Almost every morning begins the same. I come downstairs (if it’s my morning to get up first), put the kettle on for the dark French roast coffee that is my mainstay, feed the cat, and sit in the rocking chair between the sliding doors and the woodstove. And almost immediately one or two or (this morning) three Steller’s jays come to the deck railings right outside the kitchen. For forty years they’ve come. I guess the current jays are great-great-great grandchildren of the original morning birds. They know when to come and they know what they’ll get: black sunflower seeds and peanuts.
This morning, John called down to say a bear was at the top of the stairs leading to the deck just outside his study window. He shouted at it and it ambled back down, not in a rush, and a minute or two later I saw the branches of the crabapple tree swaying. There’s hardly any fruit this year but the bears too have been coming for more than 40 years and the crabapple is on their memory maps. The back gate to the garden, the one they can pull apart if they put enough effort into it? That’s on the maps too. In a few minutes we’ll go out to pick the green grapes over the pergola on the front deck. They’re not quite ripe but that’s never mattered to bears and raccoons. Once I was sitting in the living room and I saw something big and black falling past the window. It was a young bear, tumbling off the pergola onto the cart where I keep kitchen herbs. It wasn’t hurt but pots holding thyme and winter savoury were broken and scattered.
Almost every morning is the same. Coffee, the company of jays who were particularly scrappy today, one kicking the others away from the seeds, squawking, charging at the more timid bird that waited, waited in the stray apple. Almost every morning.
The morning we unwrapped the cloth we’d soaked in indigo, my granddaughter, my daughter, and I, talking quietly as we stirred the bundles with a long stick, bundles tied with string, pebbles, some clamped with small squares of wood, the morning we unwrapped them to spread on the dry grass, each length like a scrap of sky.
The book of mornings would hold these things. The scent of coffee, the blue of the jays as they glide to the railing, the smudge of brown on the black bear’s nose. Was he coming for tomatoes when John saw him at the top of the stairs? Basil? Did he just want to explore the table where we sit after our swim, a cerise bougainvillea to one side, a Desert King fig to the other, a tin from Greek olive oil holding a rosemary at its roots?
These are notes I am making towards a book. The book after the novel I am writing, taking time each morning to imagine my protagonist painting the ancient stumps on Egmont Road, preparing for a boat trip up the inlet I was lucky enough to see the week before last, the book after, and after. When I read Virginia Woolf, I want to write about mornings, about thinking, about climbing the aluminum ladder into the wide grape leaves to cut the clumps of green fruit from the shaggy vines, the jays arriving like a blue clock, and everything, all of it, held in the golden light of September, every September, the bear pushing his face into the crabapple leaves for the tiny bitter fruit.
And somehow or other, the windows being open, and the book held so that it rested upon a background of escallonia hedges and distant blue, instead of being a book it seemed as if what I read was laid upon the landscape not printed, bound, or sewn up, but somehow the product of trees and fields and the hot summer sky, like the air which swam, on fine mornings, round the outline of things.
— Virginia Woolf, from “Reading”
4 thoughts on “the book of mornings”
I love the ‘blue clock’! And what a treat to have you three girls creating indigo fabric together. What becomes of it next? I have to confess to not reading your blog for several weeks, too dragged down with you about the Ukraine horrors, but I’m so glad to have found this post with its rich thoughts on mornings. Imagine having more ideas than time! Thanks as ever.
Susan, two pieces of the fabric (sheets from Value Village) have been made into a duvet cover. She also dyed pillow cases. Granddaughter’s effort was made into a flag! Mine are waiting to be used as quilt backs though some tiny bits and pieces found their way onto keepsakes made (as party favours?) for a reading/launch of Blue Portugal next weekend.
This is so lovely. I wish it were my morning!
Thank you! Somehow it feels important to record it all, in language, in textiles, each detail.