“All Southerners are the great-grandchildren of ghosts.” William Faulkner
About a week ago, I started a new Word Press Challenge- Everyday Inspiration. Today’s challenge is entitled ‘A Space to Write’- asking me to write about where I write. When I cleared the space a bit to take a photograph, I was struck by William Faulkner’s quote-
‘All Southerners are the great-grandchildren of ghosts.’
I should frame it, because where I write- I have ancestors looking over me- most prominently- my very handsome great grandfather. I never knew him, he died very young. But every time I made a phone call from my grandmother’s house, Granddaddy Holmes was listening, he was hanging beside the phone, in his suit and bowtie and slickened hair.
His name was Charles Richmond Holmes, a very distinguished name. He doesn’t haunt me too much, but apparently his arm was cut off when he was run over by a train- he bled out and died on a wagon. They left his arm, not sure if it was the right arm or the left arm, but it was placed on his front porch for some reason. I know it sounds like a bad country music song, but my mother swears it happened. His wife, Granny Holmes suffered from attacks of Melancholia, ever afterward. Mimi said that you could always tell when a spell of Melancholia was coming on…Granny Holmes would sit on the front porch rocking to and fro- reading her Bible out loud, the faster she rocked, the louder she read- the more melancholy she got. So I guess Charles haunted my great grandmother from time to time. I only knew her briefly, she was really ancient- but I do recall her funeral, folks seemed relieved to see her go. But she did leave me as the ‘southern great-grandchild of a ghost’.Any time my sister and I acted up, or anyone acted down or depressed, Mimi would say- ‘you’re acting just like Granny Holmes.’
Underneath my great grandfather is a collage of pen and ink drawings with the St. Clair County Courthouse in the middle, surrounded by some of the old homes around or near the courthouse. One is a Bed and Breakfast now and was built by a Probate Judge for his bride when he returned from the War Between the States. He had just one foot- the other one was lost in battle. (This wall seems to have an underlying theme of lost appendages.) There are many stories to be told about the homes and how this collage of drawings came into our possession, but I shall leave that for another time. Suffice it to say, my father in law was Judge of Probate for 14 years and my husband succeeded him in office, after a hotly contest primary, runoff and general election, he served for 20 years and is now retired. The two of them are in the very Courthouse immortalized in the ink drawing.
My father in law had notecards made from the original drawing and we continue to use them for ‘official’ thank you notes, congratulatory or sympathy cards; so that drawing haunts me, knowing how many I need to write in any given day. I also have a great longing to see that courthouse and the surrounding homes more often- but Backbone Mountain and several miles separate me from seeing it on a regular basis. We are one of the few counties in Alabama which have two courthouses, here because of that big mountain at the tail end of the Appalachian Mountains. The courthouse is said to be haunted, I’m sure it is- a hanging took place there I think; that is one of the hauntings…Anyway, our courthouse has been in continuous use longer than any other in the state of Alabama. It has a long and colorful history- St.Clair County is older than the state. Ashville is the county seat; the courthouse does face south as most old southern courthouses do.
Below the drawings, my Grandmother looks straight at me from a handmade bowl. Her expression is very intense-and it should be, since she was seriously funny. Most southern women love talking about food. She was no exception- she was an exceptional cook. She is my Wisdom and Food Muse, I can still hear her wise, witty comments. For instance sometimes she says to me: ‘Get in that kitchen and see if you can fix something fit to eat.’ She said that, at the end of almost every conversation I ever had with her- before she hung up- ‘I need to see if I can fix us something fit to eat.’ Mimi is her younger self in the photo-she told me that she always thought she was 18 years old until she looked in the mirror. Next to the bowl with Mimi in it, there is an iron cross which always inspires but particularly on Saturday nights or Sunday mornings when I write my ‘Sunday Inspiration’ posts and was my constant companion as I wrote the four year Bible study which led to the publication of my book, ‘Four Days- the Lazarus Principle’–
My author’s copy sits beside my laptop. The book has many travel stories and other things that inspire me still; number one is: ‘If you can write a book- maybe you can write a blog.’
Off to the side are two mirrors, one is slightly below desk level- I like a sense of mystery in home design- that’s how the wall ended up before I decided to push the desk in front of it. Above that mirror is my grandmother’s mirror; it is not a mirror to look into unless you want waves and streaks distorting your image, which I don’t. Above that mirror is a silhouette of myself as a child, my hair shape hasn’t changed too much.
The desk I write on- came from a local antique dealer but it’s been at my house so long, it has probably gotten more valuable- or not. The chair I sit in, is shared from time to time with Walter. I don’t think he particularly likes to sit in it but it is a deterrent to my writing when he wants to be brushed, watered or fed. And under the table, on the quirky wall is an empty antique printer’s drawer with tiny spaces for letters to typeset copy. Maybe it is the perfect writer’s wall, now that I think about it. That fat red notebook is stuffed with ideas and things I need to remember if my laptop expires as it is wont to do occasionally. The lamp is a thrift store find, the base turned out to be real pewter; it sheds good soft light. I sit facing East, a very pleasing direction for me, and the ghosts of this Southern girl- face West and gaze at the sunset every afternoon, I hope it keeps them calm and happy. I don’t need them rattling around too often. But I am not lonesome when I write:
Walter, our Chief Feline Officer
Now, if you are not snoring or passed out from boredom– I need a favor. Part of my assignment is to ask you, the reader- for writing prompts. Did you hear that?? You are supposed to inspire me! (and you do! just need a little written prompt from you!) I will record your ideas and the inspirations in that fat red notebook – then perhaps I can pass this WordPress Course I am taking. I wouldn’t want to make the Happiness Engineers unhappy.
Seriously, post in the comment section on any media that you find this on -or go to my ‘About’ page and email me through my contact information, I’m on a time frame here- 10 days to go for this! Your Ideas or what you most want to know about Camellia’s Cottage, as if I haven’t hung out enough family ghosts and craziness since I’ve been writing this! I also don’t want to fall victim to Great Granny Holmes’ Melancholia. I won’t send any family ghosts to haunt you, and your name will not be used unless you want me to publicize you to high heaven- And don’t ever forget this-
I love y’all, Camellia
*All of those less than perfect photographs were taken by me.