Mar 6, 2015 - Writer's Life    1 Comment

A Clock, A Bottle, A Matchstick Holder


“Every picture tells a story, don’t it?” Rod Stewart’s single line in a long song is profound. He had a way of painting with lyrics so that we could see the places he’d been and the things he’d done. I think every picture, especially one you paint or draw yourself, tells a story.  I find that drawing objects in a room–really, any room of my house or that of a friend’s–brings memories surrounding back to life. In this drawing, for instance, of a clock, a bottle, and a matchstick holder, there are dozens of related stories; not only mine but those of people I love. As I sketch each item, I revisit those memories and my drawing becomes something more profound and meaningful to me.


The clock was built by Leigh’s Uncle Howard. It no longer works, so in its world, the time is always 4:48. Everyone should have at least one clock that doesn’t work in their house because that time tells a story all its own. Uncle Howard was a wonderful male role model in Leigh’s life. As an accomplished carpenter, he showed her how to work with her hands. If Leigh said, “I want to build some hutches for my rabbits”, he would show her how, then step back and let her do the work. They might not be the most beautiful hutches, but they were functional and built to last. Leigh builds many things we need on the farm, and I thank Uncle Howard often for his early encouragement and instruction.

In the process of telling me about his building skills, I also learned that Uncle Howard raised a baby blue jay as a pet that would sit on his shoulder and come and go as he pleased. Beside the point? I think not. This is all part of the story of the clock which he built for her out of love with his own hands. Although it quit working some time ago, she has moved it everywhere she has lived since she left home. Uncle Howard is gone to a timeless place now, but his clock lives on; an intimate object which is part of my beloved’s life.

The old Sprite bottle which dates back to the 60’s or early 70’s was the first thing I found on this land we now call home. Standing on the bridge, looking down at the creek with Leigh, I spotted the open end of the bottle sticking out of the mud bank just above the water. I scrambled down the rocks and dug it out. It was completely preserved with the SPRITE label intact and the dark green bumps which used to be an identifying feature of Sprite. How many times as a kid did I run my fingers over those bumps never realizing they were there because it made the bottle easy to hold, especially with hands wet from a swimming pool.

We found the turkey feathers on our next trip to the land we now call 5 Apple Farm. As we wandered through the Indian field with Jane, we found a bouquet of huge turkey feathers. Later, we saw the entire troop head-bobbng their way across the field to drink from the stream. I put the feathers in the Sprite bottle for luck, in hopes of making the dream of our land come true, and there they have remained ever since.

The matchstick box I found out junking with my friend, Trudy, at an antique store called Menagerie in our little town of Burnsville. If you wander the booths and look closely, you’ll often find some authentic old pieces from the mountain people who have lived here so long. I loved this particular matchbox holder because the tin is painted like a coop complete with chicken and rooster on the front. Best of all Trudy pointed out, there is a striker opening on the side. Not all of these old boxes have those cuts. The box sits on the mantel where it is used daily during the long winter months when we start fires in our wood stove.

If you can sketch a keepsake or a wildflower, tell a story about it, or write a poem using the images it conjures up for you, then you understand art on a most personal level. In my book, if you can do any one of these;  even better, if you have the chutzpa to do all three, you can call yourself an artist.

mendy and turkey feather


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1 Comment

  • I love reading these posts. And now I know where to go for a matchbox. I unplugged the power to my stovetop, as I’d come home and the ignitor would be clicking away… I believe there is no such thing as “disposable,” so won’t buy those long plastic lighters. Yo ho – to the Mercantile Menagerie!