I love researching the pedigree of blog awards. It’s a grown-up, vntary version of the forced march our 6th grade Catechism class made through the book of Genesis. Just as following those Biblical “begats” back through the generations carried us to wholly unrecognizable worlds, tracking the progress of blog awards can lead to strange and mysterious places, not to mention unusual or quirky companions.
When Andi of AndiLit graced me with the Honest Scrap Award, I did what I often do. I worked my way backward: through Courtney at Everything in Between to In the Mainstream, and then on to Allison Writes, where the easy trail grew difficult. No matter. I’ve never been able to make myself keep going on and on down the path toward the origin of an award, partly for fear I might end up somewhere I don’t care to be, like Armed Females of America, and partly because I fear capture by blogs capable of killing my every spare minute of time. Stop by Neatorama and you’ll see what I mean.
Prowling and pawing around the Honest Scrap heap, one thing I did notice is that no one seems quite sure what the award means. As Andi put it, “The Honest Scrap Award is – well, I don’t know what it’s for…” That sentiment’s been echoed by innumerable bloggers who’ve received the award and it was my own first response to the honor. My second response was curiosity,particularly since scraps have been an important, if unexamined, part of my life since childhood.
The earliest scraps I remember were table scraps – leftovers, as we called them when we wanted to be polite. While egg shells, vegetable peelings and fruit rinds from meal preparation went into a scrap bucket for the chickens, the bits of bread, meat and potatoes left from the table made fine meals for everything from hogs to raccoons.
Occasionally some of those scraps ended back on the table in the form of scrapple, bits of leftover meat cooked with corn meal, shaped into loaves and sliced for frying. Scrapple wasn’t our custom, but Grandma was more than willing to borrow a good idea from the Germans and Czechs around us, and scrapple was a good idea. Paired with fried apples it was a double delight. “Scrapple and apples”, my friends and I shouted gleefully, “Scrapple and apples”. We loved the way the words sounded, rolling off the tongue, and we loved the sweet and savory pair, tasting of autumn, and comfort and home.
Other scraps meant warmth and security. Every home had boxes filled with scraps and trimmings of fabric left from the dresses, skirts, blouses and shirts made for family members. Cut into tiny hexagons or squares (no triangles for us!) they became what my grandmother called “scrap quilts”. Some called them “pieced” quilts, but no matter the name you preferred they were treasures: hand-stitched and hand-quilted with skill, patience and love. Every year when the weather cools, I open the cedar chest and sit again in the sunshine, tracing my childhood through patches of fading color: a mother’s sundress, a grandmother’s apron, the shirt my father wore when, desolate and brimming with tearful despair, I begged him not to abandon me for an entire week to the terrors of summer camp.
Later, the souvenirs of that really quite wonderful week – the postcards, the leather achievement patches, the mimeographed sheets of camp song lyrics – went into the first of many scrap books that served to capture and reinterpret my life. Like the bits and pieces of scrap metal Lyle Nichols turns into extraordinary sculptures at his Colorado home and studio, their original purpose remains clear, even as their selection and combination creates an entirely new vision of reality.
Looking at Nichols’ horse, thinking about the leftovers I’ll have for supper this evening, wondering if it might be cool enough to pull the quilts from their chest, it occurs to me at last: the best scraps are leftover bits of real life. They recall real meals, lovingly prepared. They intimate the cut of real clothing, patterned and stitched by human hands. They are mementos of authentic experience, photographed, clipped and pasted by the hand of one who knows which were significant and which were not, which must be encouraged to endure and which can be let go without regret. Honest scrap, it seems, is grounded in reality, capable of stimulating memory and able to contain an entire universe of experience within the tiniest gear or shred of peeling or fold of cloth.
To think of a blog as a fragment of thought, a scrap of memory, the trimmings from a vibrant and imaginative reconstruction of reality is to make the phrase “honest scrap” more understandable and the process of blogging more intriguing. Pulling words from from a pile of paragraphs , reworking paragraphs as metal is forged into art, piecing sentences together with prepositional stitches and conjunctive thread, snipping, framing and pasting images as if into a cherished book ~ all of this is beautiful, nourishing and worthy of regard.
Perhaps few authors have understood the shimmering potential of scrap, the beauty of leftover experience or the potential for forging new realities more clearly than the Portuguese writer, Fernando Pessoa. After Pessoa’s death, a trunk filled with thousands of scraps of paper was discovered among his belongings. It contained unpublished poems, unfinished prose, writing of all sorts. Among the writings was his thrilling and mysterious The Book of Disquiet, which contains this hypnotic sentence:
“I ask and I continue. I write down the question, I wrap it up in new sentences, I unravel it to form new emotions.”
Published fifty years after the author’s death, the extended diary fragments making up The Book of Disquiet represent the autobiography of Bernardo Soares, one of Pessoa’s remarkable “heteronyms”, or alternate selves. Each of these “selves”, nearly seventy or more of them, functioned autonomously as a fully developed literary alter ego with a voice and a vision of his own. In the words of reviewer Tricia Yost, Soares’ diary speaks of “Lisbon, literature, monotony, dreams and much more. But in the final analysis, the minutiae of life is made heartbreakingly beautful.”
The minutiae of life. Fragments of experience. Well-trimmed poetry and snippets of prose tasting of sunlight and oranges, unraveled, wrapped up and asked.