Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Monday, March 16, 2009


On Saturday Spouse was struck by a car while walking near our home. He's out of hospital now and recovering very well but it will be a long while before we're both over the shock of this horrific incident.
I know that anyone who reads my Spouse Chronicles will worry and wonder about his well-being, but he's quite on the mend, and any silence on my part is purely temporary in nature.
Please think of us.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Little Mater

"I hate cameras. They are so much more sure than I am about everything."
-John Steinbeck

I rarely get any visual updates on my mother. I have been assured she is blooming and radiant from the surplus of fruits and vegetables she has been consuming, but I recently was struck by the fact that I had not seen a picture of her in quite some time. I was curious, and I requested that she send me one.
I tore the envelope asunder yesterday afternoon, having been told beforehand that an image of Mater was on its way over the ocean.
The picture was illuminating in its own way: the bare-boned trees of March, the low hovering sky, the green lush carpet that held a promise of Spring. But wherefore might I find my mother?
I presumed that was an insect on the camera lens at the time of capture: it turned out to be Mater.
I found her at last when I cleaned my glasses and squinted at the center of the photograph. When I held the picture at a certain angle so that the light was sufficient, and so that my nose brushed the surface, I could identify a human figure. In fine fettle she seemed to be, strolling gloved and jacketed, battling what was most certainly a cold day.
That was as much, regrettably, as I was able to distinguish.
I thanked Mater later for that picture, which would have been most helpful if I were, for example, attempting to count the various shades of green in the valley.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Marco Polo Of Attics

"Sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."
-Lewis Carroll

I had a peculiar tendency in my formative years to spend hours rooting around in our old attic: I scrambled endlessly among the cobwebs and half-forgotten books and long-folded blankets. I hoped, in truth, to find a treasure map or a secret passage, the latter installed more than one hundred years before by a workman who just forgot to tell anybody about it.
I would be disturbed in my exploits only by the occasional rustle of a little whiskered fellow- which was an intriguing addition to the atmosphere- or by an occasional shout from below for dinner- which was not.
Nobody ever went up to the attic; my notions of mystery, of having an entire world to myself, remained intact.
And then one day I dived headfirst into the musty, disused stacks of clothing and landed sharply on something alien.
I had waited so long to discover something of historical significance, to be the Marco Polo of attics.
I was conscious of my own heartbeat thundering away as I sank my hand into the moth-bitten depths. I pulled up a can of baked beans in tomato sauce.
On closer inspection, it appeared to be an artifact from my own century. They were my favourite kind, as it turned out. I was soon surrounded by cans of soup and beans and vegetables as I excavated one item after another.
There might have been fifty cans squirreled away up there, and I found them- usually accidentally- over a period of months.
It seemed my mother had determined, by way of the gloomy newspaper articles and ominous television reports, that the world could soon come to an end, and she was being logical in preparing for the worst by peppering the attic with non-perishable food supplies.
Much as I searched, however, I never stumbled across a can opener. Or a spoon, for that matter. Perhaps they are up there yet, rusting away for the better part of twenty years. Perhaps.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Of Wheels and Words

"Let me embrace thee, sour adversity, for wise men say it is the wisest course."
-William Shakespeare

Mater read my composition regarding her curious three-wheeled-car adventure. She mulled it over and finally commented that it was quite the wrong three-wheel story.
But there are many words in the world, and an infinite number of ways to fashion a story, and sufficient nouns and adjectives and adverbs left over from the first outing that I might yet circumnavigate Mater's choice of tale about an ill-fated wheel.
I was lounging in my pram- I know because I was there, and because I recollect the entire scene with alarming precision.
I was being pushed up the road by my mother and my neck was wrapped with a scarf. I felt neither chilled nor tired: I was wholly protected from the elements. Those were the days before Mater possessed a car, and we were not out for any pleasant stroll but striving to get from one place to another.
My scarf drifted in a sudden breeze, became tangled in one of the back wheels, and began to strangle it. The wheel emerged as the loser in the battle and promptly became detached from the pram.
As we struggled to continue our journey against the tide of a furious wind, I kept insisting that I was sorry- perhaps because it was my own wayward scarf that bestowed such misery upon us. Sorry, sorry, sorry I shouted over and over into the gusts, through my mangled scarf.
I suspect that a three-legged donkey would have carried us home faster than my ailing, rickety carriage on a road of disrepair and endless craters. To be sure, he would have cheerfully consumed the scarf with a single, audible munch, but the fellow would have taken us home at a compensatory speed.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

No Chance

"We all feel the riddle of the earth without anyone to point it out. The mystery of life is the plainest part of it."
-G. K. Chesterton

In order to catch a bus to the local library I must cross the road- always a precarious venture- and make my way along a footpath for three hundred feet before I reach the bus stop.
If that footpath should ever happen to be coated in a film of ice, sprinkled with clumps of snow and sand and salt and resemble a muddy, slippery slope of certain doom, then I am obliged to set out a little earlier and proceed with increased caution in order to get myself to the designated point in one whole piece.
I stuck my nose out of the driveway this morning to ensure that all was well before I crossed the road. To my great dismay I saw the bus- my bus- already hurtling along on the other side, bound for the library, of course not stopping at any point unless a person happened to be waiting there, and I could not see anybody.
The early fellow had just negated all my well-coordinated hurry and haste.
I gave up immediately, having temporarily considered a mad dash across that deadly glass- a move that would likely be, if not fatal, then futile, for I surely stood no chance.
Before I returned to the comfort of my home, I observed that the bus had stalled at traffic lights within a few feet of- how utterly, magically convenient- the bus stop.
I am loathe to run after a bus: I fear I look foolish when I fail to catch it, but my spirit of adventure roared back to life: I tore across the road- as much as one can tear when leaping over the rough patches and endeavouring to miss the ice and looming vehicles- and still the bus had not moved. There was yet a tantalising, narrow wedge of possibility and I proceeded along the menacing conveyor belt of endless snow, hopping along and wondering, as I attempted to remain upright, when the driver was going to start moving again and put me out of my misery so that I might go home and lick my wounds, for I surely stood no chance.
I could hardly believe my good fortune when I arrived, weak-kneed and gasping, at the still-idle bus. I waved frantically, the doors slid open, I stumbled on, thanked the driver loudly, purchased a ticket and selected a seat, which I sank into with a hefty sigh.
And then two souls, a man and a woman who must have been waiting nearby- in my panic I had not seen them- ambled up the steps with a distinct and astonishing lack of urgency.
As the bus pulled away with at least one rather grateful passenger, I wondered how on earth I had acquired a seat against all odds.
But I also left ample room to muse on the most intricate riddle of them all: just how did I propel myself across the glazed road and down the slushy, ice-stricken street and onto the bus and into my seat before two people had time to shuffle from the bus stop?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Three Wheels On My Wagon

"Surprise is the greatest gift which life can grant us."
-Boris Pasternak

Mater was driving some years ago, quite close to her home on a remote stretch of road, when she was suddenly overtaken without so much as a courteous tootle of a horn or a considerate flash of lights.
The offending item was a car wheel.
It was not attached to anything in particular and it looked suspiciously familiar as it hurtled past my astonished mother. The wheel trundled and bumped along the road for a prolonged and inexplicable moment, presumably out for an exploratory investigation of the world.
Being a vital component of Mater's car, the rubber delinquent was rendered useless without the three companion wheels. The vehicle, without the necessary fourth wheel, was equally lacking in balance: after the car came to a dramatic shuddering halt Mater was stranded. She was left alone to watch the renegade wheel roll on and recede into the distance until it ceased its little endeavour and staggered to a stop.
Mater arrived home some time afterward, safe and sound, albeit deliriously humming the tune of 'Three Wheels On My Wagon.'
A cursory investigation threw no light on why the wheel made an uncharacteristic attempt to live the life of an ambitious outlaw, and the case remains unresolved to this day.

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Magician

"No; we have been as usual asking the wrong question. It does not matter a hoot what the mockingbird on the chimney is singing. The real and proper question is: Why is it beautiful?"
-Annie Dillard

I wonder if I met a magician this afternoon.
I was on a bus excursion, and a youngster of six years or thereabouts sat behind me- one must, of course, correlate climbing, leaning and squirming with a child's version of sitting.
She enthused to her mother about the virtues of bicycles, sheep-shaped clouds and sesame seeds, the latter being a new discovery.
"What are sesame seeds?" she asked warily as her mother produced some curious looking crackers; and shortly afterward the little girl proclaimed sesame seeds to be her favourite seed in the whole world, even better than apple seeds.
I was thoroughly appreciating, in what I hoped was a suitably subtle manner, the litany of lovely things.
"Mommy, I don't like it when you do magic. Magic can go out of control."
I very nearly spun around in my seat to see what I could see, but I succeeded in maintaining my composure at the strange and sudden curve in the conversation.
Was the lady by profession a magician, with a ready supply of rabbits and black hats and white doves?
There again, perhaps the lively child meant only to suggest that her mother must be a person of endless wonders to have knowledge of such things as sesame seed crackers.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Villain of the Roads

"Possible's slow fuse is lit
By the Imagination."
-Emily Dickinson

Ireland's worst driver has been apprehended, after an exhaustive investigation. The elusive fellow, originally from Poland, was stopped more than fifty times for speeding offences or similar matters.
Prawo Jazdy's name was entered into the police files, but he never responded to the numerous official notifications and he declined to pay his increasing dues. Most inexplicably, he continued to motor peacefully around the country avoiding capture.
Many a blue moon passed but it was at long last established that the rascal was not, after all, a flesh and blood driver, but the Polish term for 'Driver's Licence.'
It dawned on the frustrated, baffled police that on numerous occasions they had extracted precisely the wrong information from each culprit's licence, thereby setting free the reckless drivers- who did not know their good fortune- and unwittingly breathing fierce life into a bold, daring identity by the name of Prawo Jazdy.
And how that legend dwindled pitifully at the sobering news that Mr. Jazdy was neither a devious rogue nor a villain of the winding roads- was no more than a pair of foreign words!
Let us be slow to tamper with illusion and myth, for fear of reducing rousing, intrepid stories to dull explanations.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Mater and the Daffodils

"Where flowers bloom so does hope."
-Lady Bird Johnson

Last evening my mother gave me a sobering, lengthy account of the hospital visits and doctor's appointments she must prepare for in the days ahead.
She chanced, as the conversation idled, to glance out of the window, and she let out an exclamation of surprise.
"Snow!" she gasped. "Lots of it, coming down heavily!"
She was unable to return for the moment to the original train of thought, so out of the ordinary is the sight of a blanket of snow in Ireland in the month of March.
After much expression of astonishment, she remembered a basket of daffodils that were embedded in soil and illuminating the garden, or had been doing before the snowflakes threatened to envelope their yellow nodding heads.
"I must go." Mater recollected that I was on the other end of the telephone.
"I have to bring the daffodils indoors before the snow ruins them."
And so it was that Mater, burdened with her own concerns, disconnected the line, dashed outside and saved a bright and brilliant array of daffodils from certain doom.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Best Foot Forward

"We do have a zeal for laughter in most situations, give or take a dentist."
-Joseph Heller

Two years ago Mater paid a much-avoided visit to her dentist. After an examination he was forced to perform some extensive surgery on her mouth, and warned her before he proceeded.
"You'll feel very dizzy after the surgery, and you won't be able to walk properly. You might feel like you're drunk," he said, trying to be helpful.
Mater indicated her comprehension with a nod and was immediately swallowed by the dark mouth of anesthetic.
When Mater opened her eyes, the architecture on her teeth had been completed and the deed was done. My cousin was waiting to drive her home and he observed Mater gather herself together for the journey.
The dentist had transferred his attention to the files of another patient and was oblivious to the grand picture of Mater sweeping her legs from the operating chair as she tried desperately to find her belongings and the solid floor beneath her feet, wherever her feet might be.
She did locate her handbag eventually, and made several uncoordinated efforts- and failed- to push her head through the handles, to wear it around her neck like an enormous necklace.
At length, she stood up, grinned- or imagined she did- and was most pleased to find that she could walk to the car without assistance.
She marched in exaggerated slowness as though she were climbing stairs and not shuffling along an even pavement. Each footstep saw Mater raise her leg high off the ground until the invisible step was conquered, then down again for the next bit forward until my cousin, no doubt relieved, identified the correct vehicle and she climbed into it.
All that bothered Mater during the journey home was that the handbag would not, despite repeated attempts, fit around her neck, and that she could neither feel her neck or her handbag.
She was otherwise untroubled. Best foot forward, indeed.

Monday, March 2, 2009

No Letter

"And none will hear the postman's knock
Without a quickening of the heart.
For who can bear to feel himself forgotten?"
-W.H. Auden

I recently sent Mater a little package- some medals I collected while on an excursion to Mother Teresa's house in the heart of Calcutta.
Upon receiving the items this very morning, Mater assured me that she appreciated the gesture, and then proceeded to make a remark about the letter I had neglected to include.
"I don't know who it's from," she said, her tone as dry as dust, "but I enjoyed it very much."
To tell one truth, I sent the envelope in some haste, anxious for Mater to be in possession of it, and I had no time to consider the possible benefits of an epistle.
To tell another, Mater frequently dispatches parcels without a note or a name: the only way I establish the sender is by analysing the contents.
Teabags and sunhats and medicines and newspaper clippings are a particular signature of my mother's.
"Well," I said after a moment's consideration, "it was probably the very same as the letters you send me. I'm glad you enjoyed it."
"I get the message," I could hear Mater beaming over the telephone. "I know what it's like now. I'll be better in future."
And so it was that in a curious way, no letter was the loudest letter of all.
Please look around, explore my writing, leave a crumb:
I welcome comments and thoughts.