Tuesday, May 8, 2007

plant tables

I have only ever seen two plant tables in my life, that I remember. This one is from my great aunt and uncle's house in Moab, Utah, where I visited this spring. Moab was not my original destination; I had said I was going to Montana, but anxiety about mountain driving and the idea of having someone who expected you on an otherwise unexpected road trip led me to Moab. It's funny to think that everything I thought I would see in Montana ended up on this table instead. I had never met my Aunt Toots or my Uncle Al, and in fact, the last time they both saw any of my family was for my parents wedding or perhaps some anniversary shortly after that. My Aunt Toots is my grandpa's little sister, and she had returned to Ohio when my grandma died 28 years ago. She remembered playing with my older brother, and I must have been around too. But in the 30 years since they've moved west, despite the my dad's promises of going to Moab some day (for as long as I can remember), no one from the family has ever made it out to visit them. And then there I was, 3 years to the day after my grandpa died, hoping, I think, to communicate in some way how very dear this man had been to me. We shared people, but it struck me how my whole life was a profound absence in their knowing of these people--not me, but the time of my life. I found it difficult to convey the dearness, and the sense that it seemed important to me that his life before me be as dear to them as his later life had been to me. And there were similarities--of sensibility, of gruffness, of thoughtful matter-of-factness, of sweetness--that I drew between my grandpa and his sister, but it was the uncanny plant table that stood between them. My grandpa had changed so little in his house after my grandma died; traces of her remained everywhere and mostly remained undisturbed, except a collection of porceloin animals on shelves that he moved because it became too much to dust. And so the plant table was a fixture, his perhaps filled more with pictures than with plants. None of the plants on either of the plant tables could be said to be that beautiful--and at times, I can say, I have thought that they seem dead, even, or not exactly alive. Or, I might say, they seem to be something to keep around, something that doesn't gather dust in the same way that other parts of the house do, something that needs care and implies order, like the gentle bringing of wishes to the surface, or of our dreams to our lives, or of our lives to what isn't lived.

1 comment:

albane said...

liked the lyrical prose of your retell of the encounter, estrellita.
i would like to tell you about tante nano, my granp's raoul sister. i have not seen her many time in my life and yet i always aske my mom about her. she is a GRANDE DAME, although this term carries a pompousness that is foreign to her and she is today the last of my grand-pa's 6 siblings to be alive. tante nano feels warm, grounded, comforting and all-forgiving. i hope to visit her next time i go to france. just thinking of her feels good...