Stone Soup

July 20, 2012


A good friend of mine is a gifted interior designer who has such a sterling sense of style that everyone who crosses her path raises an eyebrow in envy.  My father used to use a little phrase when describing my mother’s cooking by saying that she could “make soup out of rocks.”  In the same spirit my friend, Designer Lady, could make a showplace out of a cave, which is basically rocks anyway, right?  And that brings to mind a question. Who was the first cave dweller to even care what the joint looked like?  Why?  In my own clearly unoccupied brain, this is how the script would unfold as the very first interior designer presents her aesthetic genius to a client, whom I shall call Uba.

DL:  Nice space!  Single family right?   Not much natural light, but we can let the area near the opening be the visual focal piece and utilize the rear area for sleeping.

Uba:  OK.

DL:  So what are your interests?  We want to reflect who you are.

Uba:  Well, I like to rub sticks together to create heat…

DL:  Oh, fabulous!  Yes!  Yes!  Where exactly is the fireplace?

Uba:  The what?

DL:  The fireplace.  These old places always have them.

Uba:  I am not sure what you…….

DL:  You know.  The fireplace.  The hole in the wall where you put the all sticks after they make the heat.

Uba:  Oh, I usually just make a pile in the middle of the room.

DL:  Oh no!  That won’t do at all.  It places too much light in the center of the room.  Plus, it isn’t safe. We want to break the space into a couple of different seating areas, so a center light source won’t do.  Hmmmm.  Why are all those big rocks shoved together over in one corner?

Uba:  Uh.  We all sit there together on cold nights.  Plus, right in front of the rocks is where I usually put the pile of sticks.  See, from there it is a straight shot to the opening, and I have to take the pile of ashes out myself, so if I make the pile there…….the thing is I can never get Thor to do anything useful around the cave.  He just wants to hunt and fish all the time. He is such a Neanderthal.

DL:  I understand.   Well, we need to spread those big rocks out around the cave.  There is too much wasted space in here.  What do you usually put on the walls?

Uba:  What do you mean?

DL:  Patiently.  On the walls.  You know. Artwork?  Textiles?  Photos?

Uba:  Uh, I sometimes draw on them.

DL:  Oh!  You are an artist!  I am sorry. I should have known from your dress.

Uba:  What?

DL:  Your dress!  I love the one shoulder look.  The fabric absolutely shimmers!  What is it?

Uba:  What?

DL:  Pointing to the dress.  What-is- this- material? I have never seen anything like it.  What is it?

Uba:   Oh!  Oh!  Sorry, now I get it.  Yes, this is vintage dinosaur skin.  I got it from my grandmother Sarah.  It was handed down.  It isn’t very politically correct these days, but the stuff lasts forever.

DL:  I should have known.  Anyway….oh! What is that? She heads for the rear of the cave and touches a huge slate of stone.

Uba:  It is just some old tablet that Thor found and dragged in….of course.  I was going to throw it out but he won’t let me.

DL:  No!  Leave it just as it is.  We can clean it up a little with some scrubbing sand and make it a real conversation piece.

Uba:  Seriously?  You like that thing?  I was planning to get rid of it but it is so heavy I can’t drag it back out by myself.

DL:  No, you should keep it and hang it somewhere.   It looks old.  You know what I mean?  It has history and there is faint writing on it.  Look, it has some sort of writing etched into it right here, but I can barely read it.   What does this say?  What is this word?  The?  That?  Thou?  Thou!  Definitely  thou…thou something.    I can’t make out the rest.

Uba:  Thou?  It probably says Thor!  He has been scribbling his name all over everything again.  He never could spell.  Why does his name have to be carved into everything he drags into this place????  It drives me crazy!  We still have every club he has ever owned and they all have his name scribbled on them.  Scattered all over the cave!   Uhhhhh!  I am fed up with it.  I am going to get rid of that stone tablet and he can just deal with it.  She starts to sniffle as she stifles a weeping meltdown.

DL:  Calming her. Oh don’t do that.  We can use it, it will look nice and he will be thrilled.  And maybe we could find a nice carcass or something to use as a container for his clubs.  If you are going to have them around anyway, we might as well make them look intentional.  Believe me, I have seen a lot of caves in my day and this one has potential.  We will use what you already have plus some new stuff that we will put together from boulders and animal hides.  Before you know it, Cave Beautiful will be doing a feature story on it.

Uba:  Really?  Sniffle, sniffle. You think so?  You could make it that pretty??? The sniffling settles into a gentle smile.

DL:  Sure.  I think I could

And to be honest, dear readers, I think she could too.



July 11, 2012

Most of my life I have been around the water.  As a child it was the Gulf of Mexico. Then for a ten year stint into early adulthood, it was the Atlantic Ocean.  Then back to the Gulf.  My earliest beach memories are planted in the soft sugary sands of the Florida panhandle.  The quiet warm beaches there were cushioned by turquoise waves trimmed in sea foam frosting and summer after summer they were mine.  The waves there were sometimes gentle and sometimes ferocious, at least through the eyes of a three or four year old.  The sensation of having surges of salt water eroding my nasal passages as a wave tumbled me over and over is one that, to this day, elicits an image of my mother who could not swim, trying to find me in the water as one searches for a piece of treasured jewelry that has been clumsily dropped into the frothy moving tide.   You see it, thrust your hand into the water to retrieve it and in an instant it has moved away again.  So you glue your eyes to the thing and chase it into the shore…..and out to the horizon.  Into the shore and out to the sea.  Sometimes you are lucky enough to rescue it and sometimes you are not.  Summer after summer my mother was forever in a panic about the moving water trying to claim her medium rare blonde children.  My father was forever warning my sister and me “Do NOT go out too far! You have no idea how dangerous it is out there!  The undertow will get you.  Some days the undertow is very bad and no matter how hard you fight it, it will get you. Don’t go out too far!”  He spoke these words like a master storyteller whispering ghost tales.  The warning was sufficient, for what I heard from his lips was not that the water itself was hungry for children, but that what lie beneath it was.  I heard nothing about tidal pulls.  What my little ears understood was the dark warning about the most feared amphibian known to the world, THE UNDERTOAD.  Yes, HIM.  The giant frog-like creature that hovered beneath the surface waiting…waiting…waiting for just the right moment to reach up with his reptilian suction clawed extremities to pull me down under the waves and into his grasp to forever keep me there.  Munch on me perhaps.  Hold me prisoner.  THE UNDERTOAD would get me.  I knew HE was out there for I had seen many Japanese sci-fi movies.  After all, this was the sixties.  Some days he was very, very  bad and no matter how hard I would fight, he would get me.  Ahhhhhhhh!  Sometimes I would quietly stand on the shore and stare at the same spot for long periods of time hoping to catch a glimpse of the creature who’s snub nosed lizard head thing  would surely reveal  itself in a desperate attempt to capture a child or a fish or a gull.  If I focused long enough at the same place on the water, HE would  eventually become careless and show his foreboding elusive bad ass self.  Sometimes I would spot a ripple in the water far, far from shore and I knew it was HIM.  HE was hungry and he was getting clumsy for this was a day that HE had been declared bad.  My telepathy summoned HIM.  “C’mon you coward!  Bring it on!  Show your face!  I dare you.”  Yeah.  That’s what I thought……

I never mentioned a word of my keen insight to my nervous mother or my protective father.  There was no need to do so and frighten them even further, for this was my private little communal moment with the otherworld beneath the water.  Because I had knowledge of HIM and HIS ways, HE would never, never get me.  I would never go out “too far.”  After all, survival is all about keeping your enemies close, you know?  It is.  It truly is.  Have a nice summer.