For several years, my parents lived in rural Arkansas. Every fall I made the trek from California to visit them. One pungent, very warm September they were super excited that my visit would include a traveling art show outside the small town of Jasper. You see, my parents are closet bohemians. A couple of yellow dog liberals in the middle of Make America Great country.
When I got off the plane in Springfield, Missouri, my dad pulled out a tattered piece of copy paper with a rough map on it, little dots and a legend identifying all the outposts on the tour. Sort of like a pub crawl, only for arts and crafts out in the middle of nowhere.
On Saturday, we loaded up my dad’s ancient Jeep Cherokee and took off for the hills. We roamed though territory most people will never experience unless maybe they’re watching a Deliverance DVD. On one backroad, we passed a guy toting two dead squirrels and a shotgun. Not kidding. Dinner?
My dad did a mind-numbing job of navigating dense backroads that seemed to switch back and cross over each other at every turn. This was long before GPS or Google maps. Some of the art, once we got to it in people’s homes or garages, was actually kind of good.
After lunch, it was agreed that we’d visit the wood maker’s shop and we pulled into the driveway of a sod house with two huge pickup trucks parked outside. Of course. The warm fragrance of wood shavings and varnish greeted us as we entered the dim, cavernous workshop in the back.
Inside were rows upon rows of carved bowls, dowels, bookends – but no identifiable humans anywhere. As I eyed forbidding table saws and scary looking tools, I half wondered if we’d ever be seen alive again.
Then, from somewhere in the back emerged the most beautiful, outlandish woman you would never imagine finding in such a place. Visualize Susan Sarandon in Bull Durham, only with raven hair and a Lolita red slash of lipstick. I don’t remember the husband, only that he was a dark shadowy presence with bushy hair, working a lathe or something.
“Welcome! You’ve come to the best spot on the tour!” Lolita glowed with a megawatt smile. She was absolutely 100% in her feminine element, the goddess of the gloaming. The Gertrude Stein of the outback.
I timidly presented a small candlestick I’d pulled off a shelf. It was made of smooth dark wood, its contours polished to a silky sheen. “How much is this one?” Plus, I figured it would fit in my suitcase.
Lolita put a hand to her buxom hip.
“Ah, yes. Excellent choice. It’s walnut. That one’s always been my favorite.” She got a dreamy look on her face and momentarily we were nothing more than apparitions in her lair. “Because it reminds me of my husband’s cock.”
My mother shuffled through some stuff on a shelf, either unaware of the word or having no idea what it meant.
Lolita turned it over in her hand lovingly. “It’s $11.”
I pulled a crumpled ten and some change out of my purse and watched her wrap it in the local newspaper. If you bought it up in LA or on Abbot Kinney, you’d fork out $75 or more.
Even after several years, it still smells like sweet, deep, rich wood. Every single time I light a candle in it, I remember Lolita’s pride at something her husband had crafted (not to mention its other attributes!).
And I think, isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be? The candlestick sublimely holds and honors an illuminated candle. The sturdy carved wood supports the light.
Just as the masculine is the container for the feminine, the support for her beauty and light. Much like Lolita and her shy husband. She was the light – the force, and he was the support, there in the background. And it worked perfectly.
I can think of no better visual metaphor for the ying and yang of the male/female. I still love my c*ck candlestick – and it works perfectly!