Sunday, April 26, 2009

Entwined in Ivy

I planted cuttings of English ivy last week, hoping to train them to grow up a small white trellis between the posts of a second-story deck. The cuttings came from planter boxes around my sister's pool, where it thrives despite getting absolutely not one bit of nurturing or care. 

Yesterday I read a book about a woman named Ivy. In her childhood, she got very, very little nurturing. As an adult, she sometimes threw it away with both hands. And still, she thrived. Fair and Tender Ladies is a series of letters, all written by Ivy. Lee Smith
bends and shapes the story much the way I plan to train that ivy on the trellis: gently tying small pieces to a framework and letting story find its own shape.

Turns out that Ivy is a bit invasive. It's been a long time—years—since a book took over my head the way this one has. Strangely, I didn't like the first few chapters much. They're full of a child's misspellings and the odd cadence of the language of Appalachia, which is too close to the Ozarks for my own pure comfort, a first-generation flatlander, don't you know.

About a third of the way through, I fell into the book and haven't really found my way out yet. I think about Ivy and what happened to her the way I might think of things that happen to a real friend, worried over some, jubilant about others. The language evens out a little about the time Ivy moves off the mountain, but it no longer matters. What matters is the truth of the story: the longings that lead a woman up and down a mountain, the way you can become a bit player in your own life, how it feels to "walk in your body like a Queen."

Reading Ivy's letters is like remembering.

4 comments:

├ůsa Hellberg said...

Sounds like a book I´d like.
Thanks.

The Things We Carried said...

I might have to read this one. I like a book taht stays with me for awhile.

Carrie Wilson Link said...

I long for a book that does that, they are too few and far between!

Deb Shucka said...

Lovely connections here. My wish for you is that you find a way to claim your royalty the way ivy claims whatever it grows around.