Saturday, April 16, 2011

Daze of Summer

Her mentor is one of the most gentle people on the planet. He catches flies in his hands and sets them free outside his studio, and he flicks mosquitoes away rather than smashing them to death.

She often asked him why he is like this and he always said, "One day I will tell you."

One day she went to see him to show him her latest drawings and he said that he was busy and couldn't see them, but that he had some work he wanted her to do on the computer with some pictures she'd taken for him, that he'd set her up, he working on something next to her. As she went back to his "lair" he said, "Today might be a good day for you to understand what you have been asking so much about." She didn't really care one way or the other to hear the answer and for a moment she didn't remember the question, having assumed that he was a sensitive person who valued all things from birth, and her question was always asked in admiration. When he offered to tell her why he was so much the way he was, she misread him as being mischievous, expecting a funny story involving laughter and funny characters. He wanted her to read what he wanted her to know.

She sat down at his computer and he stood over her and muddled through various files until he found the story, "There," he smiled, "This should keep you busy for a while." He sat down behind her with his back to her while he worked on another project.

The story started off innocent and pleasant and took her to a place that existed a decade before her birth, when he was young. She could feel the hot, muggy air of the summer time, and smelled the grass and the flowers while she pictured him as a scrawny kid, much like her own kids, to a summer mixed with the ratio of 90% boredom and 10% excitement that her own summers had while growing up on the opposite coast much later.

Her mentor had never liked how she dressed as she covered herself in long skirts and hair covers, but she always blushed when he teased her and said that he always saw through her clothes and knew that she was beautiful, and when she asked him why he wrote a certain way, he explained that he wrote in a similar way to how she dressed-- when he wrote, he could reveal everything without describing, and that interested people would let their imaginations step in where he left off. His stories often left her breathless, but if one took the story apart, paragraph by paragraph, one could not say, "This is where he leads the reader on to the fascinating part." His work, both in words and in pictures, existed as a whole, interacting with the viewer's imagination and creating a newer work all together. Unlike how she dressed, his work had many more admirers, and people often came to him for advice on art, whereas few asked her for advice on dressing.

On that day, his story was not what she expected. As she met the people in his life from the time before she was born, she was jarred when he encountered his Abusers. As this was his story to tell, I will not tell you what had happened to him, other than to say that it was very horrible, and it was their threats and his forced silence for many years that got her the most. She wanted to pull him on to her lap and hug him, but as he was much older than her and quite tall, it would have been awkward had she tried. Unlike in his stories where the imagination of the reader filled in what he didn't say, he was graphic in what he described, and her imagination, which had only made his stories happier in times past, retreated, and she sat reading and rereading the horrible facts of the story without her imagination to help her.

She didn't know if he heard her gasp, and he kept typing as she absorbed what she had read. This wasn't about her, it was about him. She wondered why she was worried so much about her own reaction and how he'd perceive her. She had volunteered with Hospice and worked with victims of abuse in the past, but this wasn't something that he was sharing for her to comfort him or say anything wise. He was telling her as a friend about something terrible. After a deep breath, she asked him, "How do you heal from that?"

His voice was soft and he still wasn't looking at her, "You don't."

She tilted her head, and sharp pains circuited from her neck to her left shoulder and down her left arm and into her hands, coming back via her right arm and surrounding her shoulders and ribs and shooting back into her neck. She asked, "May I massage your neck?" He said she could, but asked why she wanted to massage his neck. She wanted to massage his neck because hers hurt, but she told him she just wanted to massage his neck, like it was normal for her to go around offering to massage people's necks. She often didn't make sense to him and this moment, in spite of its severity, still had her in it and she wasn't going to start making sense when she was brought into this part of his life. He let her massage his neck and he knew that she was putting all of her physical force into his muscles, but he hardly felt them because her hands were not strong hands.

She wondered if the abuse from 50 years ago was with him every day and every minute, but she didn't ask him that.

She wasn't ready to return to the cacophony of her own home, and she wasn't interested in editing the pictures that needed her attention. Regarding her work on the computer, he had been talking to her about retraining her eyes to see what is essential to the picture, to see and to represent the truth, while editing the picture's light and taking things out that didn't need to be there. Light had become a tangible entity to her and in the minutes following what she had read, she realized that there was more than just physical light to consider. There is a light in understanding, in knowing truths. Something can be ugly and still exist, but it doesn't have to take up the picture. She wasn't sure what she thought about the truth right then as she had cut out too much from pictures in an attempt to clean them up and therefore created idealized images, and realized that perhaps he was showing her something that was ugly, still managed to be part of someone she admired, and it didn't overshadow him. A few of her own demons were exorcised while she absorbed the lessons he was giving her: as much as the terrible event had hurt her mentor, he hadn't let it cripple him. She took out her omnipresent needlework while he worked on his project and they sat listening to Jackson Browne while drinking expensive tea from Styrofoam cups. She would go back the next week to discuss her work.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Where am I going?

As of late, I have been trying to figure out what direction to take my blog. For anyone sticking with me, I am thankful.

When I started writing this, I was an isolated mother with lots of children and I was identified by the sheer number. I still have lots of children, but two are in their 20's now, and the youngest is about to start kindergarten. I have left my husband's church because I cannot handle the smell of incense and I have a couple of the kids at a different church that they love. (Cloud has become an organizer in the church for events for her group. This church isn't full of triger-happy survivalist types, thank goodness.) People don't normally know me as that mom with 9 kids now that many see me with just a couple of them. My seven left at home are in three different schools and while I volunteer, no one sees me with all of them.

A few weeks ago, a friend got on me for not working and for making my husband support us all. He jeered at me, "Why haven't you finished your degree? What do you tell people when they ask what you do?" Gosh, I tried to finish my degree-- when I started to tell him, he said that all I was offering him were excuses. When I told him that no one but him had an issue with me not working, he didn't seem to believe me. I was depressed for a while over it. (My husband started to talk to me about working. I was like, "That is fine, but you have to start cleaning." I used to work in the evenings and I also took some classes and I'd come home around 10pm and he'd be watching TV and dishes would still be on the table. Floors still need to be vacuumed, windows wiped off, they all have to happen, and if I am working in the evening, I am going to sleep at different hours. After more thinking on his part, he dropped it.) I think that as I am a housewife, I embarrassed my friend. He got into his head that I talked about him-- and when I thought we had a mutual friend, he told me to not talk about him to her and that it would be "a test." I guess housewives do nothing but jabber to other people about him in his world.

I've dealt with things that I have to write about months later because, while the kids don't see my blog, it is about privacy for them.

I am getting more involved with my art. My mentor found me, and he is making me think. Today he said to me, "Do not run from me. I am not your professor, I will not fail you. Just. . . think. Don't think tonight, think in a few days." Of course I am up at 3:30 thinking about what he said.

For years I have painted and drawn, and I had one fan for whom I produced many works given that we wrote snail mail. For my mentor I am starting to go back, not to the works that I did, but to what I am seeing, and creating. What have I seen that has moved me today? What catches my eye? Do it in pastel, now recreate it in water colors. Work fast, I haven't much time, I can usually go back.

I have an art show planned for September of 2012. I am finding themes in my work. Art is a language unto itself. I do envelope art and my art always says, "I love you, I have prayed for you, I thought good thoughts of you for however long it took me to make this." I do not know if the envelope art will make it into the show-- it is hard to create it just because I have a show coming up. "Oh cool! Art on an envelope!" Yes, it is nice, but for whom am I making it? Having an audience is important because I have direction. Now that I have a mentor, he is guiding me and ultimately, I can always create for him since so much of what we discuss manifests itself into my work.

I assisted at a friend's art show a couple of weeks ago. It was private and very elegant. I discovered that unplanned "fiascoes" are really opportunities in disguise. I went along to help set up easels (I think I was asked to help because I have a big vehicle!) on which to put up work, but given time constraints, I didn't have time to change from volunteering at the elementary school to where I had dressed almost like an elf in striped stockings, a mini skirt (not micro-- it was cute!) and bright colors. I arrived and was setting up when the people putting on the art show realized that they'd not booked the caterer to cater-- just to make food! They were having several guests come over and they asked me to stay to help serve. Since I was with my artist pal, I was there for him and was happy to do what I could. Their plans for the kids didn't work out because the kids got tired of watching a movie, so I had a container full of art supplies from the kids' school. I did an art project with the kids that the parents wanted to try, too! What had been planned to be an event from six to eight or nine lasted until eleven o'clock at night with fascinating stories and people bonding.

I get really embarrassed because I spend a lot of time at FaceBook. I don't spend too much time there, but on one of my accounts, I often access it from my phone. The particular group of people has my base of friends from 30 years ago, as well as close new friends. We post encouraging notes to each other-- it is like. . . . getting a dozen Hallmark cards every day! I recently posted something about my eldest daughter and how proud of her I am, and my friends who are also friends with said daughter were really wonderful because they know her, too. They told me that I had so much potential when I was younger, but that no amount of professional accolades and education could trump what they are becoming as people, and that the sacrifices that I have made are worth it. I am so blessed to be seeing it in my lifetime, and I hope that the younger ones will also be as wonderful for their sakes. (I think they already are!)

I am not ready for Starshine to enter school. We had a late snow the other day and she wanted to walk. I parked a few blocks away and she tramped through people's yards as I walked on the sidewalk. I asked my she was walking in the snow and she said it was so other people could follow her. At one point she paused and looked at her foot prints and said to me that her footprints are art. It was awesome. As we walked, I realized that it may be the last I walk with her to school in the snow. Next year, she will be an eager kindergartner. I may volunteer, but it won't be the same. I really want to have more babies. As she grows, I am also getting older. Sure, I am 43 and I am quite young looking, but age is a funny thing and you cannot escape it if you live. I hope to make the most of every year and be a wonderful role model on how to age well.

I suppose that like StarShine, I, too, am leaving footprints.