The Dwelling Place
creative nonfiction by Susan Tekulve
Earlier that morning, my husband Rick and I waited out the morning rains in a dark wing of Dublin Castle, filing past exhibits of rare print books dating back to 2700 BC. The rooms of the Chester Beatty Library were dark and smelled of linseed oil. For some reason we whispered, as if in church. In a way it was like being in a place of worship as we lingered over glass reliquaries filled with words transcribed by priests and diviners who predicted times of prayer, months of the lunar calendar, the direction of Mecca. Rick, an ex-football player and poet, rushed toward The Tale of Oeyamn, a wall-length scroll that told the Japanese tale of six Samurai rescuing a maiden kidnapped by a demon. I lingered over a case of Chinese jade tablets, books made of gray jade brushed with pearl white calligraphy, the script so skillfully rendered it was said the calligraphers had grasped the living spirit of flowers and the sun.
I told Rick I was going to hunt for the city’s statues. Depleted, heavy with the weight of so many words, what I really wanted was a stroll through the day’s last light, the sociability of Dublin streets.
The statue of the three Nordic fates was given to the Irish by the German government for housing 1,000 German War orphans during WWII. In the winter light, they look vestal, warm, and generous. Late afternoon sun burnishes their faces. The leaves of the great ash shadow their bent backs, the air around them richly scented with green smells—lavender wafting from the sensory garden, water from the lake at the park’s center. The lake is centripetal, drawing all the park dwellers to it. Mothers stroll babies around it. Schoolchildren, bright as wood ducks in Catholic school uniforms, race to it, scattering pomegranate seeds along its banks. Pub-crawlers, on a break from afternoon beer, meander toward it, humming half-remembered Christmas hymns. I follow the pub-crawlers down the rain-glistening lane to the lake, marveling at how the yews hold their leaves in winter, how lavender and bright orchids grow from bald stones in the sensory garden, how the Japanese pagoda trees leading to the lake look like tree houses for ghosts.
Susan Tekulve’s newest book is Second Shift: Essays (Del Sol Press, 2018). She is author of In the Garden of Stone (Hub City Press, 2013), winner of the South Carolina Novel Prize and a Gold IPPY Award. Her nonfiction, short stories and poems have appeared in journals such as The Georgia Review, The Louisville Review, and Shenandoah. Her web chapbook, Wash Day, appears in the Web Del Sol International Chapbook Series, and her story collection, My Mother’s War Stories, received the 2004 Winnow Press fiction prize. Susan has received scholarships from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and she teaches in the BFA and MFA in Creative Writing Programs at Converse University in South Carolina.