Tuesday, March 3, 2009

normal house--part II

So the history of this house is made up of the factual, more objective bits I’ve been able to piece together. Of course, objectivity goes out the window when those factual bits get processed through my brain, but still I tried.

Here are a few stories of this house and that people that lived here and the life that still grows here that dance under my eyelids and on the projector that runs on the back of the inside of my skull.

When I mow the lawn that surrounds this old house, I almost always have this strange déjà vu; this action that I’ve seen before plays hazy but vivid in my mind and almost in my actual vision. I picture an older, pale-skinned man walking the length of the house and the backyard and the side yard in greasy, green work pants and a thinly worn
from-so-much-washing white t-shirt. He has on the best of workboots—lovely fatigued, brown leather—the kind of leather that looks like it has caressed in loving tenderness the feet and hands of the owner and scuffed against a thousand sidewalks, stones, and dirt trails only to be gently wiped down and polished up on weekly basis.

This ghost man tends to the yard and the gardens and the chickens that live in the back with steadfast attention and care. Everything grows in great abundance and the house and yard are clean and tidy.

I see him in my peripheral vision. I catch his sinewy, strong body striding confidently around the corners of the house and then he is gone out of view. I feel his presence while I work in the yard and tend to my gardens and mow the lawn. He is everywhere. Their presences--the people who have lived here before—are scratched out into raised surface scars that bump me in the night and during the day.

In the photos that I dug up in the Ypsilanti Archives, our house boasts white clapboard siding on the bottom half of the house and what I think was black painted cedar-shake on the top. The residue of black (I am sure full up of lead) paint is still on parts of the windowpanes.

There is this picture of Mary Magdelan Blum in her lovely white dress, carrying this mega-bouquet of roses or maybe peonies or maybe both. I like to think that at one time rose bushes flourished on this property, but really there is no evidence of such a garden. And still in my mind, I conjure the clustered thorny bushes and see them—hazy yet hard brilliant billows of flowers on the grassy edges of our yard.

There is no doubt that the oldness of this place is set into the very ground on which this house was built. There is movement of another time weaving through the air and the trees that surround our space. The Oak in the backyard is so huge: I cannot even begin to know or count the years it has hovered kindly over the grass and ivy that makes up the yard. I think of the storms it has weathered and the bitter cold that has bit its bark and stymied its roots, only to awaken to the shaking warm wind of Michigan Spring.

Today, the cold ran over my skin like icy sandpaper. Really, my hands are so dry they keep splitting open. This winter has been long and hard. These memories and histories are keeping me readied for spring.


jay said...

wow. so interesting!! thanks for sharing that!

birdy.j said...

I wish our house was black and white again. I really, really, really do.