Sunday, October 21, 2007

A Rakish Spirit

A commenter on my last post said that my "Wayward Angel" reminded her of the photo atop this blog. And Flannery says the "blue being" looks lonesome. Yes, I can see that too. You both may be on to something. A couple or three years ago, two of our prized pinon pines succumbed to bark beetle infestation. It was a heartbreaker. Those trees held memories. The kids had hung swings from those trees and climbed them, and built make-believe houses and castles under their branches. Those branches provided shade for the trampoline and privacy for the deck. But we were in a drought and that's what happens during a drought--things die.

We couldn't bear saying goodbye completely, so Bennie decided to leave the stumps on our property with a vague intention of turning them into totems or something artful. A few months passed and no one made any move to transform the stumps; their desolate forms reigned over the east side of our house with a misplaced, forlorn air. Then one day I came home to see the old "captain's chair" barstools perched up there. For all the world, they looked like they'd been picked up and blown there in a Wizard of Oz kind of storm.

Bennie called them the Spirit Chairs, thinking that perhaps wandering spirits, or ancestors, or who-or-what-have-you, weary from a night of moving between this realm and the next, might enjoy a seat now and again. He was right. The one I call Lily has claimed the left chair, the more upright one that sits atop this blog. Lily is quiet and mannerly and I believe she followed us here, demurely, all the way from Pacifica, California. There, within our cozy little walls on Banyan Way, once in a blue moon, Lily would appear and ever-so-softly walk across the hardwood floor at the top of the stairs. We would look up from a "Night Court" rerun we were watching downstairs, look at each other, and acknowledge in silence: Lily. She was kind of fun to have around, never truly disruptive, just a gentle reminder that there's a life beyond TV and checkbook-balancing and PTA fundraisers.

Hiram, he's another story. He has laid claim to the chair on the right, the one at the rakish angle. That chair keeps falling down, the back detaching itself from the seat, and Bennie keeps putting it back together again, and back up on the stump. It's as though someone repeatedly falls off that chair, laughing his ass off. Yeah, Hiram laughs at his own jokes. His idea of a joke: Just yesterday, as I sat at the computer, on the east side of the house, a knocking began on the roof above me. There was no wind. Even if there had been, there just isn't anything on the roof up there something could knock against. Even so, the knocking became more insistent; it turned into a clanging, like someone was banging a hammer against a metal post. No metal post up there. No hammer. No wind. What the...?

Despite knowing deep down it was Hiram, I found myself getting up and stealing down the hall to the living room, where I could peek through the window and get a vantage point of that part of the roof. For a moment, I'd thought I might discover some carpenter's truck in the driveway. I halfway expected--was hoping?--to find a carpenter on the roof of the wrong house. But no. The minute I peeked at the roof, the clanging stopped. And did I hear laughter coming from the right chair, now swaying in the breezeless air?

Hiram, what is it you require of me? Am I to paint your picture too? And, if I do, what exactly will "A Rakish Spirit" look like?


Celebration of Life said...

I think Hiram has a top hat and was a chimmney sweep!

Lee said...

Oh! I love it, San! These spirit stories are too awesome! Hiram and my cat share the same name although I spell it Hyram. If you read the Poetry Workshop post on my blog you'll recognize my limited experience with spirits. Everyone at my church knows about there are spirits in our garden. If you will go here and scroll to the bottom of the page you can read the poem of anther member of my church about those spirits and also life and time.


Anonymous said...

This story is great! I was wondering what was with the "chair in the air". Now I'm wondering what your neighbors think. "Who them? What's with the chairs? Oh, they're Artists."

With Hiram's sense of humor you may soon find a rake up in that chair.

Daphne said...

Good post! I thought that you had used Photoshop to put the chairs on the trees.

Your spirits make for a far better story.

San said...

Well, Jolene, now I'll be picturing Hiram just like that.

Lee, I will check out your post about spirits. I'm curious to see what your experience was...

Chewy, yes, the neighbors: the wife says, "Oh, you guys are so creative!!!" The husband tries to avoid eye contact. I believe he's heard Hiram.

Daphne, I'm glad you now know the chairs are real. You seem to approve of their occupants!

WBTT said...

Be careful, oh writer and interpreter of images, a portrait of Hiram may turn out to be a self-portrait. Have you considered that? Is Lily your sister spirit sitting like a contemplative thinker? And Hiram the blustering brother spirit that can't help but wish he were somewhere else? Ultimately, as you so eloquently suggest, it's more than a metaphor. Those chair's are family and everyone's welcome.

Seize the air!

San said...


murat11 said...

Oh my goodness: "Night Court." Not a big fan (not their fault; I think I was working too late), but I was living in New Orleans in those days, with John Larroquette as local boy made good. I followed his uneven spin-off for a while, loved how, pre-Simpsons coup, JL managed to sneak an episode about Thomas Pynchon on network TV. I can't remember if this was during the LONG WAIT after Gravity's Rainbow: methinks it was. In those days, anything would do.

Anyway, them chairs iz cool: New Mexican Duchamp, cher, and lovely spirits to boot. Nice that you and Bennie are there to receive them.

San said...

Murat, John Laroquette was a repeat visitor to our gallery in San Francisco back then. Through the years, we've taken to watching certain movies and TV shows because we met their stars in the gallery. I believe the "Night Court" fondness, however, preceded the gallery visits.