THE FIELD GUIDE PROJECT: OQUOSSOC, MAINE

WORDS: SAJA CHODOSH
IMAGES: MAX CHODOSH

A FOREWORD

In many ways, I started writing this collection, Writing Home, before I formally started writing home. I have been obsessed with place and space for some time. I can’t quite explain this preoccupation. Maybe this is why I write about it so often—trying to find the words for what home is, what home means. Maybe it is because of all the movement, all the addresses, all the past houses that I have rebuilt in my memory—constructed out of stories, photographs, and little pieces of conversation and earth. It is this rebuilding which I cling to. It seems home is constructed in its very reconstruction. Homes become every more homey once you have left them, once you are left to find comfort and warmth in the living rooms of the past, within the corners of nostalgia, in the presence of another who shared those rooms or mountains with you. Maybe this is why, as Gaston Bachelard argues in The Poetics of Space, poetry and home are inherently and undeniably intertwined. Both exist within the fragmentation of memory, the breathe of love, the drive for entirety.

Yet these abstractions of home cannot be separated from the concreteness of the house—the brick walls, the yellow swing, the raspberry garden, the narrow rusted mirror. How do we translate the house into home? The home into house? What happens when home is not a house, but a mere person? A mere moment of grounding familiarity? Some homes have addresses. Others do not. Can home be as vividly realized in the mere movement between spaces? The spaces that have lost those who built them; all we have is sunlit porch, an empty chair? This collection is a translation of home—of all the zip codes, cities, houses, hills, books, humans, beds, windows, which I have called home, which have become home, which I have created home out of, and thus recreated in this very rewriting.

I hope you find home within these words.

The following are excerpts from the larger collection constructed to create field guides to hubs of home that span East to West, and places in between. I hope they carry you across the states, letting you rest and dwell in the places I call home.

In the coming weeks, Loam will release excerpts from Saja's collection as a part of THE FIELD GUIDE PROJECT. 

Mooselook Meguntic Lake

When the waves fell back, and the stars leaked from the dark sky like secrets from a tight mouth, we’d spill our cloths on the wet hill and run our bodies down its grass, to the lake below, a shadow as dark as the sky. Sometimes, I jumped quickly, the water crashing my feet, thighs, waist, shoulders, eyes. It felt like calm ice, and as my head unfolded into the air I screamed in enchantment, a sign to the others that I had resurfaced safely.

One by one our bodies would collide with the water, scream after scream, water surrounding us like masks. It was only us in the night’s black dome—no boats’ lights shone, our parents’ voices muddled with the light of the stars, I felt as if we lived alone beside the moon.

But there were other times—I don’t know why—I wouldn’t jump quickly. I would hesitate, my feet planted on the wooden planks of the dock, my finger nails gripped into my bare thighs, my cousins screams echoing like secrets I wasn’t supposed to be hearing. When I finally crashed into the water, everything went black and I wished I could see what I knew was there. It felt like trying, but never brushing the moon— that shaken surface, those white dips; instead, only glimpses of that ever leaning light.

 

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Porch Scene

Lake light through the screen
porch, flaxen and golden,

seeps under worn floorboards—
smell of rhubarb pie baking—

sundown of a July evening—
On the ceramic table

a cheese plate placed, the saltines
stacked, by which a deck

of cards sit—and his
sleeping, aging body.

Raspberry Patch

 When asked about love
I think of the dirt
in my grandmother’s raspberry patch.
I think it is summer—tipping
burnt daylight.

We drive the golf cart down the hill
each Thursday afternoon,
cross the cracked
wooden bridge as the sun
melts into the lake
like lemon ice.

We run white strings
through the holes of green cartoons
and string them over our necks.

I run to the edge,
where the short grass meets the dark
dirt, step into the soft, brown earth,
push all
the sunlight under
my feet down.

I sink down.

The dirt spreads over my toes
like moonlight over the lake at night.
I feel heavy.
I feel welcomed
as if the dirt waits for my weight—
gather a handful of berries in my hands
and squeeze tight. The seeds leak through

my fingers
like waves onto a broken
crab shell.

Bald Mountain Road

It is home
& nothing else. For home is to give
every doorway a human it knows
it cannot keep. That this golden light
is shaved down by a grating heart
of loss—smashed blue in the clay
sun, rhubarb moonlight, loom of a wooden
feeling that you are missing. The ice
cubes of a vodka tonic are melting
by the lake. The moose are still
awaiting your curved arrival.
This week is foggy,
but a kiln is warming somewhere.

There is so much lettuce in the garden.
There are stacked clay salad bowls in the kitchen.
There are antique pendants beside your bed.
There are blueberry pancakes for desert,
echoes of every summer before this,
the smell of bark & damp light holding
its breath, waiting.

This is the Mooselake of summers past
aged to a single piece of beach glass.
Here is the dock to a mourning lake.
This life is blue, and every teary eye a moon
trying to forgive light for leaving
it slivered each day. This is fullness
confused for emptiness. This is the birch
built black bear rotted to a bare truth.
Just name it time.
Just call it love.
You are calling sandwich orders from the stairs
above the water, rattling down the hill in the cart.
This month is but a rattling return.
We ask for you,
but are given an empty dining chair, mosaic squares,
stacked log walls, this day.
Here is the doorway of loss. Here is your house
with all the chairs filled, rocking chairs, rocking.
Here’s everyone who loves you crammed
into the screened porch: smelling of salt bagels,
wet daffodils, bald hearts, trying to find a mountain
road, raspberry smashed ground, a way home to you.
This world is throbbing. This house is full.
There are many doorways
and we are all moving through.