Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Laughing Glass

When I moved into this house in March of 2004, I was completely and utterly beside myself with joy and disbelief. This. This. THIS was my dream house.
Built in 1859 and standing strong with wide plank pine floors and porches from yin to yang, it was if I had dreamed it and then it arose from those dreams. I had dreamed it, as a matter of fact, and have the writing to prove it. I almost completely described my bathroom in a piece of fiction I wrote starting back in oh, something like 1997. And I wrote poems describing it and it came to me, in reality, on a night soundtracked by the Beatles.
So yeah.
It's been like a major miracle in my life that I live here.
And as I told my friend Marilyn on the phone today, perhaps I knew I wanted it so badly because my sub-conscious knew what a great grandmother house it would make.
Who knows?
I don't.
But when I moved in, I had just watched the movie, Ray, which is a movie about Ray Charles who actually grew up right down the road from where I live now. And in that movie, there was a scene which had in it a bottle tree.
It was magical and I knew right then I wanted one here.
And so after I'd unpacked everything and put everything in its place I set out to create one, which I did. And that was six years ago and it was lovely and I loved it but over the last few years, it has grown dowdy and sad.

The bottles filled with water and grew mold in them. Some of them broke. And this spring I have been looking at the bottle tree with despair. It no longer brought me joy. It made me sad. But I have so much to do! How could I take the time to redo it?
And then today I was so filled with spring and Jessie came by after a visit to the Jefferson County Health Department where she is doing clinicals and I said, "Hey, want to help me redo the bottle tree?"
And Jessie, because she is very much a person who says YES to life and all of the questions which come her way, said she would like to.
And we cut down the old bottles and gathered up the broken ones and we washed the bottles and I rounded up other bottles which I had saved to put up in that tree and we redid it.
We hung blue bottles and green ones. New bottles and old ones. Bottles we have found on the property here. Check this one out:

It's a ginger-ale bottle and obviously, it was produced before it was the law to sterilize bottles before they were filled. Hello!

We hung fish-bottles.

Besides bottles, I have also hung things I've found on my walks, mostly metal items which, when the breeze blows, touch the bottles and make windchime sounds.

When my favorite car of all times bit the dust on Dog Island after a hurricane flooded its engine, I hung its key up to join in the music. And yes, Ms. Bastard, it was a Mazda Mini Van which transported me and my babies to the beach for three years with plenty of room for our food and our twinkly lights and our towels and blankets and sheets and baskets and everything we needed for our months in a tiny cement-block hovel of an apartment on St. George Island. I burned incense in that van. I had a basket filled with my Jimmy Buffett tapes in it. Those summers and that music and that beach saved my life and that's just the truth. And when we got the place on Dog Island, we transported the van over there and it shuttled us from the dock to the house for many years until Hurricane Dennis flooded the entire island and killed that van.
So here is that key, paired up with a gin bottle and I think I got the bottle at the recycle place. I haven't drunk gin in years.

The van is gone but its memory lingers on when I hear that sweet tap, tap, tapping of the key on the bottle.

Jessie and I laughed and laughed as we hung the bottles. We tried to use a step ladder to stand on to reach the higher branches and its legs sunk all the way up in the dirt which made Jessie giggle. Miraculously, no one was hurt, we hung our bottles and we are happy with the results.

My bottle tree is, once again, somewhat magical.

It sparkles and it shines and if there are bad spirits, I think they will be confused by the color and the light and slink away to someone else's house where there are no such encumbrances to their entrance.
That's the theory, anyway.
And it was good enough for me today on a day when no matter how hard I tried, I could not stay in the house for more than twenty minutes at a stretch, when the air and sun called me outside to play, even as the dust collected and the clutter rested where it lay.

My friends who are coming on Friday are going to have to love me for my chickens, my bottle tree, my garden, my supper, and my heart. They will have clean sheets and towels and home-made soap and home-made bread. And if there is mold and dust, they will have to just overlook it.

I think they will.

Because when they drive up, there will be blooming azaleas and wisteria, clucking hens and a rooster, perhaps a grandson on my hip and there will be martinis. And a bottle tree. There will be a bottle tree, gleaming and shining and tinkling in the sun.

And that will have to do.

I love them and I think they know that and I think that they love me too. And they know about spring and they know about love and they have stayed in the Panther Room before.

A little dust is not going to interfere with the magic of this place I have been so gloriously given to live in for now. It is a place where so many people have lived before me and where many people will live after I am gone. But for now, it is mine, and I hang things from the little redbud outside and I hope they say, "Welcome, come in." I hope they say, "Let me sing you a little song." I hope they say, "This is a place which is loved."

I hope they do. I think they do. I know they glitter in the light, merely glass, but isn't glass sort of magical in and of itself? Do you remember when you learned in school that glass is actually a liquid? Weren't you amazed?

I was. I still am.

And today Jessie and I cleaned and shined the solid liquid we call glass and we hung it up in a tree and we stood back and we laughed.

And now I am going to go to bed and perhaps I will dream of that- the liquid color swinging in the redbud, tinkling against the found, strange metal shapes, and when I wake up, it will all be here in reality, too.

I live inside a dream, and it is a sweet one.

Thank-you for visiting it. Thank you for dreaming it with me.


  1. There are some serious bottle trees around here also. The locals believe that the "haints" will be kept away by the bottles and the blue color of their houses and window trim. I like these old traditions and you have done well by them with your bottle tree. The fish bottle is awesome.

  2. We need a bottle tree in our yard too!

    I remember learning glass was made from sand and being fascinated by that because the beach is such a magical place. So of course glass would come from sand.

    I'm sure your guests won't even notice the dust with all that gleam in their eyes.

  3. What a wonderful idea that bottle tree is. I am so glad you and Jesse got to renew it today and that it is ready to sparkle and tinkle in welcome to your guests. x0 N2

  4. You are amazing and the bottle tree is magical. I agree, we all need one. I can almost hear the keys tinkling against the glass.
    We have blue skies here too on my spring break on the east coast. It is such a nice change of pace from the monsoons!
    Thank you so much for this post, it was exactly what I needed.

  5. Tonight, I am sure I will dream of your bottle tree too.
    Sweet dreams.

  6. When we moved to this house we made a blue bottle tree in memory of Aunt Helen, a wonderful lady in Louisiana who was the cook for two generations of friends who lived in NOLA and one of the nicest human beings I have been blessed with meeting in my life. She taught me how to make gumbo, and the best roux this side of the Atlantic and she was better for me than Le Cordon Bleu. In time, our bottles filled with Oregon rain, got knocked by rowdy big birds for who knows what reason and then the garden took over and with the hummingbird feeders around it was better to remove it.

    But it was beautiful, I don't know about the spirits but I know that once it scared the living daylights out of a squirrel and that was enough reason not to lament its demise. Yours is beautiful and magical and I am sure it will be filled with sunshine and moonlight and all the things that make living in a dream a worthwhile home.

    PS: the vw is glyses, one cannot make this up!

  7. It is a dream and you've dreamed it up! I love the bottle tree, remember it from the movie but have never thought to replicate until today. I think it's something that my boys will enjoy and Sophie would be mesmerized by. But what I really wish is that I lived down the road from you or could at least come visit, stay in the leopard room and eat your bread and wash with your soap. Now that's a dream!

  8. My sister sent a dream into the universe just a few months ago, for a house with an apartment to rent out in the centre of Antwerp. They've bought that exact house since. It's miraculous how these things happen, but they do, and there's no point denying them.

  9. Ahhh, just spent several minutes catching up on your last blog posts. So satisfying with my morning coffee. I love your yard art. I may copy it too.

  10. Syd- I definitely do not want haints around.

    Michelle- They'd have to have sand in their eyes not to notice. Hmmmm....
    And yes, I think you need a bottle tree.

    N2- Me too!

    Kathleen Scott- Silliness and color.

    Mel- Then my job is done!

    Lisa- I hope you had sweet dreams.

    Allegra- I somehow knew there were bottle trees in your life too.
    I think "glyses" is my new favorite word.

    Elizabeth- You're such a sweet, dear woman. I wish you could come visit. I do. And I think your children would love a bottle tree. Start collecting!

    Mwa- I know. It's futile.

    Michele R- Do it! I certainly did not invent the concept.

  11. At first I was thinking, 'alright! we're totally going to make a bottle tree today!'...
    But then I started thinking 'what if one of the bottles breaks and one of the babies steps on the glass...or a squirrel eats it and dies a horrifying death in front of us?'

    No bottle tree here. :)

  12. I have always wanted a bottle tree. How lovely! And I love the addition of the key, even though it was from a damn minivan. And I know it's a sin, but I don't like Jimmy Buffet's damn music either. Sorry. I'd listen to it with you and a few martinis though. I do love James Taylor. Can I get a partial pass for that?

    Have fun with your guests. When I come to visit, you don't have to go to all that damn trouble though. Just treat me like one of the kids, okay?

    Love you.

    p.s. Jessie is a good kid.

  13. A blurry but colorful picture of your bottle tree a few years ago:

  14. I'm so happy you spruced it up! Great pix, but I can't wait to come by and take a live gander at it.

    xoxo m

  15. I am enchanted by the bottle tree. It is so beautiful. I bet when the sun shines, the light through the glass is magical.

  16. I have never heard of such a thing. I love it.

    I will start my own, using the beach glass we collect by The Bay.

  17. What a beautiful, magical tree.... and an idea I may have to steal from you! I have one yellow lantern bottle on my tree... it looks lonely :( x

  18. Ms. Bastard- I used to hate Jimmy Buffett too. And then he performed a healing on me. I know, I know. Sounds impossible. Well. What can you do? I love you even if you can't stand to say his name. Same-same to me.

    DTG- Good one! Do another for me.

    Ms. Fleur- It was shiny, wasn't it?

    Angie M- It IS pretty.

    Nancy C- Pictures, please!

    Lilacsandy- Steal the idea! Bottle trees everywhere!

  19. I love knowing that you live down the way from Ray's old house- gives me a better way to picture where you are.

    Gorgeous new bottle tree!@

  20. What I heard is that the haints think the bottles are the sky, especially the blue ones, and jump inside them, can't get back out, perish, etc. That is the Alabama version of the story I was told long ago, anyway. And you know that one is the truth. Tee hee.

  21. oh bless your sweet soul and Jessie's too. I am trying to catch up, reading backwards, as I drink my coffee, hurrying a bit because the day is passing me by, and this just made me stop and marvel and then cry. I just dripped tears as I read it and saw your beautiful pictures.
    So happy you rejuvinated the bottle tree. Love the key tap tapping on the green.
    You are a wonder.
    You write like a dream.

  22. The story ...the Bottle Tree....I can just hear those bottle's being tickled by the key, or metal trinkets. Or even if the wind might make a bloooowwwww sound...does it do that ever? Like the "haints" (I like that word) have touched their lips to the bottle top and whistled a breathy voice....mmmmm how I would imagine the tree....I do believe I can....


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