Released from Skins Grown Too Tight

Today I went to the hospital. I work there on Fridays. I am an artist-in-residence. I go from treatment room to treatment room, offering materials for small art projects and, upon occasion, a listening ear.

Today’s patient was a cheerful woman , serene even as the nurse tried vein after vein, looking for one that would hold the needle. Once she was settled, with both the chemo and the hot pink fabric I’d given her for making a spirit doll, she told me a story.

About the same time that the nurse was vein-hunting, the children and staff at her school had commemorated the life of another teacher, one who had lost her battle with breast cancer. “I had this idea,” she told me as she moved her sewing needle in and out of the flecked fabric, right sides together, of releasing pink balloons in memory of her colleague.

“We sold them for fifty cents a piece,” she said, “and in the end sold one hundred and thirty of them.” She looked up from her stitching. “They sold so many the balloons wouldn’t all fit in one car.”

She handed me the needle for rethreading. “That phone call was to tell me when they released the balloons, they all stayed together in one clump and rose straight toward a cloud.” She took back the needle. “It was a sign to all of us that she was there.”

I felt a tightening at the base of my throat and a small sting behind my eyes.

She fastened a ribbon around the doll’s waist and then held it up, strings of beads swinging, a tiny pink butterfly on each one.

Butterflies, I said, a symbol of transformation and resurrection.

Going In, Coming Out

Mondays I have a half hour between dropping off son the elder and teaching my first class. Not far from my Monday teaching assignment is a church with a labyrinth. Tucked into the L of the church, the labyrinth is open to trees and street on the other two sides.

It is gravel with small pavers set into the earth to mark the spiral path leading to the center. Shaded by the building’s shadow, the air is cool. The street is quiet. I see rather than hear the wind moving tree limbs.

The crunch of small stones under my feet is something I feel as well as hear. It is satisfying somehow. Like some kind of inner resistance breaking down, giving way.

As I walk, I imagine a small blossom springing up behind me, one in the trace of each footstep.

Once in the center, I face the four directions. My hands empty at my sides, I ask myself to truly see what there is to be seen.

Walking out, I am carrying a small bubble of space inside me.

No matter when I finish, I am always right on time.

The Power of Light

A few weeks ago the family and I went to a festival. At a booth that sold crystal sun catchers, we chose beads and crystals and stood watching as the vendor tapped and twisted, chatting all the while.

It is a small ornament, two tiny teardrop crystals and an amethyst bead. Husband hung it from the passenger-side visor of my car.

After weeks of overcast skies, the sun came out this week, sending small rainbows flying around the interior of my car.

At the fairy camp I run every summer, I have a small sun-powered crystal that rotates slowly, sending rainbows darting and flying across my floor. When a child is hesitant about entering, unsure whether to leave mother at the door, I take her hand. “Come see the fairies dance.”

Tadpole Weather

It rained cats and dogs this weekend; the lightning and sound of falling water woke me in the wee hours. When I opened my eyes next, it was just becoming light. As I came awake, I became aware of a gentle pressure against my hip. Our black cat had curled himself into the small of my back. His warmth and the almost imperceptible movement of his breathing reminded me of my children as infants. Their tiny bodies heavy and smelling of milk. I fell back asleep, careful not to stir.

An hour later, as I climbed the three steps to my house after feeding the neighbor’s kitty, I heard a woodpecker tapping nearby. I stopped in the cool morning air to listen. After the rain, the air was fresh and the ditches full.

Mon Oncle

This weekend I watched Jacques Tati’s “Mon Oncle”. Son the elder and his film buff friend floated in and out of the room. “Mon Oncle” revisits the character of “Monsieur Hulot Goes on Holiday.” Still the hapless bumbler from the earlier film, in “Mon Oncle” Monsieur Hulot takes us into his sister’s family. Ostensibly poking gentle fun at those who live in ultra-modern houses (and what fun it is fifty years on to see what the “modern life” purported to be), “Mon Oncle” is in many ways a lyric paen to small town life. Dogs run through streets, a streetsweeper engages in conversations that he cannot end, children play pranks on heedless adults.

Although Monsieur Hulot himself has his own encounter with automation run amok, it is the house itself which is one of our main characters. The kitchen is so modern that no one can get himself a glass of water. A living room so cold and unfriendly that the family lives outdoors. Yet there are hints of warmth. Round windows are two great eyes that open and close.

And if the city and its train station come with a brash jazz soundtrack, the return to the dogs and the children and the sound of a nostalgic accordion remind us that we have come home.

And Our Neighbors Wove Ribbons Around a Maypole

Yesterday was May 1st, May Day,and the fairies came to our street.

They made small mussy-tussies out of construction paper, stickers, and ribbon. They filled these with flowers from our yard: white lobelia, tiny, pale pink roses, white and purple violets from the north side of the house.

And in the early morning, just barely light but late enough that cats sat waiting for their breakfast, they stole through the neighborhood, leaving spring greetings hanging from front doorknobs.

As the mussy-tussies move gently in the morning air, violets nestle closer to sprigs of rosemary, tiny purple features looking out of white faces.