Sense of Place
Gloria MacKay of Trilogy at Redmond Ridge is a writer of poetry and essays. She shares her thoughts and reflections with her fellow Trilogy members through her Sense of Place article series.
I think specifically, selecting straight-shooting, to-the-point words. Nouns – people, places, things. Verbs – action, energy, zest. I think so fast my head spins and write so tersely I can say anything I choose in half a page, double spaced.
From time to time, however, I stumble over a word that causes me to pause and take an extra breath. When I am in the midst of some serious reading, a single word can slow me down to a waltz. Another causes me to let loose of the newspaper and set my hands in my lap. Often these are loitering, lollygagging words…weeds in the garden of succinct expression.
As my head craves a pillow, my mind finds peace with these vague, evocative expressions. Nowhere. Somewhere. Anywhere. These are comfort words to me. Soft, mashed potato words ready to slide off the plate. Stretchable words as hard to pin down as the tail on a donkey in the dark. If nothing more can be said for these hazy, adverbial digressions on a cut and dried map, they dvo make a person hard to grab on to. This is the reason I love them. I can rat-a-tat just so many nouns and verbs before I set myself adrift.
Not everyone agrees with me. Vagueness makes some folks uneasy; people who talk loudly and fast and speak to me in staccato, show-and-tell verbs have no tolerance for my limbo seeking destinations.
Children, in particular, sometimes become frightened in the presence of vagueness. I know. I have scared a few in my time. I forget young people today are marched through life with as much opportunity to drift and dream as an infantry. Children have a lot of meetings to attend, a lot of instruments to master, a lot of sports to play, a lot of spelling words to learn, a lot of teeth to get straightened.
Uncertainty throws them into the gravel at the edge of the road: they can forget where they are, where they are going, where they have been, and even who they are.
If they had the time, I would like to give children lessons in dawdling and the finding of peace in circuitous routes. If I had the money, I would like to take them on leisurely trips to far away places. We could go on a pilgrimage of sorts: not to a make believe place like Brigadoon or Shangri-La, but to an actual spot I read about called The Five Miles From Anywhere No Hurry Inn (which includes boat moorage, a play area, and afternoon tea). In this British hideaway, halfway between Stretham and Soham and close to Wicken Fen, we could discover not only how it feels to be anywhere, but five miles beyond.
I once knew two children who might have been ready for a trip like this, once we had talked about getting lost and finding our way. I was multi-tasking one afternoon long ago, doing errands in town with two grandchildren, Katie and Andy, in the back seat. I felt Katie pat me on the shoulder, stretching as far as her seat belt would let her. With no smile in her voice she asked, “Grandma, if you get lost what will we do?”
“We could ask for directions. I’m not a person who likes to drive around in circles for no reason,” I said. (This was not entirely true and they knew it.) I turned around just enough to see Andy covering his eyes with his hands while his sister patted his knee. I slowed down just a bit.
“What are you stopping, grandma?” whispered Andy.
“I want to read the street signs. We can never be lost if we know where we are.”
“One sign says Three and the other one says And … over. Grandma, we’re at Three and Andover,” said Katie.
I turned around to praise her reading skills and there she was, twirling a strip of straw blond hair around and around until it stuck straight up in the air. Now I’ve done it, I thought. I’ve scared them. I started talking fast to fill up the space. “If we know where we are, then we can always get to somewhere, or anywhere, or even nowhere.”
“Didn’t she say she would get us a treat?” whispered Andy. “I want one of those ice cream bars with the ice cream on the outside and the chocolate and nuts in the middle.”
“There is no such thing,” giggled Katie.
“Yes there is. It’s called a Nowhere Bar. I’ve had one before.”
“Andy, when we get home I’ll show you a place that is five miles from anywhere.”
From that point on they did the giggling and talking and I did the driving, all the way to the store and all the way home. I had most of the groceries put away before I noticed how quiet it was. When I peeked into the garage there was Andy spitting on his napkin. He handed it to his sister who climbed into the driver’s seat and disappeared.
“Where are you going, Katie?”
“Nowhere, Grandma. I’m going nowhere.”
“She’s just in the front seat wiping ice cream off your seat. You dripped,” Andy said, rolling his eyes.
When we went inside I showed them where the Five Miles From Anywhere No Hurry Inn was on the map, but it looked like just any another spot to them, nothing special. Once I discovered the place has its own website (http://www.freewebs.com/fivemilesinn) it lost its mystery for me, as well.
“I wish we could go for another ride tomorrow,” whispered Andy as he leaned over the map.
“Me, too,” said Katie putting her arm over his shoulder. “I’ll read the street signs and grandma can drive.”
By: Gloria MacKay, Member of Trilogy at Redmond Ridge
We can stop for another ice cream, I thought. I have the money and it seems as though they have the time.