Saturday, October 30, 2010

THE FALL

GERONIMO, CHIRICAHUA APACHE, WHO, AFTER BEING HELD AS  A
PRISONER-OF-WAR BY THE U.S. GOVERNMENT,
WAS NEVER ALLOWED TO GO BACK TO THE LAND OF HIS BIRTH
The other day I went over to my friend Brad's in a section of L.A. called Lincoln Heights. Brad's house is perched on the edge of a precipice and underneath it is a shed in which a bunch of my stuff has been stored for the last 10 months.

I had many emotions as I opened the boxes and pored through the contents: the blue and gold Talavera plates my ex-husband and I brought back from Guadalajara, the little rattan box I'd bought in Bangkok and filled with tiny shells picked up on a Thai beach, the old glazed ceramic pitcher of Nana's, encrusted with peaches, apples and twining leaves. Were those my silver salt and pepper shakers? I almost no longer recognized them!

It was a fine fall afternoon, suffused with the dreamy gold-shot light that lends itself to musing on the mystery of why our journeys landed us in the city they did and not another; how we hooked up with this person instead of that one, and the way things might have been very different (in either direction) otherwise; the seemingly disparate bits and pieces that against all odds, day by day, cohere, however precariously, into a life. 

At one point, I realized the air was perfumed with a musky, sweetish, slightly decayed smell and looked over to see a gnarled old guava tree. Its branches were laden, and the ground beneath was covered with soft lemon-yellow fruit. Guavas have rose-colored flesh and tons of tiny seeds you can swallow whole if you've a mind to. I had a mind to, and helped myself to several, gorging on the good parts and tossing the half-eaten seed-heavy cores into the abandoned ravine below. Wasps swarmed the fallen fruit, but they were drowsy, or feeling magnanimous, and left me alone to ponder the delicious pleasure of the sun, and the sweetness of the fruit, and the re-discovery of my beloved belongings, all juxtaposed with the imminent possibility of a sharp, stabbing sting. 

My mind roved back to New Hampshire--land of my own birth--as it often does this time of year. I thought of Applecrest Orchards,  and the scarlet-bronze maples, and how, all over the country, we'll be turning the clocks back soon. I thought of the tall drift of dried leaves onto which, one whole autumn as kids, we'd jumped from an ancient stone wall--yelling "GERONIMO!!!"--and landed: neck-deep.

TITIAN, CIRCA 1550
ADAM AND EVE

7 comments:

  1. I will readily admit I came online today as a diversionary tactic. This was lovely & nourished the positives. ~Mary

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  2. Heather, my kids still like the leaf jumping bit. :) Can't remember what it is that they yell at take-off, but I'm sure it's something full of fire like "Geronimo!"

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  3. New Hampshire rocks! (I'm from Mass., but have spent plenty of time "up north.")

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  4. I have a hard time getting past that photo and caption of Geronimo. Exiled for the rest of his life for defending his people against who he surely saw as unjust aggressors. It is too sad.

    However, living in NW Massachusetts, I can relate to your memories of your youth in New Hampshire.

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  5. I love the imagery of magnanimous wasps. As opposed to magnanimous WASPS, which is what you had when the parents of the N.H. rich kids opened their liquor cabinets for parties.

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  6. And yes, that is unbearably sad that Geronimo was forever separated from his homeland. And that we are in a sense forever separated from ours, longing to return to some lost, half-remembered Eden...

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