall every fragment of the story. Remembering and forgetting sit with mystery and paint the canvas of today. The brushstrokes of tomorrow hold wet paint of waiting. And the fragments’ fragments, I would recall each one.

We are marked as mother’s by the ways we bring life into the world. The ways. There are many.  Laboring for years of a life changes perspective. Like tears on a page, the lines blur after being soaked by saline droplets racing down rivulets over cheekbones and around earlobes. Salt enhances flavor. Every memory is tinged with vivid recollection. The tear catchers can tell of what they witnessed. They held hope and joy and pain in equal measure.

And seeing life through the lens of infertility becomes a lens for seeing the world. Because the waits and pauses and hold on’s feel again like that. Pregnant pauses weigh us heavy with wonder. The question that shouts from the heart is why. Why slow down or shackle? Why hold back on life and gift and art and the birthing of new. Wrestling and wrangling possibility, I remember what I forgot. Perfect timing demands time. It is the wellspring, the life source, the fountain of new birth.

This thing about new birth and creation and creative birthing?  It is constant. It comes. It walks in the door, it comes through the womb, it bursts forth from the soil and it erupts from the limbs of the pecan tree. And this other thing, its Irish twin is the mystery of when. In waiting on the birth of a creative project, I feel mystery in the infertility of now. Now feels pressed with wait. Now is held by the weight of wait. When is held by mystery.

So I adopt a posture of certainty. It comes in part from the trail of fat bread crumbs on the path of before. I am sure of the sureness. I am at peace with the pause. I am attending the beauty of the mysteries of but when. Because faith and hope and love are in the soil. And that is all I know. They are in the soil of the tree, the soil of the garden and the soul of me.

And when I forget, I come back to this. I am certain of the certainty of new birth. And I am certain of the power of a tear.

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peace and grace to you,

elizabeth

Come Sit Beside Me, Please

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Come Sit Beside Me, Please

We all need a call to wake up
To attend to right now, right here
With a quorum of the senses reporting for duty
To cast their vote, for slow

Not like we need food and shelter and all the things in Mazlow’s hierarchy of needs
But, like we need poets and psalmists and prophets and spring
And two thin slices of white bread, to be soft enough to hold a thumbprint soft
So that when thick cut bologna bound with red wrapper and Dukes mayonnaise conjoin to Be pressed forward on the roof of one’s mouth, it’ll stick, (serving its white bread pre-Destined purpose of being bookends for meat) later requiring manual unsticking
And requiring two Diet Cokes to wash down the chips that served as a side in lieu of fresh Fruit at the deli counter  at the Harris Teeter which serves Boar’s Head beef bologna and The best salt and vinegar chips anywhere served politely by the shy but friendly silver Haired lady with the hair net that she wears with pride because she cares to follow the Rules and she cares too

Like we need a young man on a plane to remind us that twenty two year old adventurers
Have not had time to grow old and cold and jaded like the sad stooped man in 19B
Who doesn’t remember what time zone he is in or what his anniversary is or was before She left him for someone who remembered every year with a Hallmark card and a night Out on the town in her church dress and hose

But rather like we need rust on tin to prove there was a time of new and green
And how we live for low tide to find the rare left-handed conch brought in by the Preceding high tide, deliverer of treasures needing a hand to carry them home

And like we need a toe headed toddler who pats the sofa
With his sausage fat fingers and a nose that needs Kleenex
A diaper that weighs heavy with the need for changing
A pat, pat, pat
Slow as a metronome slow on the far left setting
And says “Read me ‘Good Night Moon’ again”
And only you know,
But don’t care that it’s the 23rd time, since Christmas
As he adds, “come sit beside me, please”

And you do.