Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Words We Leave Behind

I've been traveling all summer - researching the novel, giving talks for work, visiting family, exploring, seeking enchantment, and finding always new places always to knit myself into that begin to feel like a part of home. But there is simply no substitute for the place where I grew up - these fields and farms and gently humped hills of upstate New York, where the leaves are beginning to turn, the golden rod bends on long stalks in the wind, the bend of the road I have come to know so well. 
My view from the computer, Cooperstown, NY

It was a blink of a trip to Ithaca on the way to a wedding in Cooperstown, but home never ceases to bring me close again to my father. It's as though his power is stronger here, in these hills he loved so well, and he whispers close to let me know, I am here, always, in ways that are both small and glorious. 
Backroads of the Finger Lakes, wine country

In my sister's old bedroom, this book caught my eye on the shelf among nearly one hundred others - T.S. Eliot's Collected Poems, and I pulled it from the shelf only to flip through and find my father's precise markings in pencil, where he'd pondered over the meaning of the words, such a very smart man, would that I had one hundredth of his literary know-how. His fingers on the page, the smudge of time and the lead of a number 7, the words he left behind, the words that Eliot left behind, and just seeing it all, there on a page that I could touch, run my fingers over, touching so many imprints in time. 

Later, I fancied my father reminded me where the fresh water spring was, on the winding 79 east - it's on the side of the road in Lisle and if you blink, you'll miss it, but it has white pvc pipes that spout the cleanest, coldest water, and I filled my water bottle from the car just like we always did. 

He was there in Cooperstown last night, when I walked out of the restaurant, and felt that nudge that let me know I'd forgotten my leather coat hanging on the wall. Smiling, I mentioned it to my husband, "I felt like Dad reminded me," and we stepped onto the sidewalk only to see a giant turkey feather decorating the front window of a nearby car - agreement. 

Tomorrow will find me heading back south to the land of the salt marsh and pines, to the lowcountry that has claimed a part of me, too, but I realize as I write on the back porch of this hotel, over looking the farm country that my eyes have come to know so well, that I have words, too, I want to leave behind. Finding that book was just a little gift, a reminder. We are all here, we all leave our fingerprints for others to discover. And it's the discovery of it, truly, that is the greatest gift of all.