winesburg, ohio

Every night when Greg and I go to bed, I plop my head down on my pillow, ready to conk out,  while he flips open his i pad to read whatever book he's on.  I don't know if I can remember the last fiction book I read, but lately I've felt a marked pull towards reading again.

When I was in the First Grade I started bringing chapter books out to read on the playground.  I fell in love with Judy Bloom and Roald Dahl early on, and would hide in a big truck tire during recess so that I had a quiet place to read.  Once, in the 2nd Grade, I somehow misplaced my copy of The Witches.  I was convinced it must have been stolen and requested that a schoolwide announcement be made over the intercom asking that my book be returned to the Administration Office (no questions asked).  My dogeared copy was never turned in, but it was quickly replaced.

The last novel that moved me as an adult was Joan Dideon's Run River.  After reading that beautiful book I read several others of hers, searching for a similar rush.  That was almost 9 years ago when I was living in Crown Heights with my sister, in an apartment without a TV.

My sister worked in publishing in New York for a while before she went on to travel the world getting her PHD in literature and language studies.  She's got a lot of great books piled up at our mom's house in PA and the last time I was home I picked up Winesburg Ohio, by Sherwood Anderson.  A note scrawled on the inside cover from one of her friends reads:


This book is dark and bittersweet - the way that you like it.  It's all characters and just now reminded me of your own stories.  So take this copy.

I'm only through the first few chapters but already I love it.  Each chapter is a snippet about a different person living in one rural midwestern town in the early 1900s.  In one of them there is vivid imagery of the 'leftover' apples in the town's orchards that I loved:

"The story of Doctor Reefy and his courtship of the tall dark girl who became his a very curious story.  It is delicious, like the twisted little apples that grow in the orchards of Winesburg.  In the fall one walks in the orchards and the ground is hard with frost underfoot.  The apples have been taken from the trees by the pickers.  They have been put in barrels and shipped to the cities where they will be eaten in apartments that are filled with books, magazines, furniture, and people.  On the trees are only the few gnarled apples that the pickers have rejected.  They look like the knuckles of Doctor Reefy's hands.  One nibbles at them and they are delicious.  Into a little round place at the side of the apple has been gathered all of its sweetness.  One runs from tree to tree over the frosted ground picking the gnarled, twisted apples and filling his pockets with them.  Only the few know the sweetness of the twisted apples."

I am a vigilant subscriber of the idea that the imperfect,overlooked specimens of nature can be a beautifully kept secret with a sweetness unlike any other, and after reading this was inspired to capture that ganarled, concentrated sweetness in an arrangement.

So, at the market I picked up gnarly fig branches and dusty grey centered anemones.  And then Carra brought down a special delivery of tangled plum blossom, apple blossom, and variegated jasmine vines from Mendocino county.

Hopefully this reading (fiction) thing sticks!  It makes for some fun flowers.