Postcard prose - Issue 01 | November 2008

Vanitas

by Janice D. Soderling

This Swedish hostel, once the parish poorhouse, lies just across the road from an eighteenth century stone church. From my window, I have the same view as the elderly indigents of half a century ago. Morning and evening, the graveyard opposite would have been a daily iteration of memento mori.

One afternoon, surprised by a sudden shower, I find shelter inside an ancient lakeside washhouse with a jetty where the village women once pounded and rinsed family clothes and linens. The dilapidating walls are the same color as the wild strawberries that huddle there in the late afternoon sun. The newly rinsed air is fresh and cool and clean with a mix of fragrances: red clover and something like jasmine, newly-mown hay and all the green odors that gather and lift after a rainfall. I stand sniffing like a doe with its fawn before turning to follow the swollen brook back through the meadows.

Evenings I sit in the hostel kitchen, writing, with a pot of strong tea and a candle for comfort. The immense quiet is broken only by those snaps and creaks that inhabit old houses. I am partial to old things: old peeling doors, rusty gates, overgrown paths. Old things know how to relinquish the past; they have learned how to make peace.

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