| Welcome | Contents | Submissions | Contact | Privacy | About |

Soul Searching
by Sherri Linn Kline

When I was seventeen my favorite cousin gave me some presents to celebrate the fact that I was leaving the family and going on my own right after I graduated. It was a set of cobalt blue glasses that he'd carefully cut from old Milk of Magnesia bottles, using some sort of mail order Ronco toy. They were beautiful, the deep blue of a twilight sky, the rims absolutely even and sanded smooth until their rounded edges shone.

Then there were the wooden spoons. He was always carving something out of wood or bone, and his little "stirring spoons" were very popular in the family. He could take a split off a piece of firewood and gently cut away at it with the two little tinker-made knives that he carried everywhere until he had a delicate, straight handled little spoon perfect for fitting down inside jelly glasses or whatnot.

I'd watched him do it many times over the years, patiently rounding the head with the little curved blade and then switching to the little flat, triangular blade to carefully straighten and round out the handle. Every so often he'd run the handle between the knuckles of the first two fingers of his right hand (he was left handed), using them as calipers to feel if it was true or not.

The last time he came home from the Marines he brought me two boxes, inside one was the glasses, in the other, laid out on a piece of black cloth, like jewels, were six perfect little "stirring spoons", a large, graceful cooking spoon and something I'd never seen him make before--a tiny gravy dipper, made out of some sort of pale wood. The dipper's bowl was perfectly round and the handle ended in a graceful hook that looked "storebought", but you could see the slight angles along the sides of the handle that were characteristic of his little triangular knife.

"I heard your grandma gave you some of her skillets for your college hope chest, here's something to go along with it." he grinned at me "'Course, you'll have to learn to use them." It always tickled him that he was a better cook than I was.

When I left the house for college, my Aunt went through my hope chest. She took the glasses, but generously left me the pans. She never found the spoons because they were carefully packed in a box of books. By this time I knew my Aunt.

Over the years, I was given "special" spoons by people I loved. I didn't talk about my cousin but they knew that for some reason wooden spoons were important to me. Cousin Clinton had died during the debacle when The Peanut Farmer tried to rescue the Iranian hostages and at that point in my life I didn't talk about things that hurt.

My housebrother Tony once gave me a huge Ashwood spoon to "keep my boyfriends in line". This thing really could double as a club, it was two feet long and had been carved so that the curve of the grain in the bowl looked like an eye. Perfect for soup stock. Another brother took a trip to Italy and brought me back a beautiful spoon made of olivewood, heavy and silk smooth with a wild, swirling grain. A sister brought a pair of heavy spatulate spoons made of a hard, red wood, from her tour in the Elder Bush's war.

I kept those spoons and pans pristine up until the last year I was living with my first husband. He was a pro at passive aggression, and by this time it was as close to all out war as a coward could get. He knew that I was passionately attached to the few things I owned and very few of them escaped that year unscathed. When I took a trip that kept me from the house for a couple of days, he ran my Grandma's cast iron pans through the dishwasher, along with all of the spoons. Since everyone at the house was too busy to notice, they sat in the washer for two days.

By the time I got home, the pans had rusted and the spoons were destroyed. After I lost my temper and managed to break my hand in two places punching a wall instead of my smirking husband, I packed the pans and the spoons that looked salvageable in a box and hid them in the attic. Our housemates took him aside and warned him that if he went looking for the box, if I didn't get him, THEY would. My reaction scared the hell out of everyone but the Weasel, including me.

Time passed, the first husband did, too. The household became "mine" and I celebrated by buying a set of matched plates and glasses. I never thought about why I fell in love with the cobalt color of those glasses and *had* to buy them. When I found out that my hand had recovered to the point where I could carve, I started making little spoons to practice, without thinking why.

Since it has gotten so cold, I started feeling stir crazy, so I decided to do something constructive with my time. I rummaged around in the attic and found the box of pans and spoons. It was bad. I took it all down to my shop and started sanding. All of the pans except for the Dutch oven sanded reasonably smooth and took seasoning well. Clinton's spoons were a loss, the wood had split and warped, except for two stirrers, which were fragile and dry. I put the rest into the compost bin and layered some fireplace ash over them. I traced around the stirring spoons, to get the general shape, then put them on a shelf in my room.

The Ashwood spoon had been damaged, but by the time I got done cutting the dry, peeling layer off of its body, it's quite graceful. The Italian spoon sanded down well, although it's still dark. The Saudi spoons had split, but I traced their contours and pulled out a hunk of Olive wood that I got last Yule and carved replacements before they, too when into the compost yesterday. Today I sat and gently ran a file down a little sliver of firewood until I had a straight handle with a tear drop shaped bowl at one end. As I ran it between the first two fingers of my left hand it was as if Clinton was sitting across from me with that shy smile that always looked so odd on his sharp, wary face. I remembered the glasses he'd made for me.

First, I found my dad in my hands and my eyes. The fascination with little patterns found in nature and my need to recreate them in wood, stone or bone. I always knew my great Aunt Elsbet' was still with me, in my attitudes and in the way I moved. Brother Tony taught me my first lessons in flower planting and some of his ashes are in my garden. Sue, who was National Guard during Desert Storm and was irreparably damaged by what she experienced, she was with me in my midnight sorrows, but now I hold those odd shaped kitchen tools and remember the tale-swapping and damfoolishness we got into in college. Clinton has always been with me, I just didn't realize it until now.

Please send us your comments, including the name of the work you are commenting on.

Don't want to miss out? Contact us and we'll send you an e-mail message announcing each new issue. We do not share, sell, or barter our mail list under any circumstances.

| Welcome | Contents | Submissions | Contact | Privacy | About |

Copyright © 1999-2004 by Amarillo Bay. All rights reserved.
Individual works are copyrighted by their authors.