Thursday Shorts ~ 07-09-2009

Foundary on 1st Ave B'ham--an impressive childhood memory
Foundry on 1st Ave B'ham--an impressive childhood memory

A young lady suggested at a recent book event that I should think about going back before my adult life and write memoir-vignettes. I hadn’t given it much thought before, but having found how extraordinarily rich one’s memory can be under the writer’s lens and focus, there is some merit to the idea–at least for my own consumption. Towards that end (accidentally rather than on purpose) I ran across a web site with extensive images from my childhood in Birmingham. I may use them as springboards for writing. The image above is one of them.

Small wonder, then, that on seeing Mordor for the first time, this vision I first saw from the back seat window of a 1952 Pontiac came to mind. We could smell the sulfur and hear the jarring metal on metal and see the orange glow in the sky from where I lived in Crestwood. As a small child, driving across the “stink bridge” and seeing the molten metal flowing in the cold machinery of commerce carried a strong sense of foreboding. This image brought that feeling back.

On returning from the bear sighting on Tuesday, we opened the kitchen cabinet to a milling mass of very large carpenter ants running everywhere. It seemed they were focused, not on the honey or spices in the cabinet but on a small bottle of liquid that had fallen on its side and leaked some of its contents. The bottle: Torro Ant Killer. Too cramped a quarter to smash them digitally or swat them with the fly-flop, I ran for the vacuum to suck them up. The engine gave off the smell of burning electrical parts and died. It was an interesting day.

The honeymoon is over. Yesterday, the first Japanese beetles (only two, mating); the first purslane growing under the tomatoes; the first bean plant mortality, leaves progressively wilting for several days. I pulled the plant up (the first to set flowers, pity) and found a hole near the base of the vine. Slicing the stem open with my fingernail, it was hollow, a one inch caterpillar eating it from the inside. I hope he was a lone visitor from the Mothership.

I never noticed before the way a climbing bean’s tendrils are rough like a cat’s tongue, the grain of tiny coarse bristles set back towards the earth so that each least touch on a supporting branch or wire cage or companion plant is sustained until the twining green finger can pirouette, bow and rise, and strangle its way around the external skeleton of support, to grow up into the light above the competition. I swear when my back is turned, they wiggle and spire and lengthen six inches in a blink.

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