I’ve passed through a rite of motherhood that has spanned some twenty years. No more deadlines, meetings, no project emails that must be answered. I’ve retired from the every day world to enter a different one. And with the gift of quiet has come clarity. What do I want to do now?
I’ve always wanted to be a writer since my second grade teacher, Mrs. Klein, pinned my poem about spring to the bulletin board and I went to the City Hall as a winner in the New York City Fire Department’s “Little Hot Spot Contest.” I’ve wanted to be a writer since I discovered that the Bookmobile stopped outside my elementary school with shelves filled with Greek and African mythology. I’ve wanted to be a writer all those years I worked at being writer, stealing corners of time early in the morning before getting into the car. Now every day since I’ve arrived in Louisiana where D, my lover, has coaxed me from my home in northern California, I get up to make coffee and sit down at the computer to shape my thoughts.
I’ve noticed how D places pots of palms and Japanese maples at different locations around the house, allowing them to acclimate, trying to find the right spot where they will be content to put out leaves. He has a talent for finding hospitable places, a gift with plants as he does with animals. He talks to Cassie the cat and to hummingbirds. D has waited for several years for me to make the decision to move here to live with him in his mother’s house in Sterlington, Louisiana, a house he helped to build with his step-dad and her second husband, Jim.
Marie lived here for seven years. I met her twice, didn’t get to know her well before her death in 2010, but feel her presence. I believe people can imprint the space where they live. I’ve seen those signs in the way she’s organized her kitchen and how she’s arranged the garden, pictures of magnolias, egrets that she chose to place on the walls, a prized doll collection from her time spent with Jim in Branson, Missouri. I’ve placed my own pictures and photographs on the walls and have also left some of hers.
There’s one print in particular that has helped me to understand Marie Richard better, and since I am a mother, to appreciate the substance and stuff she’s passed along to her son. It’s a print by Paul J. Long of an abandoned shack on a hill, crowded by lightning-blasted trunks, pine trees in the background, a rusted mailbox in the foreground surrounded by a field of white daisies. There’s a heap of straw inside the mailbox, possibly a bird’s nest, which speaks to the continuity of life in the face of difficulty.
Marie was a country girl married at 13, raised three sons, and a companion to two husbands. She grew up in Lake Providence, a small town in East Carroll Parish on the Mississippi River in the northeast corner of Louisiana, a woman who did not flaunt belief, but was resolute in adhering to her faith. I can see how proud she was of this house, a testament to how far she had come from her beginnings in the cotton fields of this flat, furrowed landscape. Living together with her middle son, D, who tells me every day how much he loves me, makes me feel that I can reinvent myself in a place that is far from any thing I’ve ever known. I am trying to acclimate myself. Last night I spoke to a group of young poets who asked me like so many others, why I moved to a place that lacks the glamour of the iconic Bay Area. My answer is always for “love and adventure.” I am hoping to put down roots here and to leave something of myself.