Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Nostalgia in the Nine Year Old; H.L. Hix's In Quire project.

The poet, H. L. Hix, has an interesting online project. He asks people to write about an object (not people or pets) that is important to them, but was not bought and then he posted the writing and a picture of the object on his blog.

Recently, through my writer friend, Jenny Hill, Hix invited me to contribute. Here is my In Quire contribution. I wrote about language, and specifically, the comma.

Really, if I was being straightforward about it, I should have written about the picture posted above. It is a painting by my childhood next-door-neighbour / surrogate grandmother, Molly Gordon. My family shared the holiday cottage pictured above with Molly, and her husband, Jack (known to us children as Papa Gordon). It was in the entirely numinous Mourne Mountains in Northern Ireland, near the village of Annalong.

I remember climbing the mountains in the background (Big Ben and Little Ben, though most the mountains' names were prefixed with 'Slieve', from the Irish sliabh, meaning mountain.) I remember the huge iron stove, the brass bed, the washing jug and basin, the Alice-in-Wonderland wallpaper that my parents put up in the little part of the cottage that we children slept in. I remember waking in that bedroom, early, to the sound of birdsong in the brambles out the window. I also remember the stone walls, the cows of the adjacent farm, and the cow patties. I should include my eight-year-old self playing doctor with a neighbour girl and my parents walking in. This kind of thing happened a lot, if I recall correctly.

On trips back to Ireland, I've never been able to find the cottage, though I have driven through the mountains. This landscape is one of the iconic landscapes of my childhood and I mythologized it even when leaving for North America at age 9. (Though my last memory of Ireland is of my parents playing tennis sometime before we were set to emigrate. It was late afternoon and the sun, low in the sky, sent honey-coloured nostalgia beams across the tennis court. I remember saying to my nine-year old self, "Ah, but I shall ne'er see this, my native land, no more, as I am soon to leave." Actually, in something like those words. I was nine-years old and my nostalgia gland -- and my taste for Romantic poetry and Irish song lyrics -- was fully operational.

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