Monday evening I came across a fine painting by Ellen Langford, a friend of mine, an extraordinary artist in Jackson, Mississippi. Her paintings are emotional, memorable, comfortable, like that feeling known as old home week, defined thusly: a reunion of former associates marked by special warmth or cordiality, as in a little knot of alumni having an old home week in the stadium parking lot. For me, the former associates are the paintings' subjects which harken to memories of mine. The paintings then gather me in with that special warmth and cordiality. I feel good all over.
I messaged Ellen on Facebook and let her know that, of all those images of chickens she'd just finished, I wanted to buy the one that included Gertrude, her voluminously-tailed backyard hen, some wash on the line, and her bottle tree. We agreed to settle up on Tuesday.
Tuesday morning she texted me, saying that someone wanted to buy the entire chicken collection, would it make me sad if I let go of the one I wanted and waited for another one, that I certainly had first dibs on it. I immediately told her that I could wait for another one as long as it included the three elements--Gertrude, wash on the line, bottle tree--whenever the muse struck her to paint it. The thought of all those paintings being together on someone's wall excited me.
Ellen replied. "Wonderful. Very generous of you! Do you have a bottle tree there to take away all of the bad cancer spirits?"
"No," I explained, "I don't have a bottle tree mainly because I don't have a yard." She said that maybe a bottle tree painting would serve the same purpose. I told her that's what I had been thinking when I saw the painting. She said, "I'll make you one." I didn't mention to her that I knew where to find the photos that I had taken of mine and Mama's Mississippi bottle tree back in 2004. I didn't say anything about those photos because the idea for this blog post popped completely formed in my mind instantly.
Immediately, I could see the bottle tree that my brother Howard had built for Mama and me, that we had at the end of our deck beside the fifth-wheel camper trailer we lived in at the Swinging Bridge Campground in Byram, Mississippi, right outside Jackson. Mama and I loved that bottle tree he'd made out of treated wood, complete with low shelves to hold potted plants.
We enjoyed when the sunshine lit up the bottles like jewels on a crown.