January 25, 2019
After unloading all our things into a mound in Jamey and Rachael’s front room, they gave us a tour of their fabulous house where Jamey had grown up with his siblings. Built about 1924, Jamey’s dad had later rather 1950’d the house, probably to make it different than it was while he was growing up. Now Jamey and Rachael were restoring some of the original glory as they also updated and modernized. Gorgeous patinas on some of the molding and the stairway to the spacious attic, that Jamey had spent months emptying out of family treasures. A big, new window illuminated the space and light bounced off the wooden floor. Now, just moving in while workers continued to finish the outside and roof, they too had boxes and possessions piled about. Where things were in the big bright, new kitchen was anyone’s guess. The magnificent tall windows were key throughout the house. Rushing up the walls, they flooded the rooms with light. Even in its unfinished state, Jamey’s boyhood home glowed. (MO)
When we arrived, I was happy to be back in Pensacola with my friends, Rachael and Jamey. They had moved back into his house shortly before we arrived. The house was beautifully renovated, a house that Jamey grew up in. His grandfather lived there too. As we walked around the house, Jamey said, “This is my grandfather’s foot print.” “The eaves were still there when my grandfather was here, then my father added plywood.” “See this hook? Two of them fell out when the carpenters were working. My grandmother used these exact hooks to weave in the room where you are staying. She had one in each corner.” I looked at the screw. An ordinary tiny metal hook with carving at the base. I said to Jamey, “Why don’t you make a list poem of all the connections to past generations?” While we swept, moved boxes into the corner and filled up a gigantic airbed where I would sleep, Maureen and Rachel went on a walk with Luna dog, down a few blocks to see the Bayou. (Barb)
Luna pulled us along like a little speckled spirit. The Bayou was water! And so pretty in the setting sun. Then I saw my first albino squirrel! As it leaped like a small ghost through the snarly branches of an ancient oak, I felt for a second like I was in the Japanese horror movie, Kuro Neko.
Trees abound: Magnolia, live and water oak, Crape Myrtle, Sweet gum, Juniper, cedar, Pecan, pine, and palm. Camilia bushes across the drive. (MO)
That evening we four went to the “End of the Line” again, for a three course vegan meal.
Back at their place we sat up late into the night over wine and books. Jamey and I found we had both been wildly inspired early on in our writing by Gregory Corso’s The Happy Birthday of Death and Gasoline. We marveled at the mystery of how we all seemed to randomly find in so unpredictable a way the writers and the path that brought us to our work. As tho some mysterious part of our being was looking for it, but then rather stumbled upon these connections. (MO)
I was sitting in the rocker with eye patches warming my dryish eyes, I listened to Jamey and Maureen talking. Blindly, I piped up, “You two really have found each other.” Lots of fun always at the dining room table. Jamey and Rachael are both exuberant and excited about art, poetry and love of others. (Barb)
Rachael talked about her photography and showed me some pieces. I immediately fell in love with the edginess of her work. She spoke about her teaching methods and I so wanted to take her classes. I pulled out my iphone and showed her a series of photos I took of the pine forests on a train trip through the high Sierras when it was snowing heavily. She said I had an “eye,” which filled me with joy as I love photography. (MO)
For the first time in a week, Maureen and I were able to sleep in separate rooms. Blissful to be away from the bags of kitchen things and alone. (Barb)
On Friday the 21st, I woke up to hear men banging around the house outside. We washed our clothes and rearranged things, starting to find some kind of order for on the road. When Rachael and Jamey left for school, Maureen and I did our yoga practices. While we were doing yoga, the men were working on the eaves outside our window and we pretended not to see them and the pretended not to see us. While I was packing up, one man caught my eye and I waved to him. When we went out to the car to find a restaurant for lunch, I stopped to talk to them. Did you enjoy practicing yoga with us? I asked They laughed. “Even watching can transmit energy.” (Barb)
We spent the morning catching up on this blog. Then we went to lunch at the 5 Sisters Blues Café, an amazing blues venue with yellowed and new posters covering the walls. (MO)
Home I took Loony Tune for a walk around the block. Something about this dog—I really like her. Energetic, sleek and on her own journey, dashing around, but then she comes back for a petting session. Then Jamey came home and Luna wanted to go out again. The cats wanted to come in. Maureen’s stomach was churning. She fell asleep on the sofa. Rachael came in the door and fell asleep in her bedroom.
Rachael arrived with lots of yummy food. But I had to decline dinner and sit in their chocolate brown recliner with a bit of a stomach upset. Too much wine, no doubt, and too much new and varied diet of the trip. Rachael brought me tea and Jamey’s grandmother’s soft fog colored blanket. She was feeding Jeff the fish and told me the story. She said she hadn’t intended to get a fish, but some students had brought in goldfish for an assignment and one of them mentioned his fish was up for adoption. Rachael had had a good friend who died in high school and his name was Jeff. When she asked the fish’s name, the student said Jeff. Did you name him after someone you know? She asked. And he said he didn’t know anyone named Jeff. (MO)
Jamey and I take Luna for her morning walk around a few blocks and along the Bayou. Birds are singing like Spring. The bayou shimmers blue in the crispy sun.. Jamey has cousins and relatives a plenty here. As we walk, three boys go by on their bikes. We exchange hellos and Jamey says, “That’s my cousin.” Growing up on the racetrack and moving from place to place, I marvel at what a sense of rootedness this must bring.
Jamey, Rachel and I went to Pensacola Beach. We headed out under the famous Trestle bridge that Rachael took photos of daily for a year, recording the ever changing graffiti art that folks add to and paint over constantly, creating a phenomenal book. (See this link for an interview of Rachael). Across Pensacola Bay, the Gulf of Mexico was just a skip and a jump away. As I walked up over the dunes to the water I was struck by a view of the sea I’d never experienced before. Because of the way the dune dipped the sea appeared to stand up as though a huge wave was suspended in air or held against glass. But the tide washed in lightly over a thigh deep trough where a man was gathering shells. The sea was the color of illuminated aquamarine. The sand was pure white and soft as silk. It was an optical illusion of sorts that was overwhelmingly beautiful and at the same time it felt mysteriously dangerous as the water stood up so high above us. Neither Jamey or Rachael seemed to see anything odd about the view and I wondered if I’d entered some kind of altered reality after days of driving. It’s a scene I’ll never forget.
We said hello to the man gathering shells. He asked our names and said his name was Broken. He explained that he gathered the shells in the trough as they were not crushed apart as the ones on the beach were. He showed us what he had so far and his shells were totally whole and perfect unlike the scattered chipped ones on the beach. Not broken, I thought, reflecting on his name. As we parted Jamey said casually how good it was to meet him. Suddenly wary he asked, “What did you say?” Jamey repeated and Broken thanked him. “I really appreciate that,” he said. (MO)
Photos by Rachael Ponghetti
I stayed home to spend time preparing for the reading. I had rarely read Just Like That out loud to an audience and I wanted to prepare a ten minute dip into the story that would work while also reading poems.. The novel is about a relationship that starts and stops, starts and stops, and so forth and so on. Instead of reading a section dwelling on the emotions of the stop, I found another one where the narrator is writing a poem very close to a poem I once wrote. :-). Then I fell asleep for an hour and woke up as the group came back into the house. Maureen gave me a clam shell she had found on the beach that I tucked away in a safe place in my suitcase. I regretted missing the beach, but our bodies also require sleep and care.
A few hours later, after much chatting, we went to the Pensacola Museum of Art for our reading. Grade school kid’s art covered the walls. There was a big crowd, many of Jamey’s students and other artists and poets from the community were there. I recognized several who were at my last reading (and workshop) in town a few years earlier. When Maureen was reading her poems from Erosian’s Pull, I recognized some of the lines (especially from “Whenever I snow…”). In 2007 Iinterviewed her about the process and background for the poems in this collection for Talisman. See http://barbarahenning.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Maureen-Owen-Interview.pdf
After the reading, Rachael rushed home to finish cooking delicious vegetarian lasagna and a crowd of friends came to the house for a party. At 1 am we crawled into our beds and so did Luna, Jeff and the kitties, Oscarella, Macey and Finn. (Barb)