Do tables remember the weight of platters and flowers?

your table is ready

After a grey morning, a swim in water at least two degrees cooler than last week, an unsettling encounter with the corpse of a shrew on the deck by my bedroom, I thought it might be time for a little divination, via A Writer’s Diary. I have the lovely Persephone Books edition, with Vanessa Bell’s endpapers, and this morning I looked at September 7th, 1924, as Virginia Woolf was working on the final pages of Mrs. Dalloway.

There I am now–at last at the party, which is to begin in the kitchen, and climb slowly upstairs. It is to be a most complicated, spirited, solid piece, knitting together everything and ending on three notes, at different stages of the staircase, each saying something to sum up Clarissa. Who shall say these things?

I’ve been thinking of parties lately. Will we have them again? Will friends drive up our gravel driveway, parking in the rough area we call Wood Lane, by the little vernal pool where flag irises grow and where the elk stand up to their knees in early summer, eating the green tops? Will we push tables together and drape them with cloth, setting them with plates and silver—our family silver combined with the junk store collection we bought in Falkland some years ago, along with a silver candelabra out of an Ian Tyson song:

Does the wind still blow In New Mexico?
Do the silver candelabras yet shine?
Is Kathrine still queen of El Paso?
Never to be yours, never to be mine.
Out of reach like the pale moon that shines,
On the road to Las Cruces.

I think it was 2014 that we drove on the high desert near Las Cruces and I kept singing the song, watching for cattle and cowboys and hoping to return to a landscape so deeply storied that I wanted to spend more time listening and taking the side-roads into dry arroyos:

The line of desire, seven strands of barbed wire,
Will hold back the on rushing tide.
Many dreams have been brought to the border…

 

We ate tacos in small towns and slept in an old hotel in Las Vegas, not the city of lights and casinos, but a wonderful little city,  with leafy trees, saddle shops, and young men and women walking around the park across from our room. For dinner there was trout with pinon nuts and cold beer. Will we do that again?
 
Writing is a solace. I was at my desk in the night, trying to find my way into something new. I made notes and sat with my chin in my hands while the moon approached full in the tangle of firs. The corn, barley, and fruit moon, the moon of the hungry ghosts. Mine aren’t hungry, exactly, but they’re wondering if we will ever polish every wine glass we own and fill the galvanized tub with ice. If we will slip our feet out of summer sandals and dance on the grass. If, if, if. When I wrote the final scene of my Virginia Woolf inspired novella in March, just a day after our local pool closed, the same day we drove to Egmont for supper at the Backeddy Pub and realized it would be the last meal out for…well, we didn’t know for how long, when I wrote that scene (to wrangle this sentence back into its fenced enclosure), a meal to celebrate finishing, even though it was in the shadow of something scary and unknown, I somehow thought there might be a party this summer. We had some of our family here and that was lovely but we didn’t have a party. Do tables remember the weight of platters and flowers, do the owls wonder where everyone has gone? Why the firepit is cold, the little lights unlit?
 

Someone has brought out the old jar I filled with dragonfly lights and they flicker from the nest of ferns where the jar is nestled. Nick is a little drunk and his eyes are shining as he looks into mine. Listen, Alice, it’s the Old Country Fairytale. Let’s just dance and forget that a former friend came up our driveway with a knife. It’s hidden away now and she’s talking to Alex. There is a brief passage, near the end of the Fairytale, when Tom’s cello sobs with a low vibrato. We stop dancing and just hold each other, on the edge of the darkness. Tea-lights in their mason jars are golden, some glittering in a small firework of burning wax as they gutter out. The scent of burning cedar is intoxicating. I love watching the children around the fire, the girls dancing behind those in chairs, and the boys leaning on skinny legs to angle their marshmallow sticks over the glowing coals.

2 thoughts on “Do tables remember the weight of platters and flowers?”

  1. What a lovely way to wonder. I too question when we will have parties again. We are social and miss all the hubbub of preparations and vibrant conversation over a meal specially prepared for our guests.

    You piqued my attention mentioning the endpapers by Vanessa Bell. Perhaps it’s the observer in me, but I always pause and sometimes contemplate the endpapers. The only other person I know who has mentioned endpapers was my dear mom.

    1. The endpapers for this particular edition of A Writer’s Diary are taken from Vanessa Bell’s cover designs for the Hogarth Press. I think that the Hogarth Press sometimes used wallpaper for bindings and endpapers in the 1930s. I love the way Vanessa interpreted her sister’s sensibility for the covers she designed. They are of their time, for sure (sort of dated now), but also very attractive.

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