Wednesday, 16 July 2008

my grandmother

I opened the book, a gift from someone I love, I touched the old paper, the pale lilac cover, I let my finger caress it gently, with the tenderness of summer evenings growing tired. tired and unreal, the lilac twilight falling upon the faded pages. but I couldn't read more than one page, that first page:

The only adorable thing I can imagine is for my Grandmother to put me to bed and bring me a bowl of hot bread and milk, and, standing with her hands folded, the left thumb over the right, say in her adorable voice: 'There, darling, isn't that nice?' Oh, what a miracle of happiness that would be. To wake later to find her turning down the bedclothes to see if my feet were cold, and wrapping them up in a little pink singlet, softer than cat's fur... Alas!
(Journal of Katherine Mansfield)

I had to put the book aside and close my eyes. Katherine's grandmother came to me, and her face was the one I knew, the only face she could possibly have. she came to me smiling, one morning, pears in her hands, ripe pears almost brown, amber pears smelling sweet and lazy. I leaned back on my pillows, half-awake, in the middle of the small bed suffused with light, my eyes looking for hers.
I brought you pears
, she said. eat. she stroked my hair gently, while I reached for their melted gold. they cut the pear tree, you know. they had to, it was too old. her hand trembled on my head, barely a presence. at first I didn't understand. then it all became clear, their betrayal, their sneaking out in the middle of the night, when the world was closed to me. but not to them, the ones carrying the axes of amber, to chop down my amber pears. no, no, I whispered, and felt the emptiness in my stomach, always the same feeling, of being too late, of arriving when nothing more could be done, after the dice had spoken their will and the puzzle had become complete. eat, she said again, stroking my hair with both hands now, they are the last. I obeyed. I ate. I cried while the perfume of dark amber was growing inside, pieces of juicy flesh burning their way down through me.
oh the golden hue of my blood then.
and her silence after she said the word "last". I often wonder: maybe my life has continued to grow since then wrapped in that silence, I and the world equally unware of it, the silence she kept in the palm of her hand after the last word.


  1. These photographs and the text touch me, truly. There is something archetypal about the interaction bettween the grandmother and the child, these two who are often allies in the family and have their secrets. So much comes out of that interaction. It reminds me for some reason of the quote from Paul Klee that you may know: "Diesseitig bin ich gar nicht fassbar. Denn ich wohne grad so gut bei den Toten, wie bei den Ungeborenen. Etwas näher dem Herzen der Schöpfung als üblich. Und noch lange nicht nahe genug."
    The child and the grandmother (the one only recently born and the other nearing death) are both closer to the hearth of creation than others.

    The taste of the pears (my favorite fruit) which are sweeter because they are the last, but are also a beginning for that same reason -- because the end of the last pears creates the space for a silence in the mind where their taste lingers. Such a beautiul post....

  2. Sorry, of course I meant "closer to the heart of creation." But "hearth" .... I will think about that....

  3. there is nothing to say, except that there is nothing to say!

  4. Oh this is beautiful. Thank you. My grandmothers brought lilacs and figs and so many other things that will never leave me.

  5. This was a luscious, gorgeous, post, roxana. Anhaga is right, it as if two ends of the circle meet, and innocence joins wisdom again.

    And they're forever straightening hair or braiding it, as the tying of knots binds one generation to another, one human to another.
    And it is like this with the stories that are lovingly passed down..frontiersmen returning to the hearth, willing continuity.

    "And now this is ‘an inheritance’ –
    Upright, rudimentary, unshiftably planked
    In the long ago, yet willable forward

    Again and again and again."

    --Seamus Heaney.

    Your post reminded me, as well, of something very old. Not the cool flowing gold of the pears or words, not gold that burns or dazzles, or the gold of the lion or the sun, but how 'gold is a constant element, gleaming solidly in the underground vaults, on the breasts of queens or the arms and regalia of warriors on the mead benches'.

    As if to say, it is there all the time, manifests itself in the world in many ways... that when someone passes away or a loved one leaves something endures. By remembering your grandmother so beautifully have you not also become her?

    oh yes, do try ripe, fresh, cooked pears with cinammon and vanilla ice-cream.

  6. James, I thank you. Thank you for being so close to me, for your words and the wonderful Klee-quote. so gut bei den Toten wie bei den Ungeborenen. I had to think of Trakl too.
    and pears your favourite fruit! :-)

  7. Clavdia, no, I thank you. Somehow I felt that Katherine's grandmother in her Journal was the archetypal grandmother, and we all meet in her image.

  8. zuma, I enjoy your clapping as well as your silences [and should I add, as well as your sarcasm? :-)]

  9. anonymous, I am happy you are here and you let me see my own images and words through your eyes.

  10. verybeautiful (that had to be one word here)

    all of it!
    she looks like mother Theresa.

    ps. when you came to my blog speaking of gazing at the moon, i am just eating lunch at 2

  11. mansuetude, very strange this, I know - moon viewing here, as the Japanese would put it, and lunch time there. I know there is the perfect logical explanation for this, but my mind still finds it magical :-)
    thank you for coming to read this.