Monday, June 6, 2022

Monday Mimisms ~ Detours

"Why do you like trees so much?" he asked.
"That's a long and winding story, my Dear," I replied. He hated my long and winding stories and had no patience for them. So, I'll tell you instead.

I grew up in a tiny four-room house with six people in the middle of the middle of nowhere. I was thirteen before Daddy built onto the house to make it barely modest.  Space was not something readily available - not in a hallway, a kitchen, or a shared bunkbed bedroom with younger siblings - not even outside on the porch that needed painting for twenty years. I needed room. My rooms were outside.
 My rooms were trees.
And we had acres and acres of those.

 My palace was a patch of forest on the east side of Granny's fishing pond, where I would escape while she wormed her way into the mouths of the catfish we ate for dinner. My kitchen was a swept clearing of matted leaves where tree stumps were cabinet tops and thick moss carpeted the little trail that led to my firefly-lighted living room. I took afternoon and after-school "naps" in a cool tobacco barn full of golden forbidden leaves hanging from rafters that smelled like Heaven and looked like yellow crinoline angels. 
Story fodder. Silent witnesses.

There was plenty of opulence in the denseness of trees. Plenty of shade under mimosa branches and more than anything, I couldn't be seen or heard if I climbed high enough. Children were not meant to be seen or heard in the sixties deep dark South. Just be scarce. And quiet. And obedient. It was too crowded inside the little house that daddy built to do anything but control the traffic and hope for the best.  So you see... I have lived in tree "houses" all my life. Tree playgrounds.  Willow tree shade-houses with sterling silver tea sets precariously perched on a log bench full of fire ants. Privacy and solitude. Priceless.

"Why do you like trees so much?" he asked.

We don't need Freud to understand why I live in a house too big for me, a cat and an imaginary blog dog. I need space. I need a room (or two or three) of my very own. I need roaming room. I want to escape downstairs and find a corner in the "dungeon" (aka the basement) to pot a plant or paint a board or take a nap. I want to make noise. Lots of noise. I don't want anyone to tell me to be quiet. And then I want to walk outside in the regality of my own old-growth trees in Bloggingham. I don't need them for rooms anymore...but I want them and need them as familiar shelter, you see. 
There could never EVER be too many trees in my life. 
They saved me. They loved me. They held me.

If only he'd understood my quirky forest obsession.

 Here's a link to Katy Never Was a Jackass To Me to give you an idea of the smell of wide open spaces and well....cow dung on the farm, which seemed to waft equally pungent and morally significant on any given day in my childhood- depending on which way the wind was blowing.  "Don't step in the pasture," said Mama. "Don't climb that tree...."  or "Get out of the barn, Mimi!"
I never listened. 
Hence, stinky shoes and shaky branches.

My heart took a wild and crazy detour last year. But that's a story for another day. I promise.  Somewhere deep down in the folds of my pencil skirt the truth of that earth-quaking detour still rumbles, running circles around in my pencil head, just  another story on the tip of my tongue.... he and I...everybody needs a detour like that now and then. It was our turn for one, I time like a pandemic to square away the cobwebs we faced. It felt like three lifetimes in three months, moving through molasses at breakneck speed.  My pen hits the paper to bring it alive .....until I pull myself up by the Milanis and remember who I am and what I came here for.

Mama whispered, "Do NOT hit publish on that one, Mimi." You heard her, right? 
"Yes, ma'am," I whisper. "I won't."

Back to dirt-roads. You might think all these photos are from the same stretch of back road leading to a dead-end driveway, where people get out for fresh air in the country but never go anywhere at all.. You would be right about the location but wrong about the rest.  My stories and my books were already written before I left home to find them. I walked back and forth back and forth until one day all that stillness forged a well so deep I could carry it with me into the world. 
I stopped walking and started writing.

I cultivated deeply rooted tangled up Ivy League plots with scandalous lovers who smoked wacky cigarettes on the floor of the forbidden tobacco barn. I never told. And tales of fire-breathing dragons. There were those too. I walked it out in gravel-studded shoes. Chapter one, chapter two, chapter three. You see those stories in the shadows of this land, right? You've read many through the years. I have at least a bushel-barrel more.

"But dear...why do you need so many trees?"

I can't breathe without them.
When I write, words leap out of my chest and appear on a blank page. My heart smiles and remembers. It remembers the aforementioned questioning man, the tiny house of many people, eating wild berries and honeysuckle juice straight from a roadside tavern. My lungs breathe goodness and space. I feels like fire. It feels like life. Internal worlds collide. Past and present. Tears roll down my cheeks. I can't catch my breath until that one word I'm searching for lays bare on the page. 
Plump. Splat! There it is.
 Happiness catches fire and I feel alive.

There is nothing like conjuring words under the branches of trees
naked feet in thick green grass
makes a girl remember a detour or two....

I took a long drive this morning on my way home from somewhere I probably shouldn't have been (sounds like a country song, doesn't it?) My car had a mind of its own, making turns and twists according to the directions of my memory and intuition instead of that good 'ole common sense - the kind God gave a mule, that is. To the right...cornfields. To the left...cornfields! Through the window...cornfields! and the occasional angel wing cloud. Through a town and down a street where my first house sits, by the school near lover's lane where I used to park with my boyfriend. It was so crowded in the white framed house, you see, and Daddy would turn the porch light on as soon as we arrived home from a date. Mama tried to pretend she desperately needed to water a porch plant at 11:00 pm (my curfew). There was NO sitting in the car after dates. But I digress....wait a minute....I'm remembering...and it's OK. 
It's really really OK.

I can't wait to see where the turn of the road takes me next.
I like this fence. It's familiar....Wouldn't you like to run across that field towards the tree line in the distance? If we hurry we can probably still find a spot for a picnic. 

Come on!

Photos: Mimi Lenox

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Sherry Blue Sky said...

Mimi, I love your stories. And I especially love this one, because I am a total nut about trees.I am working hard to save a forest of old growth one short block away from me........ Trees held me, too, in my childhood. During the years of trying to keep four acting out tenagers alive as a single mother, I learned to BE a tree, strong in my trunk, to support them, but with branches flexible enough to allow them to fly free when they were ready........Trees hold me, still, as the planet dissolves into chaos because of humans while Mother Nature still keeps growing and blossoming and giving us all she can, like all mothers. And detours? My life has had so many and, looking back, each one, even the ones I thought were wrong turns, brought me gifts. You can write, girl. Your pieces would make the most wonderful memoir and I would buy the first copy.

ilovemylife said...

I agree with Sherry Blue Sky. I love your intimate way of writing your personal stories. Word places to identify with, places to feel like I get to know you better. It indeed would make a good-read memoir. Writing is such a blessing, refuge and gift. And you got the gift. ❤️‍��. Sandra Hammel

Ned Hamson said...

Good story - reminded me of:

Mimi Lenox said...

Sherry - What a wise tree you are. Your activism and your poetry have always inspired me. Saving an old growth forest is a huge task. I hope you will keep us informed on the progress.

As always, thank you for the writing encouragement. Retirement reboot Take 2! Time to get my collection together.

There's that thing about detours, Sherry. Yes, gifts.

Mimi Lenox said...

Sandra - Thank you for saying. It is a refuge and I am blessed to enjoy it so much. Are you still writing music?

Mimi Lenox said...

Ned - Willie is coming to North Carolina in September! I won't be there (LOL) but I do admire his authenticity and hutzpah....Thanks for the link.

Mark In Mayenne said...

I don't climb them any more but I plant them. Nuts, pips, marked by stakes with orange tops so I can look the next year for the tiny new growth and put a grille around it for protection.

Anonymous said...

Your writing is as breath-taking as trees are breath-giving. Both are sustenance. Thank you.

Mimi Lenox said...

Mark - Planting in the ground is so soothing. I'm sure your garden is well maintained. Thank you for visiting all the way from France.

Mimi Lenox said...

Anonymous - Thank you. I'm glad this piece resonated with you.

The Gal Herself said...

"Everybody needs a detour like that now and then." Yes, we all do. It doesn't so much matter how it turns out* as much as how you both benefit.

*Careful word choice because I don't believe it's forever over.

Mimi Lenox said...

Gal....You have witnessed it all and been friend to both. You are pulling on my heartstrings. Thank you for your steady presence.

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