Thursday, February 25, 2010

Ship in a Bottle

Our ship is somewhat late today, having been delayed - storms, sea-monsters, pirates, the usual - but has finally made it to Theme Thursday.

The bottle-glass "M" in this picture, between the monster-ship and the little white lamb, is from an old homestead dump a short walk from home where John and I sometimes walk to see if frost heaves, run-off, or ground squirrels have turned up any new treasures.

The things we find aren't antique or remarkable in any particular way - except that they're time-travel machines, a way of taking a gentle sail into the past that was peopled by those who lived before us in this neighborhood. Below is a photo of a time-travel machine in situ.

For a number of years I was a reporter for the local newspaper and came

to be fascinated by the role of the newspaper in a rural town of 800 people - where the mayor is also the vet, and you can just go downtown across the street from the bar and the barber's into

his animal clinic and complain to him all you want if you think your water bill is too high, or have

an idea for putting a tank with a turret gun in the city park for kids to play on.

I became involved in a collaborative project to write a play based on Letters to the Editor from 1903 to the present, which was staged to the delight of the populace in the recently abandoned courthouse. This led to a collection of letters I put together that is being posted on Robert Frost's Banjo, John Jack Poetry's blog where a number of writers are graciously hosted and there's always blog-adventures afoot. Check it out! Here's the last paragraph of the introduction to the book:

"Sorting the Adams County newspaper material has been, for me, archeology of a very amateur kind. I have enjoyed it in the same way that I like to poke around in an old homestead dump near my house—where tin cans and broken bits of china spark my imagination, not because of their rarity or exoticism, but because of the opposite. Their everydayness and their proximity to where I live are what intrigue me. This book comes from my curiosity about what is near instead of what is far—from seeking for the mystery in what is close to home, the beauty and value of what is close at hand."

The bottle-glass "M" is part of this cigar-box shrine I put together to take with me before spending 4 years in Brazil and Bolivia. I brought a rock I found in the driveway when I was 11, a strange little owl-bottle I bought at a flea market when I was 13, fossilized bits of a giant ancient fish that used to swim in what is now the Idaho desert. The figure is St. Dymphna. Many things have been added - bits of pre-Incan pottery from Bolivia and fossilized claw from the giant ancient sloth that used to roam those hills and valleys. This is also where Pirate Goat's sword is kept when he isn't in battle!

One last photo: another bottle John and I found at the little homestead dump along with a piece of "Wonder Stone" I got from an extraordinary man named Red who has a roadside rock shop in his garage in North Idaho - an ex-logger, long retired, who now writes poetry dictated to him by trees. I think of him quite often.


  1. I love that shrine; what is in the background of the bottom photo? Is that some needle felting? Happy Theme Thursday!

  2. Dear tut-tut,
    I'm so glad you like the shrine - I've always enjoyed making these, but also felt it was kind of an odd and idiosyncratic habit - recently I've simply given in to the impulse and I just make a shrine whenever I want. There are quite a lot in my studio at this point! I have plans this spring for a serious outdoor installation...

    The material in the background is a piece of silk - I'm sure needle-felting would be beyond me! I've just started learning to knit and it's rather fascinating, but my efforts are - well - lumpy. The friend who's teaching me assures me that there is hope, however. Thanks for visiting!

  3. I collected beer cans for years and used to seek out the old homesteads where bottle collectors went as well. I know very well of what you speak. I have my own shrines and memories collecting odd things. Well written...

  4. Dear VE,
    it is really good to know that others enjoy moderately aged remnants of household garbage and arranging some of these in shrines...I'm just thinking now, maybe it would be cool to post a series of shrines from those of us who do this. What do you think?

    Thanks very much for stopping by!

  5. Sweet! Brazil and Bolivia, eh? Is that where the classroom full of literature students disappeared?

  6. We in P-in-B are starting to be quite impressed by your ability to uncover the secret history of Big Bed Land...

    (Pirate Goat comments: This Monster would be an adversary to watch closely. We are fortunate to have him as friend instead.)

    As a matter of fact, a contingent of literature students did run off to Ouro Preto hot on the trail of Elizabeth Bishop that exquisite poet who lived a life of mystery there. But they returned with more questions than they had when they left. This is the way of many adventures, we find. You may have found this too.

    Thanks for your visit!

  7. Dear Jeffscape,
    sorry to have left your name off that last comment! It just seemed to disappear...could this have any cloak-and-dagger significance do you think? Perhaps you are traveling incognito?

  8. The bottle glass M nestles into the eclectic mix and your lovely take on the week's theme!

    Well done.

    Mine is here.

  9. Lovely things, worthless yet priceless.My favourite kind.I love things found in old ruins or washed up on the beach.You have a wonderful collection, but more marvelous een thanthis is your prolific creative output.Yourself and John are to be commended.I came for Johns book which I covet and cannot afford but will stay for the craic!

  10. What a lovely post! I live in a small rural village...not too different from the one you describe! Our mayor is also a deacon at our church and a professor at the local university.

    Loved the pics...especially the M bottle! :)

  11. Thanks Titanium! I love your image of the glass M nestling.

    Dear Betsy,
    I'm glad you enjoy the glories of rural life! I wish more people did - it would be a different world. Someone was pointing out to me the other day that the urban life we take as "normative" these days is the tiniest blip as far as history goes - from Neolithic times up until the nineteenth century, rural life was a shared reality. Personally I think cities are a flash-in-the-pan fashion that will be discarded after the novelty wears off...but people do call me an optimist. Thanks again!

  12. Dear Totalfeckineejit (a name that is as much fun to spell as it is to say!)thanks for your comment.

    Worthless yet priceless - yes, that puts it in a nutshell.

    Best of luck for winning John's book!

  13. nice...the top of my bookshelves collect many memories...nice bottle!

  14. Dear Brian,
    the top of bookshelves do seem to be a natural habitat where objects gather and express themselves - thanks!

  15. Hi Ebs,
    Iris and I are looking forward to seeing your shrines when we visit in April. Red from Idaho North is indeed a being to comtemplate.

    Love you, Margot