Monday, September 21, 2009

Table for One: The Rose Garden and Miranda July

I suppose this edition of Table for One is a bit out of step. There is no eating involved, but rather an absorption of surroundings and an exercise in using other senses.

I visited Portland with some friends this weekend. Being the collective of Humanities majors that we were, we spent three hours in Powell's Books, each scoping our own little corner of the world to thumb through McLuhan, Stein, Card, and Huxley, as well as collections of Henry Darger's unreal realms and step-by-step instructions on the art of striptease.

I picked up a copy of No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July. I have been inspired by July before, and this book turned out to be the perfect companion for a Sunday afternoon in Portland's Rose Garden.

I wandered through the rows of wine reds and blushing peaches, past petals that looked like velvet. I expected the groove of my thumb to stay imprinted on the petal as I swept it across. The smell of roses stuck to the back of my throat, a heavy, waxy perfume. I crept up to certain blooms, inhaling their scent. Some smelled like bright, citrusy market lemons, while others radiated high-fructose corn syrup. One, a friend said, smelled like Pez candies.

I sat on the steps of the ampitheatre and opened July's volume of short stories. I chose "It Was Romance", a story of a woman at a romance workshop. It was fitting for my surroundings. I grew up next to a rose garden in Sacramento, and drove past countless weddings taking place among the drooping heads of both heavy blossoms and heat-exhausted guests. Given the statistics, I can only assume that half of the couples I drove past are still together.

The tiny world in front of your face is an illusion, and romance itself is an illusion!
We gasped. But it was a delayed gasp, we were a slow group.
Theresa had begun to cry. I stopped patting and hugged her, and she hugged me back. I had made everything just horrible enough to bring Theresa's sadness down to the next level, and I joined her there. It was a place of overflowing collaborative misery, and we cried together...The snaps on our jeans pressed into each other and our breasts exchanged their tired histories, tales of being over- and underutilized, floods and famines and never mind, just go. We wetted each other's blouses and pushed our crying ahead of us like a lantern, searching out new and forgotten sadnesses, ones that died politely years ago but in fact had not died, and came to life with a little water.

The rose garden seemed too much, too perfect, too cliche. It made sense that one would find/make/declare love in a rose garden. But July countered this cliche. She balances the mundane and the poetic with such ease, I feel as though she had written this on a Post-It note and left it on the jamb of my door. July reminds me that romance, love, hate, basic animal instincts don't have to be peppered with poetry. Things can be beautiful just as they are. And in the recognition of the everyday, the routine, there is the potential for moments of elevation, where it seems appropriate to carry a lantern and declare that lantern as a metaphor, your piece of poetry to help the cathartic crying make sense.


Claradevi said...

You're an incredible writer.

Dianne Poinski said...

Wonderful post! Your description of the rose garden made me feel like I was standing there next to you.

hannah said...

i've only been to portland once, but i fell deeply in love with powells. i've also thumbed through no one belongs here, but the price tag kept me away at the time. i think i'll look into that again..

briannelee said...

Those flowers are so pretty!

avintagespirit (Lizzy) said...

Wow, what gorgeous pictures!I just love roses, there are just so many gorgeous shades of roses and all flowers out there! Thanks for sharing these lovely photos.

Lucie said...

So beautiful!


esme and the lane way said...

Lovely! I love that book, too :)