Through Her Eyes 2

 

Late in the afternoon a door opens and a small woman steps out.  She tucks a lock of auburn hair behind an ear, pauses to inhale the salt air that blows off the ocean. Waning sunlight announces the end of day. Her blue eyes rove the landscape in search of beauty. Today she’ll walk a familiar route home, a route she knows by heart. There is time and light.

The fence comes into view. A solid structure of  connected mid century modern blocks. She stops and recalls a moment from her past. A craftsman sets the blocks into place, trowels a row and begins again. This memory elicits a smile. The open squares fenced a perfect hideaway, a spot to peek and play between the tangled ivy. For a moment she pictures two children; their laughter rings through air. Her fingers graze over the blocks, trace the roughness.

The woman covets beauty. Not perfection. Rather, she prefers the imperfect, the missing and broken. She finds beauty in the everyday objects left among fauna and man. Slowly, she lifts the camera from her bag and aims it at her subject. One last shot. A story  in the making.

 

It’s time for some good byes. Winter’s sighed one last cool breath and left a namesake, Winter rose, a gift for tender Spring. As the visual softens and blurs, she notes the rows of Helleborus beneath her feet. These evergreen perennials are neatly placed within shaded borders. Petals open bluish purple to blotched, maroon pinks. Pale green, bell-shaped flowers reach from underneath variegated leaves.The shutter clicks. She imagines the ire  of roused, rosy-cheeked woodland sprites, iridescent wings whir beneath sunbeams.

Suddenly, the woman senses a presence behind her. The spirits of her ancestors stand united. Souls whose calloused hands dug soil and transported the woodland plants by wheelbarrow to this very bed. Their whispered voices sound as peaceful notes; their words carried back and forth on the back of a cool breeze. She imagines them kneeling as they arrange the plants before her. The woman sighs, it was so long ago and she is weary.

It is time for Spring, she thinks, a time of new beginnings.

Along the walk back home, her beautiful mind deconstructs the objects. Drawn in by their elements of shape, form and colour, she pauses to scroll the photographs before her. The lens of a camera is the conduit through which she takes simple to majestic. A finger points to push the button, a frame clicks and a moment is captured in time. She imagines these images altered by subtle shifts of light and placement.

It’s a shame, she thinks. Blindly, we rush past the everyday. One day we realize. That which we forget, is forever lost.

 

Pause and Reflect

This Christmas what I wish for doesn’t come packaged inside a box or glammed up in a gift bag. Long ago, I boxed the photographs and tucked away the memories of Christmases past.

 

 

Tree is Up
Tree is Up

 

Perhaps it’s the wisdom of age. Or just plain old weariness. I long for simplicity and gifts that can’t be placed underneath the tree. There is nothing I need; the possessions I own just fanciful and temporary, faded and broken.

I long for Peace. Peace on Earth. I want to live in a world that is kinder, a more compassionate place. A world where wars become stories in history texts.

I long for love and belonging. No child forgotten.

I long for family to circle round. The world is way too big now.

And finally, as I think about the upcoming holiday season, I whisper a “thank you” to my friends. You hold space in my heart.

x

A Gentleman

“Grandfather, Great Spirit,

Once more behold me on earth and lean to hear my feeble voice.”

~Black Elk

It wasn’t a fancy car but it was reliable. My Grandfather drove an aging Valiant Wayfarer utility wagon. This was in keeping with his humble style. A simple man, my grandfather had his own brand of street style. An aura of authenticity hovered over him. I imagine that it pleased him to note that the Valiant was manufactured in Australia.

A plaid wool blanket was folded across the Valiant’s back seat. This gentle touch offered soft comfort for a snuffling Boxer named Mitzi. In the winter months it provided warmth from the chill. Along the road of life, Mitzi and Grandfather traveled as true companions.

I recall Grandfather tidy in a crisp white shirt, sleeves rolled to the forearm. Look again and you’d glimpse a tattoo; the lower half of a mermaid’s fin. Overtop of his shirt, he wore leather- tabbed suspenders. They attached to buttons hidden under the waistband of his pressed woolen pants. His low boots appeared oiled. The leather had the sheen of rubbed chestnuts. A copper bracelet encircled his right wrist. He believed that the power of this element bewitched and tamed the demon called arthritis.

Understand, my grandfather needed the full use of his hands. They were his tools. An oiler by trade, he knew the most intimate parts of a boiler’s engine. His intuition understood every hiss, puff, and pause of machinery. His strong hands worked the land. Muscled arms heaved soil, necessary to build shelter for family. Born on the land, he was a descendent of carters and farmers.

My grandfather was a gentleman in more ways than one. A trademark felt fedora graced his head. This was the only fashionable touch of formal style he held to. It recalled a time of common etiquette and classy formality. He practiced simple courtesies such as opening doors for women. When a lady entered the room, he stood and removed his hat.

When I learned to drive a car, we would meet in the country. Grandfather had a precious sister that he visited each week. It was their ritual yet they made room for me.

Together we’d cruise in the Valiant. His favourite spot was a nearby provincial park. Gravel crunched under tires as the car wound along the rough roads. Finally, Grandfather would park the Valiant in a clearing. “Time for some fresh air,” he’d say. As we walked into the forest, my grandfather would pause to point out the trees.

“That’s a cypress. Notice the small, woody cones,” or whisper, “Look up. Find the tallest tree. Over there.” He’d stand stone still while my eyes followed skyward from the point of his finger. “There’s an eagle’s nest in that fir tree.”

When our time together ended, grandfather walked to my parent’s car and opened the driver’s door. He waited as I settled behind the wheel.

“Drive carefully,” he’d caution. “I’ll go on ahead. Follow me along the highway. I’ll lead you back to the turn off and then be on my way home.”

The dark two- lane highway was dangerous to drive. Evergreens rustled and swayed. Sometimes, I’d lag behind in speed and when that happened, he’d pull over to the shoulder of the road and wait for my car to catch up.

Up ahead, I’d see my grandfather’s car stopped and waiting. The car’s lights shone upon the Valiant. A man wearing a fedora stood tall. As I passed by, my grandfather doffed his fedora. It was our signal. We could both carry on into the night and find our way home.

A staunch fighter for worker’s rights and health care for all, he believed in bettering community. As a younger man, he rode the train from Alberta to the West Coast. At the city’s terminal station, he stood strong with the other unemployed and desperate men. Beat up and ordered to leave town, the men stood stronger together. Those were the meanest years of the Great Depression. He took whatever work he could find.

A loyalty to Queen and a new country shaped his nationalist spirit. One World War had been enough for his scarred body and gentle mind. In search of family and the opportunity to own land, he emigrated from England to Canada. The familiar grassy hillsides and vast farmlands would become a memory. His tender heart coveted memories of childhood and family left.

It was the tilt of his head that I recall. The way in which it tipped ever so slightly left. It was as if he had purposely paused a beat in time or stalled the moment. I sensed he felt the need to fully appreciate whatever was before him. Perhaps he knew too well how quickly moments vanish. A shy smile and twinkling eyes lent him humble, boyish charm.

This unassuming man possessed a gentle spirit and a watchful eye. At certain times in our life, he suddenly appeared. I believe he sensed the need to connect and guide. In those moments we exchanged few words. It wasn’t necessary. He was loyal and protective.

To me, he was known as grandfather. In his presence I felt the buzz from the purest magic, sent forth by an unseen hand. The magic came from a place beyond reason and beyond us. It felt real and true. In youth, I did not appreciate the gifts he gave me. They weren’t material in form, yet they were significant. These invisible gifts shaped me into the woman I have become. When I forget who I am, I close my eyes and remember.

Occasionally I drive along the stretch of highway that we used to travel. Whenever I do, I think of him. The winding road is now straight. Two lanes of highway became four. The ancient trees that rustled in the darkness are gone, long ago clear-cut. Behold an expansive housing development that continues for miles. Now, endless light shines from a stretch of apartment windows, illuminates the darkness.

Up ahead I see him. He is patiently waiting. Passing by, he tips his hat.

We wonder if the smallest actions matter. They do.

 

 

 

 

 

Alice Reflects

This is a “flashback” written in “Alice’s” POV. She is in the kitchen, recalls her son. Hope you enjoy reading this passage.

Alice stood in the kitchen and gazed through the window. It was oddly quiet for five o’clock, suppertime. The children from the neighbouring yard were silent. Thank God, she mused. Most afternoons, the neighbour’s offspring tussled and tumbled about the fence line. Their play stretched on for hours. Out of control crossed her mind. This thought from a woman who believed children should be seen and not heard. Alice lit the stove’s burner, felt the heat leap forth to warm her cold hand. She dropped the matchstick. All day she’d felt chilled, out of sorts.

She thought about when she’d gazed into the mirror earlier that morning, when she’d seen the face of an unrecognizable woman reflected back. Lines formed around the corners of her once bright eyes. Were the lines deeper? Silver threads edged along her hairline. Who was this time-worn woman who reflected back?

Focus on the task at hand, she reminded herself as she reached beneath the oven door and pulled out the warming drawer. Fingers searched through metal baking sheets until they felt the familiar handle of the blackened frying pan. This action caused her to smile. She recalled a memory from two years ago. Had it been two years? It was the day Roy unexpectedly returned home, catching the two sisters by surprise. The now faded mental image of her sister, Molly, as she held the heavy cast iron pan like a shield for protection, was comical.

Always, Roy haunted her thoughts. That was the reason Alice so often felt out of sorts and irritable. When he snuck into her head, she got busy. Placing the frying pan onto the stove element, she carefully poured out the correct amount of oil, just enough to brown the waiting onions. Soon the heady scent of caramelized onions filled the tiny room. Alice trimmed a small cut of beef and added it to the pan. As she stirred the mixture, the meat sizzled and browned. Cooking comforted her, gave purpose and routine to each day. It was just the two of them now. Did she mean anything, anymore to her husband?

She recalled Roy’s last visit home, checked the tallies on the new calendar that hung beside the telephone. When last year’s addition ran out, she added the number 365 to the present copy. It was exactly two years and fifteen days ago. The calendar protected the evidence, an ink mark scrawled through each day that passed, signs of her son’s absence. Proof that he was remembered.

Alice didn’t know how to fix her broken family, didn’t realize that it was simple. Shame and pride beat her down. Was she a good enough mother? Pride demanded she hold her head high and whispered back, you were.

Unconvinced, Alice thought about the last time she sat with Roy, remembered the bottled up anger that simmered in silence as they sipped tea. When Roy had left, he slammed the back door. She had noticed, even winced as the door hit the frame. After such a loud exit, Molly startled, hurried to the front door to wave goodbye to her nephew. As he roared off on his flashy motorcycle, Molly had quietly shut the door and marched back into the kitchen. She saw her sister, the cup poised mid-air.

“Alice.”

Stone faced, Alice set her cup onto the saucer and turned toward her older sister.

“Did you have to be so aloof?”

Alice tightened. Molly noticed her sister’s purposeful silence. At last, Alice commented,

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“Of course you do, Alice. You didn’t say a meaningful word to the lad.”

Molly moved closer to the table, positioned herself directly in front of her younger sister.

“Roy comes home, after two years gone and all you can do is sit silent, sipping tea?”

Alice set her jaw, looked away.

“It was Roy’s choice to leave in the first place, “Alice said.

Enraged, Molly grabbed her sister’s wrist, a bit too hard. It hurt. Her words bit Alice.

“For the love of Mike, Alice. Everyone makes mistakes. Including you.”

Alice felt her cheeks warm at Molly’s comment, a reminder of a past she would rather forget. A secret they shared. She shook free of Molly’s grip.

Molly continued, “No one sent you away.”

Alice bristled, “I didn’t send Roy away.”

Molly’s words flew back, “You never gave him a reason to stay.”

A Tribute to a Lady

My Mother A beautiful lady. I've always felt my Mom resembles the actress and playwright, Isabella Rossellini.
My Mother
A beautiful lady. I’ve always felt my Mom resembles the actress and playwright, Isabella Rossellini.

 

It used to drive me crazy as a teen.

“Tell me what you think, Mom. What should I do?”

Mom would set aside her paint brush, focus her dark eyes upon mine and shrug.

Her comment was always,

“It doesn’t matter what I think; it’s what you think that counts. Think for yourself.”
Brush strokes filled a canvas.

Think for yourself. Three words that held power. Wielding clout to the choices I made.

It was my responsibility to stand at the crossroad and choose the right path. Successes and failures were mine alone to shoulder.

Mother insisted I decide my fate. There were moments in life when I begged her~ tell me, guide me, shield me, and help me. Anything, as I stood alone at the intersection called Life, and clutched an empty suitcase.

“Buck up,” she’d say, “Life’s not a party and it sure as hell isn’t fair.”

Her words, sage lyrics spoken from the heart of a beautiful, brave woman. A lady who learned late the skill set necessary to navigate through the unpredictable forests of life. She understood I was ill prepared, too fearful to fly. So she pushed me.

When lost, my mother’s words take the helm and whisper, Think for yourself. I promise you, the answer is within. Automatically my compass resets.

The Universe sets us down, gives us what we need to deal, in a lifetime. A talisman of courage when we cower, a nudge to stand tall when another breaks us down, the sparkle of beauty amidst ruins and light to shine through darkness.

This Mother’s Day I honour you, Mom. I learned to fly.

The Messenger

This is a draft version of the narrator’s “voice;”I will continue to polish the piece. The narrator’s name is, Justus and he is about to leave on a mission. It is from a fictional piece I am writing. This chapter is in the narrator’s POV.

 

“Justus, Get up! Hurry.”

 

Urgent words enter my dream. Their pitch notes rising as I attempt to ignore. The voice calling in my ear speaks louder. “Justus wake up.” I push the covers away from my somnolent body and rise.

“It’s your turn. Go.”

Hurrying to the meeting zone, I stumble, the residue of sleep lingering in its peaceful hold, as I step forth. Pushing back a lock of dark hair and coughing to clear my throat, I straighten. It is time.

I belong to a group of watchmen, messengers from the past; we work for the present and future. Our mandate: listen to another’s story, understand and give voice to it; we are conduits between the souls and their living. The universe is made of tiny stories.
Some people call us angels, which we are not. We are messengers, invisible souls; we walk alongside those lost to grief and sorrow. We know your stories well; we are kin.

Imagine a crowd of people, all strangers. Yet, you pause, turn around and take a second glance back. There is familiarity in a gait, knock, or smile. Something about the way that individual speaks captures your momentary attention. You swear you’ve seen that someone before. The sighting haunts and returns. You believe in happenstance yet you are wrong. Events occur for a reason.

You are never alone. That deer you saw, at the precise moment your mind recalls a loved one’s fondness for all rural fauna is not coincidence. The clock that chimes on the anniversary of a loved one’s death, the one you thought broken, is planned. Consider carefully. The face you see, as it flashes by, in a newborn’s glance. Remember these souls from your past.

 

Every family is an infinite circle of souls. It helps to envision this symbol of continuous unity. The circle enlarges when new members are born or brought in. When death knocks, the circle shrinks. As long as the members hold to one another, reaching forth, the thread that connects remains strong. It is only when one lets go, steps away; when no one reaches back, that the thread that binds, breaks. That is when we enter your world.

It has been awhile since my last assignment, * years to be exact. I recall the details of that mission: to stand beside a family member. Can hope triumph? Love heals; there is nothing it cannot conquer.

 

Retrospection

My lately~ has been retrospective; maybe you can relate. This morning I attacked the basement, cleaning and placing loose photos and memories into their corresponding scrapbooks with hope that one day these bits of memory will be meaningful for family. I came across a memoir of sorts, once tossed into a box, given to me by a much missed “aunt.” In it: a family’s story,the lives and loves of a family line.
It was handed to me as the keeper of sorts, in the hope that one day I would share these stories with my own children. I was too young to appreciate the message then. Instead of cleaning I opened the binder and read. What struck me was the constant thread of hope; that even in difficult circumstances, family hung on- together. This family’s story rode through tough times, loss brought them closer and their lives grew richer. They reached out, included one another, always for their children, and valued time with each other. Their circle grew stronger.
More than anything I have sought to hold family close. My wish is that one day, family will be cleaning up their basements and pick up a binder or memory box. I hope they read the stories of family or touch the items, hold to hope and love. May the message come to them at just the right moment; give them reason to pause and remember, there is

nothing that love can’t conquer.