Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Everyone needs a straw hat.

It is my Writers' Group meeting tomorrow. Sometimes we have an open manuscript meeting, where we can read any piece of 500 words or less - poetry, prose, travel - whatever we like. But sometimes we have a set theme - and this is so tomorrow. I like these less as I find it difficult to write "to order" about something I am not necessarily interested in. But I suppose it is a good exercise.
We were given two pictures to choose from. One was Salvador Dali's Crucifixion and the other was of a straw hat, decorated with flowers, hanging on a door. I chose the latter. This is the piece I am going to read tomorrow:-

The hat hung on the back of the door. The sunlight, which over the years had weathered the straw to a deep golden, cast a beam across the brim and across the flowers, which had faded with the years.
When she had first bought it it had been a simple straw hat, plain, unadorned, meant for the utilitarian purpose of keeping the sun off the back of her neck. But, of course, Estelle being Estelle, she had been unable to leave it like that. She had made it into "Estelle's Hat" all those years ago, when the summers were long and hot and still, and the air was full of the sounds of droning bees.
The ribbon was one from her ribbon box. How she had loved that box in those days when a ribbon was a thing to treasure. Where was the ribbon box now, he wondered? On a Winter's evening she would take it out of the cupboard, put it on the table and lovingly remove the ribbons, one by one, identifying them and smoothing them out.
"That one was the belt from my second-best muslin dress. Oh how I loved that dress with its full skirt and its sprigs of lavender. And this one, the red one, (she would hold it up) was bought for me by that Bobby Jones at the fair one year." Then she would smile to herself, roll them all up tenderly and put them back in the box for another day.
That Summer, the one when she had bought the hat, she had stopped an old gypsy woman in the lane when they were out for a walk and had persuaded him to buy for her a bag full of artificial flowers. When they had got home she had taken out her ribbon box and chosen a ribbon. Together they had gone into the hay field. He had sat in the hay while she sewed the ribbon and the the flowers, holding each one up before deciding where to fasten it. He could still hear her laughter if he concentrated hard.
When the hat was finished she had put it on her golden curls and together they had danced round in the hay, her dress flaring out as she swung in his arms, the poppies in the field had moved in the breeze as though they were joining in the dance.
When they had come home she had hung the hat on the door and there it had stayed for years.
Children, work, holidays, gardening - all these things had come and filled their time so that there never seemed to be an opportunity to dance in the fields again. Maybe not even a desire.
He looked at her now, as she slept in the evening sunlight on the verandah, her grey head resting on the old blue cushion that she loved so much. He looked at her lined face now beginning to be etched with pain. Her wrinkled and veined hands lay still in her lap. Her thin, frail body took up so little room in the chair. She slept. He watched. And as he watched, he thought,
"Everyone needs a straw hat on the shed door for days like this."

24 comments:

Sal said...

I thought that was beautiful!
I bet the writers' group will love it!;-)

Reader Wil said...

What a wonderful, delicate story! You will have everybody's attention! Are you going to tell us the result of this Writers' Group meeting? Good luck.

steven said...

hello weaver, lovely writing. it made me remember mary webb's writing. gentle. detailed. flowing like a river. when i saw the title of your entry i thought you were going to talk about the heat over there! have a peaceful day. steven

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Oh. Beautiful, heartfelt story. I was right inside it.

willow said...

Lovely, lovely story, Weaver. Yes, everyone does need a straw hat.

Heather said...

What a lovely story Weaver - very poignant, but I had a smile on my face at the end. Thankyou. I'm sure it will be well received by the group.

Jenn Jilks said...

Nice weaving of straw and story thread, Weaver!

Reader Wil said...

Wall ties!? That's funny, but correct. Well, the article I referred to was written by an English woman about these Dutch wall ties. She called them wall anchors. Never mind after 1930 they weren't used anymore.

acornmoon said...

You are a weaver of words, I think you are very talented, this reminds me of Thomas Hardy who I love.

By the way, yes, Ted is Jack Russell.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

This is a really fine story—creative, just enough detail, a good narrative line from start to finish with nothing extraneous. Exactly how a piece this length should flow. But more than anything…a story worth reading.

Your group ought to like this story a lot. Good job!

mrsnesbitt said...

Wow! Reminded me of my hat, the one I decorated with flowers for the Hospice Ascot ladies Day.

Cloudia said...

Lovey & TRUE!
You will see my Hawaii Lifeguard hat on a near future post....I enjoy coming here, Weaver. Aloha

Comfort Spiral

The Abbot said...

Beautiful story. You are indeed talented.

HelenMHunt said...

That's beautiful. I love it.

Amy said...

awww that's lovely, hope it goes well :-)

Hildred and Charles said...

Very sweet story, - how lovely it would be if the straw hat had aged from use, rather than from hanging on the door in the sun, - but that is so typical of many of the treasured things we neglect until their time is past, and they are only memories.

You will be the belle of the writers' group!

Cathy said...

So beautiful. I wanted to keep reading it. When you described her in the chair and his thought on the hat I felt myself tear up.

Dave King said...

Superb piece of writing. I would never have guessed that it hadn't come from the heart, so to speak. It carried me along and gave me a most beautiful ride. You must post a bit about how the meeting went.

Poet in Residence said...

Weaver, best of luck for the meeting. Hope it goes well. I'm sure it will.
Our local poetry group, Labyrinth, is having a meeting on Friday. Anyone attending won't need a straw hat, more likely a sleeping bag. It starts at 8.30pm and ends at 6am. I may go, but just for the first hour, but then they all say that! Nevertheless, it's only once a year, and I suppose it's a great thing for anyone bursting to read his or her epic ode to an audienzzz ...

Derrick said...

Not bad for a project you don't much enjoy, Weaver!! Amazing how the mind can be prompted with an image. I bet your group will have so many varied stories.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thanks for the comments everyone. I went to writers' group - as it is summer there were only nine there and they all read varied pieces - all but one were on the straw hat picture and they were all so different. Isn't it interesting how one image can produce so many differing ideas.
Next month we are all going on our local Wensleydale Railway together for our meeting in the hopes that we are inspired to write "Railway pieces."

My Mane in the Wind said...

Well! I am so glad you are resisting not doing these exercises! The story was wonderful and had some interesting twists in a very short time frame, which kept my interest -- what sex was the narrator, was it present day or way into the future? And most of all it conveyed just a lovely feeling. Keep writing! It was fun to be surfing and find this!

Woman in a Window said...

THAT is absolutely lovely. I hope the reading went well and felt all warm and full afterward. You should have.

BT said...

Oh Weaver, that is a lovely story, so tender and full of wonderful pictures and emotion. Wonderful.