#12 summer summit 2018

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The summer I was going into fourth grade my parents had rented an unfinished barn in East Hampton, Long Island. I had a bedroom with partial walls that overlooked my dad's studio. My cousin came to visit from Minnesota and for my birthday she gave me a pink diary with a gold lock and key. My father offered to pay me, what seemed like a huge sum of 5 dollars, if I would write in it every day that summer.

And so I began. I wrote down the details of the day and then as the summer wore on I would only write a word for each day, like sun or rain or beach. Then I would make a little drawing as a symbol for the day. I thought I was cheating, substituting pictures for words, and eventually I stopped. I wish I could reach back in time and encourage that 4th grade self to say: this is good; it is something; it is how you record the world; keep going.

I wish instead of seeing it as failure I could have seen it as the seed of an idea that required water and light and protection and general nurturing. There is no right way to keep a journal. I was not a good speller and my handwriting was messy so I would never have guessed that in time I would thrive on writing and the keeping of journals. My journals are like unfinished paintings still waiting for touches of definition. They provide harbors for scribbled vines of vision and memory.  I will let the bumble bee fumble along the pages with the pollen of original thought, syntax, and energy.

12 summer 18.jpg
These days between late spring

and early summer are like paintings

already hanging but not yet finished

[...] still waiting for their final touches

and smelling of linseed and turpentine:

everything fresh, the paint still wet,

the taut sky primed with a wash of blue.

The Siberian irises, not yet

unfurling, their buds still tight,

look like paint brushes saturated

with ultramarine; buttercups
spatter the meadow with yellow.

From an arbor of scribbled vines,

blossom-clusters of wisteria

dangle, glistening with last night's rain.

A wood thrush calls in liquid trills

from deep within the background's

mass of pale, soft greens. The air
chills while the sun warms the scene.

May these days remain unfinished

a while longer, with no artist

jostling his way in

to apply some final flourish

or a coat of varnish that will

only darken. Let the bumblebee

fumble among the blossoms.

Jeffrey Harrison, from "Vanishing Days," Southern Review (vol. 54, no. 2, Spring 2018)

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This page contains a single entry by Catherine White published on June 12, 2018 8:13 PM.

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