St. George Souvenir.

November 17, 2014 § 6 Comments

Shrimp boat.Every November I lead a women’s writing retreat on St. George Island. I spend the days before we sequester ourselves in the ultimate “room with a view,” inventing the writing exercises we will do when we gather around the sprawling dining room table.

Here is one of the exercises from our latest retreat.

Begin every paragraph with the words Where I come from… Then choose nouns from the provided list to write about.

I wish you could read your way around that table, but you’ll have to settle for looking over my shoulder:

Where I come from the dogs are mostly pit bulls with vacant eyes and mangy collars. They hit backyard fences hard, or wander, a few links of chain jangling. Their damp noses are the color of pencil erasers. They slink across yards stopping only to lift a leg on an azalea bush.

Where I come from the older trees that convinced us to choose this neighborhood are quietly dying. Live oaks and water oaks drop limbs on cars and swing sets. Something about the changing climate; too wet. too dry, too hot, too cold is felling these giants that have held up the sky for so long. Dismembered, they sit in piles by the side of the road in chunks too large for firewood.

Out for a walkWhere I come from the kids still occupy 1955.

Street kids, bike kids, hoop kids, go-play-outside kids.

Their world hangs between Angel’s Convenience Store and Sabal Palm Elementary.

They call each other cousins, and most of them are.

Good kids, when I go for a walk they circle me on their bikes or walk with me a ways. “How ya doin’ Miss Adrian?”

Where I come from nights jitter with the buzz of dying streetlights and the shrill ecstasy of frogs. It is warm almost always and the mosquitos find you if you so much as step outside to look at the moon.

Where I come from winter is a slap on the wrist, although my husband would say different since he’s the one who splits our firewood. Winter here is blooming camellias. Our white Christmas is delivered with a US postage stamp on one corner. Looking at that snowy greeting card we feel smart for finding our way down the long east coast of the U.S. to here.

Where I come from the old people used to be named Jewell, Bobby, and Helen, but they are dead now and we miss them. We are working on a crop of replacements. Every neighborhood needs old people who remember what the place was like, back in the day.

Where I come from the sky is a stained glass window leaded with branches. Sometimes I walk the neighborhood staring at the blue between those branches. After a while I feel as if I’m falling up.

Where I come from the houses are small and built from cinderblock, the genuine article. You can’t drill a hole in it to run a wire to save your life. The outside walls are stuccoed in what we call bread-loaf style, those raised rectangles scattered like flung dominoes, no two houses alike.

Where I come from dreams are big but short-lived.  A gotta-be winning lottery ticket from Angels is a hope that self-destructs seconds after its purchaser walks out the door. The losing ticket hangs in the bushes beside the road, litter.

But we have neighbors for that too, neighbors who pick those tickets up and walk them to a recycle bin.

Where I come from sometimes hangs over the edge of chaos with the occasional rash of break-ins, mail theft, and big-trash-pickup stuff heaped by the road the day after that biweekly service has rolled through.

But chaos is held at bay by acts large and small by good neighbors.

Where I come from is a work in progress. Always will be, and I like it that way.

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