The Mind

The red door is shut, the handle, polished steel. It begs to be opened.

I turn the handle to enter, brave. The room is cold. Two chairs stand in the middle of an Oriental rug. One is empty. A child, stares back. I have seen her face before. A forgotten photograph found inside a weathered cigar box.

A wild- eyed, willow wisp. Her moon- face stuns the dark. Emerald eyes glitter. A stubborn curl falls over one eye, as if to shield her from the world. Freckles dot the bridge of a tiny nose, claiming the familiar landscape of wide cheek bones.

My hand reaches forth.

It is as if she has waited an eternity to place her palm in mine. 

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Draft Two

Excerpt From A Scene

Free Write

When you are weak, stand with me. I’ll lend you strength.

I’ll hand you a crumpled paper bag.

You’ll open it to find a scrap of heart, still beating.

I’ll reveal the scars that criss cross a back.

They will not diminish us.

I’ll offer you a photograph.

Allow the images to speak.

You’ll sense a glance, familiar. A posture, strong. A smile so endearing, your heart cracks. Turn the photo. A penciled notation is fashioned in perfect script. Evidence of loss and struggle amidst beauty.

I’ll reach for your hand.

You’ll reach back.

It’s impossible to separate our souls, our stories.

Our ancestors do not leave us, rather, they gather to bear witness, to stand alongside.

Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

~Long ago I learned to make friends with silence.

” We must have pie. Stress can’t exist in the presence of pie.”

David Mamet, Boston Marriage

I close the book. Summer rain falls. A breeze slips through the screen on the open door. Autumn is a patient friend. One who waits for leaves to fly. A resident squirrel, cheeks full with acorns, scoots between the tall evergreen and fence. The world’s metronome taps a steady beat.

Some things remain uncertain, even in their certainty. I miss my mother. She waits for the seasons to turn and the pandemic to leave.

“It will leave.”

Her voice sounds less certain, more guarded.

“I don’t know. The world’s a mess,” she says.

These are not the words I wish to hear. I want her to rally, offer up sage advice, to have an answer.

“Hold to hope, Mom. The world is changing, perhaps, for the better.”

The world is slowing down.

Every sunrise, hope returns. Built to heal, I find comfort in words, friends, mornings and increasingly, time spent in the kitchen. There is something sacred about standing in silence, in front of a stove, while flipping through the pages of a cookbook. If I can’t help you, I can nourish you.

I will bake a pie. Pie is a reminder of a simpler, slower time. The act of baking something as lovely as pie, soothes.

Pie is a memory.

‘Julie London’ croons from the speaker. My mother hums ‘Black Coffee,’ off- key. She stands in the kitchen, notices the large mixing bowl, her rolling pin, the one I kept. Flour dusts the floor. Pie is messy. Fruit stains like a bruise. She adjusts her apron.

I watch her turn. She pours herself a cup of Joe from the espresso machine. Tucking a lock of hair behind one ear, she pivots and smiles. “A looker,” with her symmetrical features, fairy- tale widow’s peak, a grid mark leading to a crown of raven hair. Red lips. She favoured red lipstick.

I remember. Standing in the doorway of the tiny bathroom, I’d watch as she opened the tube and etched colour to her lips.

She had said, ” The trick is to blot with Kleenex.”

As children, we’d find ruby lip stained tissues carelessly left upon the bathroom counter, accidentally dropped onto the floor or peeking from her opened purse. Sometimes, I would scoop one up like a specimen, tuck it into a book, all to preserve a tangible piece of her.

Those days, I’d sit at the table and exchange knowing glances with my sister. Our mother’s style is now lost, other era, a nod to a fancier time where dresses ruled the kitchen and sling backs waited at the front door. Her ‘French look’ and clothing cut from Vogue, tailored by Singer, was soon to be another lost art. We thought her beautiful.

I watch as she lifts a teaspoon from the drawer and samples the filling. She closes her eyes, pleased.

Turning around, she has gone.

It’s certain. The world spins, seasons change, people come and go. What’s new is old. Some people enter our lives to teach us. Others, so precious we never forget their presence, and then there is pie.

Once considered old fashioned, pies are having a moment. Boutique bakeries offer pies “to go” because “made from scratch” pies are thieves of time. There are steps to follow: use cold butter, cut it into the flour (use two knives). Slightly beat the eggs. Add sugar by the teaspoon. Squeeze the lemon. There is timing in the mix. Chill the dough. There are tools to assemble. Find a four inch cutter. Shhh. I use a marimekko sugar bowl. Find a pastry brush (a small, clean paint brush does the trick). Prep the fruit.

As children, we picked our fruit from backyard trees. Sometimes apple, other times, pear or plum and once in awhile, at the end of a particularly long school day, we’d arrive home and spy a freshly baked pie on the counter. Cinnamon whispered stories of far away lands.

Our family rarely ate pie. When the spirit moved our mother to make a pie (and it was usually in autumn), she’d save the left over pastry bits, kneading and patting the dough to form a ball. If she was short of filling, she’d substitute jam.

I sense my mother’s return.

Gently, she rolls the dough out onto the counter. Dipping a spoon into the saucepan, she tops each round with filling. A brush stroke dips into a saucer of milk, coats the edges of pastry. Overlapping and pressing, she lifts a fork, touching the tines to the dough. With a sharp knife she fashions a top cut.

“Hand Pies.” The semilunar fit was perfect for our small hands. Silently, we’d nibble along the pressed edge, allowing crumbs to fall into a dish of vanilla ice cream, every bite of steamed fruit, richer, tastier. In this moment, we understood. Mom had loved us enough to create a magical delight at the sweet end of the scale.

I place three Hand Pies into a tin. For her.

A text appears.

You bake pies?

I smile. Say it like it’s a bad thing.

You can’t.

Quote: David Mamet: Boston Marriage

COVID19 Moment

she bakes pies

With her it was all too easy, life slowed to a crawl. She held an ability to shift time. One moment it was summer, the next, autumn. I was seventeen again, holding her hand and watching leaves fly.

Even then, I knew, there is always a winter. How I had waited for her return. I had loved her. Sometimes, she had loved me back.

The rhythm of time ticks on with an undeniable force. Once more, autumn turns to winter. As thread slips through a needle, I stitched the tapestry of my life. There were others, some more beautiful. Through it all, she remained a distant memory: my rose, her spent petals softly falling to the floor.

~excerpt from a scene, draft

Beautiful Souls

‘Sara’

“I paint my own reality. The only thing I know is that I paint because I need to, and I paint whatever passes through my head without any other consideration.” 
― Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo was a woman of staggering beauty. Read her back story. You’ll find her even more so: Mexican Indigenous Woman, a life lived in La Casa Azul, as a child, touched by Polio, a promising medical student, disabled by a bus accident. A woman left holding a shattered dream of becoming a physician, a family facing financial ruin, a daughter whose parents referred to her as, “a dove.”

“I paint because I need to.” To escape her pain, Frida Kahlo returned to a childhood love of art. Critics suggest she was a “surrealist,” others, a “magical realist.” ‘The Frame,’ a 1938, self portrait, made her the first Mexican Indigenous artist to be featured in the Louvre. As a teacher, she directed her students to form art from the street. As a woman, she painted in order to escape residual pain and a diminished sense of self- worth. She needed to find beauty amidst tatter.

https://arthive.com/fridakahlo/works/202520~Self_Portrait_The_Frame

There is much written of the relationship between Frida and Diego Rivera, their marriage, sadly described by her parents, as “a union between an elephant and a dove.” It is told Diego was wealthy and could afford to pay her on- going medical expenses. It was certain, she could not. Viewed as a liability, Frida fought to assert her worth. Themes of pain and loss surface in her art. One is rarely born with such unique vision. It is often not a choice. It is a gift to find beauty in struggle.

Pictured above is my nod to fictitious ‘Sara’: gentle soul, brave woman. Her eyes. One look tells you enough. Eye wide open. Be cautious, Sara. The mind plays tricks. The world tempts dreamers into believing ideas are worthy, that we are all worthy, of more.

The other eye appears flat and holds a look of dark resignation. Who do you think you are, Sara?

I love ‘Sara’ for all that she is: loving mother, courageous woman, and gentle dove. I love that she dreams, quits, and restarts. I love that she doubts. You’re a bomb, Sarah. I whisper, Doves are beautiful. They make me cry. Stroking her feathers, I unlock her cage, allowing the breeze to kiss her. I tell her to fly.

My mother was a painter. She painted her stories to canvas. It was a way to bring beauty to her world. Art is made by ‘real’ artists and who can afford it, anyways? It’s a frivolous way to pass time. This was once the thought. Her wings were clipped.

I’m certainly not a painter. Should I write, aspiring painter ? This isn’t completely true. I’m not aspiring to be and I don’t like the term, ‘aspiring’ anything except a ‘better human’. It’s been years since I’ve considered painting beyond a classroom. I had told myself I could not paint, convincing myself to dismiss any thought of painting. Instead, I stood in the room and studied her. I forgot to dream. I forgot to play.

I do aspire to be a better writer. A writer who doesn’t waste a reader’s time, rather an author who gently gut punches for authenticity. This is why I acquiesce and use the term ‘aspiring’ on several spots. To remind myself to keep putting thoughts down, word by word, to improve my craft. To remain humble. To dream.

I am a teacher and a woman. Some days, I have no idea. Pandemic times have pushed me to evolve, reflect, to sit with stories in progress, to read the words of others. These times, touch me, too. I see images, feel pain, worry. I hold to hope. Should I dare to dream?

We should be a bit ‘Frida’. We should dream and do. Instead, we question worth. We judge the worth of others. We should stop. If you write, you’re a writer. If you paint, be a painter. If you can’t sing, hum. Do it because you need to.

The finest writers and artists, especially those who have suffered mountainous loss, have received a gift. They have an ability to touch us, to leave us speechless and frozen in our tracks. The great ones bring us to our knees. Art should elicit powerful emotion. We cry lyrics, bleed words, slip along the stroke of a brush on canvas. Later, we wonder. We relate. We atone. We are silenced by beauty in any form.

Frida Kahlo is a beautiful woman, not solely based upon her exotic looks. Rather, she was brave. A candle whose wick of pain lit up, producing epic art. A soul of self- forged steel. More than a dependant dove, she reflected back as a woman of worth, separate from cultural norms, soldiering pain. She dared to dream. A brave act during a time in history when a woman’s artistic passion was viewed as a, ‘hobby,’ supported mainly by men of financial worth. An era, whereby, a woman with physical disabilities was viewed as less attractive, even burdensome. Frida Kahlo dared to dream because life handed her a gift she didn’t ask for. She fought the establishment. This is a courageous stand to take at any time in history.

Art in any form, teaches us about the resiliency and beauty of the human spirit. It can sprout from pain with shoots of tender, fierce resolve.

She’s in us.

•https://www.fridakahlo.org

Pandemic Painting #7

folkart

‘Sara’

Be Kind

There is nothing as beautiful as kindness. Little actions, big shifts. A split second smile. An incidental text. A hand reaching out to take another. Sacrifice.

Kindness is treasure in ruin, found between layers of pause and possibility. Everyone carries one story. Be there. Listen. Let it bring you to your knees. Imagine a Dove, how its tiny heart pounds as wings take flight. Hope rises from ash.

Life is crazy and Butterflies emerge. There is mercy in mess. Mumbled prayers are answered. Whisper, “Hallelujah.”

Be the light home.

There is nothing as beautiful as kindness.

“Be Kind, Be Calm, Be Safe”

-Dr. Bonnie Henry

COVID19, Write, Kindness

She was comfort. A sugar cinnamon woman, a taste lingering on his tongue, a reminder of the past. He closed his eyes and saw a kitchen, a woman, and sweet rolls in autumn.

“Child. Never say, good bye.”

My Grandmother believed “good bye” was an uttered death knell, a cursed spell, a forgetting.

She said, “See you soon.”

I’ll never forget our last Sunday. The year was 1969. The Maple trees, with leaves the colours of sunset, fenced the property. Wind blew off the lake. I wore a leather mini skirt- the height of fashion. My younger sister wore the vest. In the morning, we’d board a flight which would vault us to the east coast and a new life. Neither of us wanted to leave what was familiar: Sunday dinners and family, friendships and home. I placed one hand upon the door handle and paused. My heart pitched.

“Good bye, Grandma.”

“Child. Never say ‘good bye.’ Say, ‘See you soon.’ ”

People give and then they take away. We live, learning to bear their fingerprints, on our hearts. The most painful good byes are the ones left unexplained.

My grandmother never spoke of ‘The Old Country’ and the home she’d left. No one dared speak of the past while in her presence. It was forbidden. She was a woman who had endured that which is unbearable. With grace, she had learned to look straight on, to not stumble.

I’ve never been too good about ‘good bye.’ Even, ‘see ya,’ sticks to my tongue. I keep those I love forever and leave in silence. I hold to hope. Somewhere down the line, we’ll meet again, we’ll be together.

You asked how I knew.

I told you. It’s simple. You are 35,000 feet above land, imagining all that could go wrong. Waiting for the drop. Yet, you feel safer than you have ever felt before. Safe enough, to rest on another. Safe enough to close your eyes, if only for awhile.