“She’s cross-eyed.”

“Aren’t we all!”

‘Jacqueline’

Pandemic Painting #7

‘Jacqueline’

The Greenhouse

faded peonies

It began in childhood. For him, sometime between childhood and youth. Ours was a floral affair, a simple affinity for flowers. His choice? Chrysanthemums, the flower of loyalty and devoted love. Mine? There are two: Peonies and Roses.

“It’s important to dust the stems,” he’d say.

Few words are spoken. He is a man with a keen affection for precision and natural things, and a quiet respect for beauty. Finding a wooden stool, he motions for me to sit.

The workbench is orderly. A stack of clay pots are waiting to be filled with soil. He has labelled each basket and bin. A chipped, discarded table holds a sack. Tall plastic buckets stand empty on the gravel floor.

“Flowers prefer clean buckets.”

I nod.

He’s joined a ‘Chrysanthemum Club.’ The blooms we study are for exhibition.

“Only the best will do.”

He lifts a paintbrush from a can and loosens the lid from a rusty Tobacco tin. Inside is chalk- like powder. Soft bristles form squiggles and paths, reminiscent of sand patterns, formed beneath a playful sea. I recall the beach and wonder, Will we return?

Once the brush is loaded, he lifts it from the powder, squats to inspect the underside of a bloom. Carefully, he dusts each part of the flower’s base and stem, checks for symmetry and shape.

A time will come when I ponder his choice, a man on a quest to cultivate such a regal, consuming flower. I crave some form of understanding. How does a man raised among pansies covet such desire for more? It’s much easier to settle.

Few words are spoken between us. Handing over tweezers, he instructs me to rove the bloom for earwigs. Music plays on a portable radio. When Ella sings, silence is broken. A word, a riff, off-key.

We only speak of agreement. Given instruction is simple. Find the rogues tucked within petal beds, their bodies slipped and sleepy. Drop them, writhing and twisting, into a second rusted can filled with ash from his cigar.

Seasons pass. In between breaths, he waits. On the other side of a garden gate, he shifts. Hints of cinnamon and sage. A breeze teases whispers of tobacco and whiskey. Sturdy trees summon my respect.

I can’t recall the sound of his voice, sensing it in the chants of children, loves me, loves me not, loves me. Notes linger in every good bye.

Yet, a bird knows the sun returns. When it rains, I wait by the window never certain of much of anything, anymore. Except for one truth: Our roots are strong.

I’ve been a giver and receiver. With few words and little to offer, Sweet Peas from a garden, sufficed. I’ve placed roses on a coffin. As the receiver, I’ve cradled arrangements left on doorsteps or anonymous bouquets left on the windshield of a car, petals pressed between the pages of a book.

The language of flowers is a nuanced affair of beauty and secrets. It is poetry and road trips, sincerity and hope. It is the silent message, I’m thinking of you. It is two hearts, side by side.

To this day, vases fill with whatever grows in season. Spent petals garnish a side board, too beautiful to toss. Ella sings and out of the blue, everything momentarily collapses and I miss him all over again. A simple, complicated man who showed me life is filled with precious, poetic moments.

A car door slams. Silence is broken. A bird sings. Hope returns with each season of fresh starts and fresh cut peonies, their cloud like heads bowed from the weight of water. Blooms spill over a neighbouring fence. A familiar memory drops in, nudging and tugging at my heart.

I turn, catch the scent of dusty musk filled air. I won’t grow Chrysanthemums, though. Those moments are sacred. They belonged to us.

Hold to beauty.

~ Draft 2

On the cusp of winter, the wind blows, wiping the sky clean. Stars blink. The scent of cherry blossom permeates above the rot suggesting hope is to be found in change from one season to the next. A bird sings in the dark. The sleepy frog awakens. The universe is certain.

~a sentence or two, a scene

A lone star, positioned high against a dark velvet sky, blinks bright. It’s the type of sky usually witnessed in the desert, a sudden inky spill of night. The blackest of black. In silent joy you witness your surroundings, the tall, dusty grasses clumped together like vague distorted things, the croaking of toads in the distance, the dream like ease of being. Silver slivers tease. Involuntarily you reach toward the heavens, convinced that should you choose, the lone star is yours to take.

Photo by Matheus Bertelli on Pexels.com

It’s beautiful, the silence of snowfall.

Soft, slow

Tiny dancers

An orchestrated ballet for our eyes only

And we are naive

Standing in an alley

Still, spell bound

Certain the world is filled with magic.

~ silence and shimmer

Light a candle to remember, to celebrate, to wish upon. Soy candles are simple to make, lovely to behold, and necessary- especially in Pandemic Times. A lit flame is a symbol for light in darkness. It is energy with the power to change and illuminate.

The world holds ancient wisdom. Sit in silence. Breathe in. Exhale. Better days are coming.

Ingredients are available at most local craft or specialty shops for pick up or delivery. Soy is made of natural elements. Essential oils add allure. ‘Rose Turmeric’ is a subtle scent, notes of crushed petal grounded in an exotic mix of pollen and golden hits of sunshine.

This grouping was formed in repurposed and recycled glass and tin. The vintage glass is a favourite. It allows for sparkle and shine. Clear glass suits any decor. Group an assortment on a tray or table. Place one, in a simple paper bag, to leave on the doorstep of a friend.

Kitchen chemistry, music to soothe the soul, big love. Some things endure.

DIY Soy Candle Tips on topics from wicks to fixes are abundant on Pinterest or a local supplier.

• A Favourite Read: Style & Simplicity, An A to Z Guide to Living a More Beautiful Life- Ted Kennedy Watson

• Always use caution around a flame.

~aliceandmolly approved

x

Beautiful Words:

“Each spice has a special day to it. For turmeric it is Sunday, when light drips fat and butter-colored into the bins to be soaked up glowing, when you pray to the nine planets for love and luck.”

― Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, The Mistress of Spices,

Goodreads

My mother bites her lip, fishes the depth of her purse, rummages through lipsticks, combs, and compacts, to offer something, anything to sweeten the journey and soften the grief.

“People disappoint,” she says. “Best get used to it.”

Words drop. She is tired of the narrative. Her eyes fixate on the contents of a purse, scattering her lap, rolling out of reach.

“Ah- here it is.”

I watch as she lifts a tissue bundle, holds it mid air.

She regards peppermints as medicinal. A sugar salve to cover grief and sweeten the moment.

“Take one,” she says. “It helps.”

She tucks the peppermint bundle beneath a stashed scarf, clicks the clasp of her purse.

“Grief aches like a broken bone,” she says. “The good news- you learn to carry on.”

I watch as she squares her shoulders and stares down the end of the road.

“For awhile, it’s horrible. You speak it. Words pour out, ugly, pathetic. You stop speaking. People say, ‘Find peace.’ You wonder, How? There’s a hole in your heart and it won’t heal.”

She shrugs. “So- you throw yourself into charity, community, family. You summon new interests. Delight in passionate pursuits. You dare believe you can write your story.”

She turns to admire a grove of trees on a distant hillside. Their limbs seem as if adorned in scarlet ribbons, lit by ochre light.

“How beautiful,” she comments. “I used to rake the leaves of the chestnut trees lining the boulevard. Oh those leaves. Such a rich shade of green. You do recall?”

I nod. How to forget? Year after year, the trees grew taller, more abundant. Today, they form a canopy overhead. I do not tell my mother. In autumn, I return to the block. I choose one chestnut.

My mother speaks. “You’d toddle along, amusing yourself, collecting chestnuts. Only a certain few stayed in the wagon. As the pile of leaves grew higher, you grew bolder. Arms high, face first.”

She places her hand on mine.

“You learn to go on. Softly, softly. Forward.”

***

My Grandmother ends each visit with an offering of peppermints placed in tissue.

“Just a moment,” she says.

Bags rustle on a pantry shelf. Fingers fumble. She centres five peppermints, twists the tissue and presses the bundle to the palm of my hand.

“Tuck this away. Later, when you take tea, slip one. Don’t share.”

I meet her gaze.

Her eyes are oceans.

We come to understand. Life is loneliness and then it is joy. It’s sweet, tiny moments and sacred silence. We laugh and then, we’re overcome by sorrow. It’s a question without an answer. Scar tissue thickening on a soul. We seek the road home. It’s a song on the radio, a photograph that slips to the floor and then, everything collapses.

Draft Two

Tiny Struggles

Fiction