“As a child I had great respect for the inanimate object” Patti Smith
I didn’t feel like reading. I wanted pictures, not words. So I picked up Patti Smith’s book Camera Solo which I keep on the table next to my bed. It’s a catalog from her exhibit ,of the same name, of her polaroids. Many of them are of objects that belonged to people who have died.
They’re photos of simple yet intimate things, a cup, a cane, a bed, a hat. Some belonged to people she knew and others from the poets and writers whose work has influenced her.
“There was so much loss surrounding my family.” Smith said, “Their objects were the only way I could invoke them.” “I guess I have a bit of a Catholic sensibility in that the relic has true meaning for me….I’ve always been talismanic.”
I’ve looked at the photos in this book so often, yet each time I do, I see something in them I hadn’t before.
This time I was inspired to take my own pictures of some of the things around me that have meaning. I took a picture of my hat, my Brother sewing machine, and the broom and bell outside our back door.
I’ve bought and sold seven houses in the past thirty years. And in each house, even if it was cleaned out by the previous owner, there was always a broom left in it.
It’s actually very witchy. A broom on the threshold is said to keep evil out.
I wasn’t at all surprised when we moved into the farm and there was a very old and worn-out broom hanging by the back door.
I decided to photograph it when I lifted it from the hook yesterday to sweep off the back porch. It’s really just nubs now. It works more like a scrub brush than a broom, yet neither Jon nor I have ever thought to throw it out or replace it.
It was Florence’s broom, the woman who lived in the house for over 80 years and died here when she was 104. The broom hangs just beneath the manual doorbell that was also Florences.
Even though she had died, Florence was a presence when we move to the farm. Over the years, as we changed things in the house, it gradually became more ours than hers.
But still, every time I use the broom I think of Florence. And when I see the bell, I imagine Florence hung it when she began to lose her hearing.
So as much as the house and the farm feels like ours. But Florence lingers in the broom and the bell, her relics that hang by the back door.