Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Carver Country

I've always been one to visit graves, finding the experience lovely in ways that I do not fully understand. I respect why other people sometimes find this mystifying and often hear the whole, the person isn't really there spiel, with which I agree in theory. In my twenties, I saw lots of famous graves -- Breece Pancake, Frederick Exley, Charles Bukowski, and of course, the great Raymond Carver. Carver's grave, outside of Yakima (his hometown where I also tracked down the church that he and MaryAnn, his first wife, got married in -- St. Mark's for anyone who wants to know) on the edge of the ocean, was breathtaking. I took a ton of pictures for myself and others -- my friend Mark wanted one to replace a picture of his ex-wife doing dishes with a scowl on her face that he had posted on his office cubicle for reasons unknown to anyone but himself, a very Carver gesture if there was one. People had left notes for Ray, requests for his help with writing and ones of praise. My favorite was from Carver's grandchild who said he'd wished he'd gotten to meet him.

Now I visit graves of people I knew in life, most frequently my friend Hank's, which is out in the middle of nowhere under a huge tree, right off of Joy Road. It's peaceful when people aren't engaging in target practice during hunting season and one fears a stray bullet. Strangely enough, neither of my parents were buried. Cremation appealed to the practical side of my mother and my father's body had to be identified by his teeth so there wasn't anything to bury really. Both of them exist in urns in their old bedroom which gives some people the creeps (my mother's Budhist friends think it's bad luck and brings misfortune on the family), but I don't mind. I suspect they like being in the room where so much of their lives played out, right above their socks and underwear and the top dresser drawers, where everything that you don't use, but value remains. When Hank and I drove by the local graveyard in the middle of Denton, Hank would yell, Hi Dead People! in a jolly voice, and for that minute, we were glad that we weren't them, we were us and being happy that you are you-- well, how often does that happen?

Michelle's Spell of the Day

"The whole world is a graveyard." Six Feet Under

"One can get used to anything/ Become a stranger to nothing/Understand that betrayal is just another word for hunger." Raymond Carver

Find A Grave

1 shot of midori liquor
glass of champagne
2 cherries and a tiny bit of cherry juice

Serve chilled.

Benedictions and Maledictions

In answer to lovely Robin's Carver question and the lively debate that followed!

Raymond Carver was all the buzz when I was in graduate school. I read his stories and fell in love. Usually, I resist what others tout, but in this case, everyone was right! Ray (I feel as if I know him) was brilliant. Later, I discovered his poetry which I think is as every bit as good as the fiction. The answer to why I like him has to do with a certain vision. One senses Ray was a funny kind man, a man who loved to gossip about himself and others, one who loved life, but also had respect for the fact that life could wreak a whole lot of havoc on a person. He writes frankly about money or lack of, the allure and misery of drinking, the pain of the divided heart and soul. My favorite stories are "Menudo," "Are These Actual Miles?" and "Intimacy." Ray's poems are by and large heartbreaking. (Favorites from the collected works -- "Limits," "Wenas Ridge," "Luck," "Nyquil" and on and on)

P.S. As for his editor, Gordon Lish, Lish certainly had a large part in forming his style, but toward the end of Carver's life, he resisted Lish's edits and they had the classic father/son falling out about the work. I like the later Carver just as much as the early writing which is not everyone's feeling, I know. Lish has edited many writers since Carver, most notably Amy Hempel.


robin said...

Love the Carver post, M, and the little debate! Mike & I are on the 4th season of Six Feet Under...and lovin' every minute of it!

Bonnie said...


Love today's post! Of course :->

JR's Thumbprints said...

Your post reminded me that my father-in-law is still in a plastic lined cardboard box at my mother-in-law's house. He died on New Year's Eve a few years back. The next day we had to make the funeral arrangements and phone calls. "Happy New Year!" is pretty much how everyone answered their phone. Anyway, we need to take him to the newest military cemetary in Michigan. Unlike you, I'm not fond of cemetaries. --Jim

cindy said...


What a brilliant entry, as always! I adore the photo -- your smirk, the way you hold your hands, so sweet. . . Let's see if the tawdry old man weighs in today. . . The tales we could tell. . .


Cheri said...

Ahhthis new drink sounds tasty! =D

I'm envious on the Carver visit! One day, one day..

robin said...

That sounds creepy, like something from an episode of Six Feet Under!


Sheila said...

Lovely post today michelle, although something intrigued me. Your father had to be identified by his teeth? what happened to him? You don't need to tell if you don't want... I was just curious. your picture is very cute too! take care


Michelle's Spell said...


In answer to your question, my dad died in a plane crash. The plane hit a power line so there wasn't a body. It's been two years this summer. I'm just starting to write about it. Thanks for your sweet remarks about the picture!

Wichita-Lineman said...

Love the post. I was in the habit of looking up graves on the internet a while back and I have to say Carver's looked very peaceful next to the ocean. I like the Plaque (his poem "Gravy" if I remember right) and some little wind chimes.

One thing I was surprised about was his voice. After seeing all the pics of him, I sort of assumed a deep Johnny Cash style voice, but the audio interview on the film "Shortcuts," was much different. Very soft, almost like a loud whisper.

Paul said...

My sweet Q.,a really good one again! Great picture, for sure. That drink looks damned good, too! Never too early for a good one! Carver, what's that story about the souvenir ear from Nam? Gave me the willies, but it was real good.

R2 C2!

John said...

Dear Michelle,

Another lovely post. Bravo! Your insights are stunning.

Anonymous said...

great as always

Anonymous said...

Last comment is mine and I just realized the stalker uses anonymous too. That is not me.
I just don't have a blog on google

I'll be the purple pumpernickle

Anonymous said...

Recipe from a sweet young thang resting in Amherst, MA: To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee, One clover and a bee. And revery. The revery alone will do, if bees are few.

robin said...

M, Just watched the episode last night including your "Six Feet Under" quote; interesting that they both occurred on the same day...powerful episode, powerful quote. And the little debate from yesterday revealed some of my bruises that still need to heal--the ones you think are gone because you don't see them anymore, but are still painful to the touch. The post and comments are much appreciated! Thanks to everyone who contributed! -R

Anonymous said...

You/ve got a very serious Anne Sexton look goin on.

Michelle's Spell said...

Hey Robin,

Thanks for the comments! Love that Six Feet Under episode and it's so strange that they turned up on the same day -- kismet, no question! It's a brilliant show, and I was so so sad to see it end. My favorite main character is David --I relate to him more than anyone else and my favorite character in general is Billy because I think the actor is so brilliant and the writing for him so pitch-perfect.