GloPoWriMo: Day 28

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Up Redwood Road
To my sister, the fairy queen

Look! Remember this boulder? It’s still here–of course it is. Where would it go, without ice flow to heave it off the mountain? It looks the same, only more dappled in sunlight. “Take out your braids! Take off your clothes! Perch on the rock, like a fairy girl!” I wouldn’t model for your Imogen Cunningham moment, though I yearned to be transformed into art. Mom would scold if my hair were a mess. I stood unhappy, in the shade between allegiance and duty. You got married. I escaped to college. Let’s meet again at the rock, all these lifetimes later. Let’s strip naked, cloak ourselves in our long white hair, and perch on the boulder, two fairy crones, dappled princess maidens, always.

Daily Prompt:  “Draft a prose poem in the form/style of a postcard,” from the Na/GloPoWriMo site.

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Puppy Love 2

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The After differs from expectation in every way conceivable–not surprising, considering that the immensity of it can, in no way, be conceived of.

Not a dark void, the After fills with light, with feeling, with memory, with possibility, with imagination, with energy, with all that is and all that can be and all that might be and all that was. It is crowded with consciousness and overflowing with time. There is so much time that time ceases to have any meaning whatsoever as the entirety of the eternal squeezes into a single instant. This is what Forever means.

I fully intended to visit my family every day, but a day is a concept that does not exist where I was. I have no idea how much time passed, for where I was the concept of “passed” did not exist.

I could feel Tanvi’s grief, an anchor that kept me connected to this place.

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Then, the anchor line was cut. I drifted. Freedom felt exquisite.

Nonetheless, I felt a pull. While no time at all had “passed” for me, surely time had progressed at my earthly home when I felt the pull.

Joy welled on the sight of form again.

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But when I saw Majora, head down, ears back, slinking through the front gate, dread descended.

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Bobie lay collapsed on the threshold, the light of him already ascending.

I remembered my promise to be there to help with the transition.

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Our gardener stopped his chores. Majora circled back around, having found her courage, and followed Babe in the solemn procession.

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Someone else, a young man who looked familiar, stood witness as the Reaper rounded the corner of the house.

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My Tanvi stood in shock.

The gardener called Bobie’s name. I tried to tell him to stop, to let him pass, but I could not remember how to form words, or how to speak.

No one saw me. You cannot see light when it is light.

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With all my being, I spoke to Bosko: Don’t fear. It’s not the end. 

But it is an end, and every cell in Bosko’s body knew what it was the end of, with a finality that carries physical fear in those for whom the physical still holds meaning.

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At last, Nibbler slowly strode out to be present for this parting with her mate.

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Dear Tanvi! She stood behind the Reaper in weary anger, grasping a fork in her hand. Go on, dear! Stab him!

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But it was too late, and the dark shepherd raised his scythe.

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The dogs knew where to look, not at the empty form, but at the light. Remember, dear ones, we will be together again!

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“Come, Bobie!” I called. “Good dog! Do you want to stay, or do you want to go?”

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To stay! To stay! The shepherd collected him in his grasp and handed him over to me.

Oh, Bobie! You are by my side again!

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“Sad day, dude?” The maid said when he arrived. And the familiar-looking youth replied. “The worst.”

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For them, it was the worst. For me and for Bobie, it was a day of joyful reunion. My grave was not so lonely now, and beside me, in the After, I would cavort with my spirit friend.

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But before we were released to play, we had the task of comforting those we left behind.

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Dear Babe, her eyes revealed her understanding. If you know you will join us soon, dear, how can you be so sad?  Because it is an ending, though it’s not the end.

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Bosko raised his head in honor of his sire.

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Dear Babe, dearest Bosko, weep no more. We’re still here. We will always be.

But not with warm forms and hearts that beat. Not with hands that stroke. Not with a wet nose and soft fur.

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“Fuck it all!” said Tanvi, and I loved her more than ever.

Soon enough, she will understand, too, but until that day, let her rage. It’s love that stirs this anger, too.

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When the young familiar-looking man followed Bosko, Bartholomew, and Nibbler back to the house, and Tanvi turned to join them, Babe curled up and slept on our graves, as she had the night through after my passing.

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I left her there and found Tanvi curled on a stone bench in the garden. Poor dear. Grief is exhausting.

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She and the youth dug deep into those reserves that we find when there are others to think of: Babe and Bosko needed walking.

I called Bobie to me, and we walked with them.

“Do you feel a breeze?” Tanvi asked.

“It’s just the sunset,” Lucas said. “Evening air off the bay.”

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I couldn’t leave them. That night, I sat in the garden. The young man screamed when he saw me. When it is dark, I discovered, light can be seen.

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“Don’t be afraid,” I said. I found my voice. “I’m Astrid. I used to live her.”

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“I know you, Astrid,” he said. “You’re my mom’s friend. We were in the garden club together when I was a kid. I’m Lucas Munch.”

Lucas! I loved that little boy, so inquisitive! So polite! Now, all grown up.

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“And what are you doing here, Lucas?” I asked.

“I live here now!” he said, and he explained that he wanted to be an artist and needed a place to live, and Tanvi wanted someone to help with the dogs, the garden, and the chores. He pitched his tent beside the house, free board in exchange for helping out.

“And all the art supplies I need!” he said. Those were my oils, canvases, and brushes. I felt grateful they could be put to good use by him.

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I wondered if Tanvi had shared with him the details of our wills: that everything we had would be passed on to the person we chose to care for the dogs and Majora. The property was for them, along with all our assets, held in trust by the caregiver.

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He was a good choice. I approved.

I discovered that night that I could help out in the physical world. I could wash dishes, clean the sink, take out the trash. I could be of use, and this brought me unexpected joy.

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“Thanks for cleaning?” Lucas said. “I, uh, never had a ghost help out around the house before?”

I laughed. He’d kept his endearing childish quality of turning statements into questions.

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After he headed out to the tent, I heard the quilts rustle from the bedroom. I hoped that Tanvi would see me. With all my intention, I remembered the shape of my form.

“It’s you,” she said.

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We clowned around all evening. I had missed laughing with her more than I could have imagined. I hadn’t thought then, but, oddly, laughter doesn’t exist in the After. Humor does, and irony prevails, but laughter, laughter seems to belong to this earthly realm. It felt good to laugh again.

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We discovered new games. I can put my energy into objects: Chairs, tables, my fiddle, even a squeaky toy.

So while I went inside Pinky SqueakChick, Tanvi picked up her rubber duckie. We played nice, and we played naughty, finding new ways that we could still be together.

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When the sun rose, I was still there. I knew I couldn’t stay forever, that I would need, periodically to return to formlessness, but I wanted to contribute during the time I was able to stay.

I found a canvas that Lucas had set up, and I managed to open the box of paints.

I tried to express the fullness of the after: The sparks of light that we are, the shifting patterns, the way of seeing that exists beyond physicality.

Plus, if they don’t get what I’m expressing, they can sell the painting to buy more puppy chow.

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Soon, the light would be brighter than my intention: This transparency would fade.

But I would be back, I knew that then, many, many times. And sometimes, Bobie would come, too. It is an ending. But it’s not the end.

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Forgotten Art: Meadow – Kaitlin 4

A reply to: A letter from Kaitlin

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LOL, Kaitlin! And OMG! Hahaha!

Oh, I’m so relieved that you don’t think it’s your husband that my brother is writing to!

I’m really sorry for causing any worry. I guess I really over-reacted, didn’t I?

After all, there’s bound to be more than one Newt in this wide world, and my brother seems to think that his pen pal is a really nice guy.

My brother is a nerd, just like you say! He’s what he refers to as “nerd-cool.” By that he means that he’s so much of a nerd that he doesn’t care what anyone thinks of him, and that makes him cool!

He actually is pretty cool. He’s made the list of  “Windenburg’s Most Eligible Bachelors” for the past five years. It’s funny. I think he’s cute because he’s my brother.

He has this crazy style: like he wears this dapper suit with Oxford shoes, but then no socks.

And he’s always carrying in his pocket this little llama toy he’s got, and he pulls it out and talks to it when he thinks nobody is looking. His front is that he’s a collector, and these antique toys are highly collectible. But the truth is, he’s a kid at heart. Always will be.

So I’m sure you’re right: even though he’s a CEO, he’s really not the kind of guy that a truly cool, athletic guy like your husband would associate with.

One good thing that’s come out of my brother being so happy to be true to his own self is that he’s now with a woman who loves and appreciates him for who he is!

My friend, for it’s a good friend of mine who’s hooked up with him, already knows he’s childish, nerdy, and ironically pretentious, and she likes him anyway!

In fact, she and her daughter just moved in with him.

I met up with them at a karaoke bar in San Myshuno the other night, and they both looked so happy.

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While we were talking, I told my friend that I was surprised that she and Norm got together so quickly. They’d only met a month ago.

“Well, I’m not sure we’re together together,” she confessed. “We’re best friends. And I trust your brother. I know he’ll always be good to me.”

It turns out that she and her daughter moved in with him because they could use a more permanent place to stay. They’d been living in a transitional shelter for women and children escaping domestic abuse.

I hadn’t known that! All the time that she’d been friends with me, she’d never shared that bit about her life.

“I’ll tell you about it sometime,” she said, and we made a date for her to drop by in a few days.

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Before she came, I had a visit from someone else.

One of the employees of the refugee services center that helped bring Jena over here stopped by for a regular check-in. You asked when Jena’s birthday is–it’s in four months. She’s two years and eight months, which is one of the milestones when the social worker is scheduled to come.

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I put Jena down for her nap, and then Marissa, the social worker, arrived.

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She wanted to look in on Jena first.

“She’s gotten so big!” she said. “And she looks so healthy. So peaceful.”

She liked the way we’d set up Jena’s room. “Lots of art!” she said. “Lots of books!”

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We had a long talk.

Kaitlin, you’d asked about my concern that Jena might have PTSD and what trauma she might have experienced. I’ll tell you. It’s harsh, so cover your heart.

Jena was born in a refugee camp. I think I mentioned this in my profile. I met one of the men who was in the same camp with her. He knew her mom. Not long after Jena came to live with me, I invited him over. I’d hoped that he would speak Urdu with Jena.

His attitude was strange. He told me that Urdu wasn’t the native language of Jena’s mom, nor of anyone who’d lived at the camp. I guess it was sort of seen as the neutral language, or the language of bureaucracy. He said hardly anyone has it as their birth language and that, culturally, it meant nothing.

That saddened me, but that’s not the sad part.

The tragic part is that Jena was conceived–here’s where to cover your heart–as the result of a gang rape. Her mom died from complications of the birth, but before that, she was shunned by everyone else at the camp because of the shame of the rape.

I get so mad thinking about it–it’s one of those “blame-the-victims” things that just burns me up!

Anyway, I’ve always wondered how much of a burden from that Jena carried.

So when Marissa and I were talking, I found an opening to ask her insights into this.

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Marissa got real quiet and thoughtful for a long time. Then she closed her eyes and smiled.

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“I don’t think she carries any burden,” she told me, “not even a psychic or karmic one.”

I couldn’t believe her!

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“It’s like this,” she said. “From birth, Jena was removed to the nursery. She wasn’t with those who would feel her birth was shameful. She was surrounded with the other infants and toddlers, and she was cared for by loving physicians and care-givers. I even hear that each baby has their own wet-nurse, so they’re able to gain the nutrients and other benefits of nursing.”

“Do you think she bonded with her nurse and the people who cared for her?” I asked.

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“She may have,” replied Marissa. “I’m sure she did. But that’s a good thing. That developed the potential for secure attachments.”

Marissa explained that the first months here with me were probably hard for Jena–and they were! She was so sad and had those awful nightmares.

“But look at her now,” Marissa said. “She’s obviously a thriving, well-adjusted, happy and healthy little girl.”

I was so relieved, so grateful! Immediately, I started asking all these questions about Windenburg Rescue and the work they do, and if they needed volunteers, and if there was any way I could help out.

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Marissa said that I’d already helped in more ways than I could ever know, but if I was serious about volunteering, they could use someone who could commit to twelve hours a week.

I gave it some serious thought.

Then, my friend stopped by, the one who’s living with my brother.

And what happened next has changed my plans.

My friend began to tell me about her past, about all the emotional abuse she experienced with her husband.

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As she talked, her usual smile faded, and her face looked worn down from the bad memories.

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She told me about the other women who came there, too.

“We’ve all been beaten down,” she said. “You don’t just pick up and move with your kid for nothing. It’s when you can’t take it anymore. When it’s worse staying, and when you feel that, no matter what, you can’t let this happen to your kid. Do you know that poem by Warsan Shire, ‘no one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark‘?”

I did know that poem.

“It’s like that,” she said.

And then I realized that women and children like my friend and her daughter are also refugees, for Warsan Shire wrote that poem to describe the refugee experience. It’s a poem about Jena’s mom, but it’s also a poem for every woman who’s ever had to leave an abusive situation and choose danger and the unknown in order to escape the worse danger of the known.

My friend spied one of my unused easels then.

“Enough talk,” she said. “Think I could paint?”

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So I set her up with a canvas and paints, and let her got at it.

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While I watched her work, I saw a change come over her. That weight she was carrying left her shoulders. She began to move freely. She hummed. And she painted the most beautiful, expressive painting I’ve ever seen, full of hurt, pain, doubt, but also full of joy, inspiration, hope. It looked like life.

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“This is what you should do,” she told me.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“You should teach art. To the women and kids of House for Hope.”

So, Kaitlin, I think that’s what I’m going to do!

Two afternoons a week, while my uncle babysits Jena or she goes to daycare, I’ll go to House for Hope and paint with women and children who need the confidence of feeling their own expression of their own beautiful spirits.

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I wanted to let you know that I was so touched by your story of Leroy’s thoughtfulness in setting out a new toothbrush for you the night you had to stay over. That type of gesture: that’s the thing that builds up spirit! I am so happy you have Leroy in your life.

Oh, my. This letter is tome! I only meant to write a little bit, and I’ve nearly shared everyone’s life story with you except my own!

Do take care of yourself, Kaitlin! I hope you have lots of moments of happiness with your family and with yourself. 🙂

Peace, my friend.

–Meadow

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Forgotten Art: Meadow – Watergate 5

A reply to: A letter from Mr. Watergate

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Dear Chancelor,

I’m so happy to get your letter and so sad to hear the news about your mom. I’ll try to stay positive so that my thoughts and feelings can boost yours, which seem to be hopeful.

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It’s a challenge for me. I lost my own mom and aunt to cancer nearly a decade ago. Both passed within a few years of each other. It still hurts.

I looked up Joyce Brown’s story. What an inspiring woman! I think it’s wonderful that you’re going to help your mom meet her.

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I’m also happy that learning about your mom’s condition has inspired you to encourage your father to become a part of Milagros’s life. You see? Right there, that’s something positive coming out of this situation.

I’ll keep thinking good thoughts and sending them your way.

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Your letter has really inspired me, Chance.

I love what you say about bad things happening as a means of “getting people to stand up instead of sitting down.”

I suppose if that happens, then maybe the events aren’t necessarily bad! Or at least, they’re not all bad. They’re events that happen: how we respond can determine, in part, if they’re events that bring about goodness or events that defeat us.

I don’t want to be defeated by the cruel acts that others do or by those random events that cause ripples in life.

Instead, I want to stand up and make a change!

So, that’s what I’m going to do.

Right now, I’m thinking about two different ways I might be able to, maybe, make a difference or at least a contribution.

Yesterday, I received a visit from one of the women who works for the refugee services group that brought Jena over here. She was doing a check-up to see what questions I might have or what assistance we might need.

As we were talking, she began describing the work they do.

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“Why, last year alone,” she told me, “we brought in 346 refugees from Syria.”

That was in addition to Pakistani refugees, like Jena and others from her camp, and from people who came from all over the world.

“Where do they live? How do they get work? How do they get settled?” I asked.

“That’s where we come in,” she said. Their organization gets them places to stay and helps find them jobs. The people who volunteer and work for Windenburg Rescue also help with language-learning, filling out paperwork, navigating the bureaucracies, and learning the culture.

“We can always use more volunteers!” she told me.

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So, that’s one thing I’m thinking.

Then, I’m also thinking about maybe possibly helping out at a transitional shelter for women and children.

You see, my friend, who’s now my brother’s best friend and new room-mate, used to live at House for Hope here in Windenburg.

It’s a place for women and their children who need to escape domestic abuse.

My friend dropped by for a visit the other day, and she was so full of enthusiasm.

“Your brother’s given me a chance!” she said.

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She went on to tell me about some of the other women living at the shelter.

“It’s mostly believing in themselves that they need,” she said. “You have no idea how emotional abuse erodes self-confidence. Year after year. It’s insidious. And I’m not even talking about domestic violence.”

My friend noticed one of my easels in the kitchen.

“I’ve always wanted to paint,” she said.

“Have at it!” I encouraged her.

I showed her where the canvases and acrylics were stored, and she got to work. I watched her paint, offering encouragement and answering her questions when she asked, and it was amazing to see her joy grow as she completed her painting.

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“You’re an amazing art teacher,” she told me. “The women and kids at House for Hope could really use someone like you.”

So, Chance, here I am, thinking of two ways that I can help others, ways that I can stand up and make a difference.

I know I’ve made a difference in Jena’s life–and she’s made a difference in my life. And now I want to take our good fortune and pass it forward. I’m only going to choose one volunteer position to start with because I want to be sure to have enough time and energy for Jena, my own painting, and my work as a folklorist. But I will be choosing one in the coming days.

And then, I’ll be out there, trying to make a difference. But I know already that the real difference will be the changes that happen in me. Doing things we call “good” is funny that way: It always helps us most of all!

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Chance, next time you hug your mom, give her an extra squeeze from me.

Sending you and yours all good thoughts!

Your pen pal and friend,

Meadow

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City Tales: My Lovely Landlord, 4

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By the time the bonsai outgrew its windswept form, CT had stopped indulging in the sweet yearnings of homesickness. She discovered she no longer wished to be anywhere else: she found plenty of inspiration exactly where she was.

Dozens of canvases lined the walls, waiting to be filled. She specialized in the flotsam of urban commercialism, finding perfection in the color and form of shapes that might otherwise be overlooked. Through her years in the city, she learned to discount nothing. Everything formed a worthwhile subject.

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She showed each canvas to Atharv. He appreciated them all.

“One day,” he said, “you will create something that will stop the heart. Not for long! Just an instant.”

“An eternity.”

“And then when the heart starts to beat again, the viewer will feel that life has changed. Nothing will be the same again.”

“I’m not that kind of artist,” she said.

“I wouldn’t be so sure.”

“My paintings don’t mean much. They’re just pleasant to look at. Something to fill an empty corner! Maybe something that brings a smile.”

“It will happen,” Atharv said. “I have great faith in art and in the artist.”

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In spring, she included natural forms in her subject matter. She loved the juxtaposition of brick and leaf, petals and metal, wood and steel.

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Things kept breaking in the apartment. Every month or so the fuse box would spark or the pipes would leak.

“I’d think you’d find a different place, my friend!” Atharv told her. “I have properties all through the city, and many are not in need of repair.”

“But do they come with furry friends?” she asked. “And how could I get through a month without a visit from you?”

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It was a joke, for Atharv was as likely to drop by on any Tuesday as he was to come in response to a repair call.

While CT painted, Atharv cooked a meal. He seldom ate it himself, but he would carefully pack up the leftovers and store them in the fridge.

“Artists must eat!” he said. “And if they are too busy painting to cook for themselves, then someone must cook for them!”

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Winter again, and CT prepared for her first big show in the Art Center.

“So the critic will have to review her own work!” Atharv joked.

“Hardly!” she replied. “Will you come with me to the opening?” she asked. “I’m nervous. It’s silly. But I am. If I were there with someone I felt safe with, then I wouldn’t be so scared.”

“Do you feel safe with me?” Atharv asked.

“Yes,” she replied.

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In the weeks leading up to the opening, Atharv dropped by daily.

“I’m feeling so unsure of my paintings,” CT confessed.

“But why?” asked Atharv. “They are you! They show how you see the world!”

“But they’re not relevant,” CT replied. “They don’t mean anything. They’re just pleasing to look at.”

“That is not such a bad thing,” Atharv said. “If you can show beauty where it might not be seen, that is not a waste.”

“I can hear the reviews already,” CT said. “‘Derivative mish-mash of style and form, CT’s work leaves one wondering about the future of two-dimensional art.’

Atharv chuckled in spite of himself.

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“Do you remember the night we spoke of the tiger?” he asked.

She did, of course.

“You told a story that night, too.”

CT thought back to the story she had told. She had been twelve. It was a few weeks after her cat had had to be put to sleep. That was her first experience with grief and betrayal. The cat’s illness came about because of additives in the pet food that caused liver failure. Her rage and sense of injustice threatened to overwhelm her. She lost trust in the world, trust in her parents, trust in the vet. How could shops sell something that caused harm? How could pet food companies produce it? How could her parents not know this and buy it? Why hadn’t the vet warned them? How could it be so senseless?

She took long walks in the hills around her house, sometimes following them deep into the woods. When her tears stopped, sometimes, her thoughts would stop, too, and she walked for hours in a silence that was deeper within than without.

One day, after hours of silence, the trees around her began to glow. She had no words for what she saw. It was light–but it wasn’t the sunshine. It was the light of life, in each growing thing. The world around her was vibrating in light.

She watched for an instant–an eternity–until the everyday forms returned.

When she got back home, she didn’t know how to express what she had seen to anyone. She kept the story a secret within her. Atharv was the first person she’d told, after he shared his story of the tiger.

A few days before the opening, Atharv stepped into the studio. There on the easel was a painting of the light of life.

When his heart began to beat again, Atharv wrapped her in his arms. “This is the painting that does it for me,” he said. “Now nothing is the same.”

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He laughed while she fixed a pot of tea for them.

“Someday, they will say, ‘This is the apartment where ‘Light’ was painted!’ We will have to erect a plaque!”

“Nonsense,” she said. “That you like it. That’s enough.”

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She had two more paintings to finish for the opening. After they finished their tea, she returned to the easel, and Atharv stepped out onto the balcony.

He left not long after, and CT painted through the night. Shortly before sunrise, she headed to the balcony to catch the changing colors of the sky.

Atharv had trimmed the bonsai, and her own heart stopped when she saw it, for an instant. And when it beat again, nothing was the same.

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Three Rivers 24.1

Twenty-fourth Sim of Thirty Sims at Three Rivers

AN: Another beautiful game-generated Sim in another beautiful house by TheKalinotr0n

24.  She discovers she’s an artist!

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When Rachael Stanley retired from forty years of office work, she felt the whole world awaited.

She had time to practice yoga.

She stood in tree pose, her gaze following the butterflies over the meadow.

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She had time to prepare lunch, rather than grabbing a sandwich from the deli.

The red of tomatoes stole her breath sometimes.

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She joined the Green Party and helped with campaign events.

“The butterflies, yes!” said Alec Dolan, the party candidate. “It is for them, no?”

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She watched Alec talk and lost the sound of his words. Such beauty in the face of humans!

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She played the piano. Green and blue swirled through the Chopin nocturne.

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She even found that, for the first time since she moved here twelve years ago, she had time to meet her neighbors.

Emiliano Zorelo, who ran the café next door and lived in the small home on the other side of the café, often strolled by on his evening walks.

“You come to watch the sunsets, don’t you?” she asked.

“Ah, no. For the exercise,” he said. “I become restless. I must move.”

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“But the beauty,” she said, gesturing towards the pink clouds. “It’s breath-taking!”

Emiliano gazed towards the horizon. “El misterio es el elemento clave en toda obra de arte. You have the eye of the artist, Señora Rachael.”

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That evening, she stood on the upper deck and watched night arrive. During the years of work, she only caught the passing of time at a glance–that’s how quickly it always moved. Now, she watched the changes brought by the turning of the earth.

Light fades slowly, until at once, it is dark, and the quiet outlines of clouds nestle against the black sky.

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When Sasha Mignon, the granddaughter of her friend Esmeralda, dropped by, she had time to visit with the child.

“You have a nice a garden,” said Sasha. “It’s got a little bit of everything, like my auntie’s paint palette.”

“Oh! Your aunt is an artist?” asked Rachael. Esmeralda had never mentioned her daughter was an artist.

twentyfour22

“I guess you could say so,” said Sasha. “But she never paints what she sees, only what she feels.”

“Do you like her paintings?” Rachael asked.

“Kinda. They make me feel things. But I think I’d like them better if they were of horses and stuff. That’s what I mostly draw.”

twentyfour21

Inside, Sasha quickly ate her snack and washed her own bowl. Then she sat with Rachael.

“Can you tell me a story?” she asked. “I’m collecting stories.”

Rachael began a long story about a girl who pretended to be a boy and stowed away on a pirate ship. The story was filled with discoveries, treachery, sword-fights, and cannons.

“I think you must be an artist, too,” said Sasha, as the story was winding down.

“Why’s that?” asked Rachael.

“You spent more time describing the colors of the waves, the shape of the clouds, and the way the waves move than you did telling about what happened! Only artists care about that.”

twentyfour20

The next morning, Rachael noticed her friend the writer Isabel Rosella as she ran along the path.

She felt that tug inside that she calls “the beauty response.” The lines of the leg, the slight bending forward of the torso, the tilt of the neck.

twentyfour04

The human form expresses such beauty.

And then her face! The quiet lift at the corners of her mouth. That wise, thoughtful gaze in the eyes. And all the lines that traced the passages of her life.

If only I could paint that! she thought.

twentyfour03

Alysia chuckled at one of Sebastian’s jokes–it least she and Alysia assumed it was a joke. With Sebastian, one could never be quite sure.

twentyfour30

And then, Isabel joined them, and just for a moment, Rachael felt overcome by the wonder of it all. The bilateral symmetry of the human form: yet it can express itself in so many ways. The grace, the assurance, the awkwardness of the person molds and modifies the outer shape. She could not separate the essence from the exterior.

twentyfour29

Walking home, she passed Emiliano, and she read the culture and history of worlds within his face.

I would like to paint his portrait! She thought.

twentyfour06

Enough with the dreaming! She decided. I am retired. Let’s do it!

She went to an art supply store and bought a few easels, a few very small canvases, and some very cheap acrylic paints. Who knew that art supplies could be so expensive, and, since she was just starting out, she might as well keep the investment to a minimum.

twentyfour31

As she worked, it became very clear very quickly that inexpensive paints yield inferior results. Of course, this was just her first painting in, what, fifty years! She couldn’t expect to immediately scratch that itch that was so deep inside of her. Yet, even with a washed out, naive rendering of a pink flower, she felt such joy!

It wasn’t what she had hoped to paint, but it was something, and it was a first step towards becoming a partner in the dance between essence and form.

twentyfour12

The next day, she told Sebastian, Esmeralda, and Nash about her painting experiments.

“I like music,” said Sebastian.

twentyfour17

“I taught art for a while,” said Nash.

“Oh, I don’t have any pretentions,” said Rachael. “I know I’ll never be any good. I’m starting way too late. But I love it. And it’s a minimal investment. I’m just using student grade supplies.”

“Don’t sell yourself short,” replied Nash. “You never know what you might discover. For playing around, any materials are fine. But if you really have something you want to express, consider getting the best paint, brushes, and canvases you can afford.”

twentyfour16

Another trip to the art supply store, and she returned with a larger canvas and studio quality acrylics.

twentyfour24

She lost herself in the experience of painting. She realized that she still didn’t quite understand mixing colors, but she was intrigued by the contrast between light and dark in this landscape.

Now and then, she would glance up from her canvas to watch the dance of sunlight and shadow. It’s movement, she thought. That’s how essence expresses itself. Movement and stillness.

twentyfour23

She spent long hours looking. Everything shimmers. The shimmer must be life, energy. She wasn’t sure how to paint that, though she understood the seduction of pointillism.

twentyfour10

At the end of the month, having graduated to professional quality acrylics and large canvases, she now and then painted something that pleased her.

The composition isn’t right, she thought, too crowded. But then life sometimes is crowded, with everything trying to fit into the same tiny space.

twentyfour19

Towards the end of summer, she began to notice an organic pattern repeating itself across the landscape: criss-crossing lines. Light and shadow integrated the pattern.

twentyfour08

She found it everywhere she looked in nature.

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Sometimes it was muted, or partially covered. And other times it was the dominant pattern. It meant something to her, which she couldn’t articulate.

twentyfour09

Except through her canvas.

twentyfour02

Through her canvas she could express all the meaning she found in this pattern, and more. She could express life.

twentyfour01

Wonder 7

Charlie

seven08

This is my first drawing ever.

Me to Tia Berry: What should I draw, Tia Berry?

seven05

Tia Berry to me: Draw what you feel.

I felt kinda cold. How do you draw cold? A sweater?

seven04

Tia Berry to me: That’s not what I mean. I mean what you feel inside.

seven09

Tia Berry starts talking about all kinds of colors like I don’t even know names of. I don’t feel colors inside. I feel hungry!

seven10

I want to eat the sky! That’s how hungry I feel! Draw what I feel? Ok, macaroni!

seven06

The sky is made of noodles!

seven07

Me to Mae: What does it mean to draw what you feel?

Mae to me: Well, I don’t draw, Charlie. I write. I never really write what I feel, though. I write the story. And through the story, I write what other people feel. What the people in the story feel.

seven02

Me to Mae: Like if they’re hungry, you write that they ate a big old peanut butter sandwich?

Mae to me: Not exactly! But it would work!

seven03

If I could draw what I feel after eating one of Tia Berry’s delicious and scrumptilicious bacon-better-sandwiches with fries-on-the-side, I would draw happy.

seven01

What color is happy?

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