Peggy Acott

Seeker of stories and beautiful ephemera.

“One of the sweetest hardest things about being a writer, I think, is that you are often startled at what comes gushing out of you…sometimes hilarious and odd, but also sometimes painful and bruising….”

I find it hard to believe that these people aren't actually flesh and blood, they are so real to me after a decade of telling their story.

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An excerpt from:

A Place at the Table

 

 

  Michael took a wooden cigar box from the drawer of his bedside table, and sat down at the Formica table next to the window. He lifted out a small stack of photographs and set them to one side. He smiled as he picked up a Willie Mays baseball card that he his father had given him for his tenth birthday.  There were his army dog tags, his purple heart medal, some Vietnamese coins. He picked up each one and turned them over in his fingers before gently replacing them. Then he picked up the small stack of photographs. He moved through them slowly, one by one: A faded photograph of his parents standing together in front of horse corral on the ranch where he’d grown up; Adriane and their infant daughter Bea, a photo that he had taken of them sitting on their porch swing, the day before he was deployed to Vietnam. He stared at it for a long time before he set it to one side. There was one of the crew of construction workers he’d worked with in Utah, lined up in front of the house they spent a summer building; Celeste, a pretty redhead he’d met at a flea market in Colorado, who had convinced him to stick around there for a few more months. There was a few more of friends and lovers from over the years that he flipped through more quickly. He stopped at one of Frank and Anna, sitting at the table where they had shared Sunday dinner almost every week since he’d arrived in Nevada a decade ago. This one he also set to the side.

Then, one last polaroid. He looked at the younger version of himself and the woman beside him, from so many lifetimes ago, and placed it to the other side of the table, next to a small brass bowl. He looked out at the garden full of lush, large leaves and brightly-colored flowers.  He hadn’t been in Hawaii long enough to learn the names of the plants, nor those of the birds that visited the shelf feeder hung from a shepherd’s hook near his window. One of the nurses told Michael she’d bring him some of her field guides soon, so he could learn to identify them.           

   He missed the dry Nevada desert, missed the whispering of the cottonwood trees next to the airstream that had been home for the last ten years, missed Frank and Anna and their regular Sunday dinners together. But he had needed to go somewhere for more experienced treatment, for a chance to come out the other side. Michael had had confidence in his oncologist, and the nurses and volunteers at the hospice house were helpful and kind - offering to bring him his meals when he didn’t have the energy or feel up to the company of going to the dining room, not trying to force him to do more or be different than who he was. He had steeled himself with expectations of having to face the chaffing feelings of being forced to be actively social, to be surrounded with a barrage of forced cheerfulness. But it hadn’t manifested that way. Everyone seemed to tacitly understand that the boundaries of privacy were to be respected, for which Michael was profoundly grateful. People spoke in quiet voices, and he appreciated the relative peace, for so often he felt so damn tired, these days. This wasn’t where he thought he was going to live out the rest of his days, but it turned out there was nothing more that could be done to slow the progression of his cancer, so the temporary stay at the hospice house had turned into his last stop.            

A slight breeze came through the open window, and brought with it a sweet smell not unlike vanilla, but spicier. He closed his eyes and took another breath – shallow, so he wouldn’t cough – and smiled with appreciation.            

Then he opened his eyes and looked over at the small brass bowl on the corner of the table, where he kept spare change, small stones, a piece of string, other bits out of habit he carried in his pockets. On top of the collection was a small piece of paper, folded in fourths. Michael sighed. He slowly reached out and picked it up as gently as though it were a resting butterfly. Carefully he unfolded it and smoothed it out on the table beside the polaroid. Alice’s email address. Even though she was part of the reason Michael had picked Hawaii out of his options for treatment, he still hadn’t been able to summon the courage to write to her.

What was he going to say to his youngest daughter, after thirty years? How would she react?           

He reached for his laptop, at the far end of the table, set it in front of him and opened it. And, as he had so many times, he typed in her email address.            

Subject line: Back from the dead, he typed.            

Seriously? He thought. But he let it stand.            

He turned his head and looked back toward the bird feeder, frowning.            

I can’t put this off forever, I don’t have that much time.            

He rubbed the bridge of his nose, sighed and took a drink of water.            

He took a deep breath, managed not to cough, and started to type.

First Harvest

Sometimes our actions align themselves naturally with the progression of the seasons.   Without intentional planning, we are aligned in sync with ancient markers of the year and its perpetual turning.

It is in part how we instinctively reach for salads and more fresh, raw food in the spring and summer, and likewise turn toward root vegetables and heavier, heartier foods in the fall and winter.

First harvest_onions_080117

This photograph is of this week’s harvest of onions at my community garden plot. I pulled them up and set them out to cure in the heat of August 1st – which happens to also be the first day of Lammas, also known as Lughnasadh or Lughnasa (pronounced LOO-ne-se): an ancient Celtic cross-quarter-day holiday that celebrates — you guessed it — the First Harvest. Traditionally this first harvest was usually wheat, and one of the traditional rituals of the holiday is baking bread with flour made from the first wheat of the season.

A friend of mine, upon seeing this picture of my successful onion crop, wished me “Happy Lammas!” I had completely lost track of the date, barely noticing that it was the first of August, my attention having for a while been taken up with a variety of day-to-day activities and obligations to schedule as well as some stressful canine caregiving.

Just the kinds of things that take me away from some simple, grounded ritual – when I likely need it the most (isn’t that how it often works?) – yet it has been the garden that has given me solace, so how fitting that I would, albeit not consciously, celebrate Lammas by harvesting a healthy crop of onions that will carry me into the colder months?

In Celtic mythology, it was the celebration of the wedding of the Sun God Lugh to the Earth Goddess, symbolic of the ripening of crops. As the harvest commenced, it was looked upon as the closing of summer and anticipation of fall. Harvest also meant starting to prepare for storing food to get through the colder months ahead.  But this holiday was a time for celebration and enjoying the fruits of the year’s labor.

Bonfires and feasting are, of course, always part of the celebration. 

Children and adults alike make “corn dollies” out of the long hollow stems of grain recently harvested (“corn” in modern English translates to “grain”), be it barley, wheat, rushes, oats; or the dried husks of corn. The dollies range from traditional to modern in design, simple to elaborate in execution; woven, braided or both, with or without other adornment. They are meant to be given as gifts, placed on home altars or above doorways, to thank the earth for her abundance and as symbols of fertility and good harvest.

corn dollies

photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Non-Fiction

Book

Online

Print

“Summer Fruit Tree Care” - Portland Outsider Magazine, Summer 2013

Fiction

Online

Savor: an Anthology, Vol. 1, 2010

Print

Photography

Online

Portland Nursery - (website), 2011-2014

Print

Cactus Heart Press, 2012, 2013

Zenger Farm, 2013

Voicecatcher, 2010, 2011

Depave, 2010

Protecting Earth's Land - Lerner Publications, 2008

Odds & Ends

Recipe Tester - Eat this Poem: - A Literary Feast of Recipes Inspired by Poetry, 2017

Photo: Stark Photography

 

 I grew up in a house with lots of bookshelves and creative projects in the works. My parents read, between them, things from nearly every category of fiction and non-fiction (except maybe romance and westerns, but I’m not even sure about that). My love of reading got an early and well-supported start.

One day my mother took a story I had written to my fifth grade teacher, to get her opinion. The teacher noted the influence of the Nancy Drew books I had read (by that time, probably all of them), but also said that I was, indeed, a very good writer. My mother, my first champion, probably wouldn’t have told me had the news from my teacher been bad, but since the critique was positive, she used it to encourage me to persevere. Thanks, Mom.

When I was twelve I bought my first camera. It was a square, gray plastic Kodak that cost all of eight dollars, and it was my initiation to a lifelong love of photography.

Fast forward: A bachelor’s degree in Art, and then several years spent working in offices, with creativity on the side. The classic liberal arts education story.

But through the decades that followed - with an assortment of jobs, relationships and then motherhood - writing and photography continued to be my creative companions, sometimes publicly, always privately.

In 2008, I wrote what became the fall cover story for Edible Portland Magazine. That was a pivotal moment: I had become uncertain about myself as a writer, and getting this recognition propelled me with both feet into writing. While turning my attention more thoroughly to the page, I still continued to take photographs, sometimes as a daily practice.

Submitting, getting rejections and the occasional acceptance. Repeat.

Now, with a completed manuscript I am trying to find a place for, out in the world, my eyes and ears are still on the watch for stories, for fleeting moments of connection that weave the world together.

It is good here.

Hello – thanks for stopping by! Want to ask a question? Leave a comment? Find out where to send a check? You can fill out the form or send me a direct email – either way, I promise to respond.

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