Beautiful and elegant photography. Stimulating, thoughtful writing. The ordinary concerns of individual lives set into an extraordinary, world-wide context. All of this, and more, is Vision and Verb.
From my first visit to these pages until the day I agreed to become part of the community, something about the site's memorable, alliterative name nagged at me. It seemed uncannily familiar. How that could be I wasn't sure, since I couldn't remember meeting the phrase in any other context. The thought that "Vision and Verb" had been part of my earlier life seemed fanciful and foolish, and so I set it aside.
Then one morning I awoke, startled and attentive long before dawn, with another fully-formed phrase echoing in my mind. "Show and tell," I said to my bemused cat. "Show and tell. That's the connection with Vision and Verb."
And so it is. Long before we begin developing a more comprehensive vision of the world, long before we have not only the verbs but also the nouns, adjectives and prepositions to describe our world to others, the impulse to share it is alive. Whether "Show and Tell" still survives in the schools I can't say, but I remember it fondly from my own grade school years. "Does anyone have anything to show us?" my teachers asked each morning, looking around the room for contributors.
We certainly did. I remember sharing my pet box turtle, some limestone rocks I'd painted with water colors, a silver dollar from my dad's coin collection, and my great-grandmother's butter paddle. Once, a classmate brought in a walking stick he'd captured - the strangest creature any of us had seen. Always, there were peanut butter jars filled with lady bugs, crickets and worms. There were old tools and hand-knit dishcloths, pretty jewelry and prettier leaves. Once, a girl brought her baby sister. We learned a good bit about the world as we found those first, halting words to describe our treasures - even as we began to learn about one another.
Pondering the sweet simplicity of that childhood sharing, I found myself intrigued by an adult question. If I were to choose something to share here, what would it be? What one object would I bring to Vision and Verb as my way of "showing and telling" a bit about myself? Difficult as it was, I finally settled on the suitcase above. It's a bit of a cheat, since the suitcase is filled with even more wonderful things, but it (and its contents) are perfectly suited for sharing.
The suitcase belonged to my mother. She carried it on her honeymoon in 1938, and clung to it with a kind of fierce protectiveness through all the decades that followed. When she moved to Texas, the suitcase came with her, and it wasn't long before it took on new life as the "treasure bag". Each time we were forced to evacuate in advance of a hurricane, the suitcase and its contents were stowed in the back seat of the car, with my howling cat atop in her carrier.
What qualifies as treasure varies from year to year. The relative importance of objects ebbs and flows, but always the bag is filled with tangible memories, bits of life that simply can't be abandoned. This year, I took out the handmade coat I wore as an infant, the small bag of costume jewelry that no longer seems important, the set of jacks from my grade school years and four of my dad's six wristwatches.
Still remaining are Dad's leather work gloves, my mother's hand-crocheted Baptismal dress, the cribbage board we enjoyed as a family and my great-great-great-grandfather's fife, which he carried in the Civil War. There is an armload of silver bracelets I collected in my travels across Africa, a carved wooden crucifix from a leprosarium in Liberia, a few bits of good jewelry and the oldest of the family photographs. The dresser scarf from my parents' first apartment is there, as are some samples of my mother's needlework and the small wooden heart my dad made in his high school shop class.
By June 1, the first day of Hurricane Season, the suitcase will be ready, waiting in the hall closet while I wait to see what the season brings. During the waiting, I may pull out this or that to share here at Vision and Verb. After all - there's a lot to show, and a lot to tell.