AN EVOCATIVE ROMP INTO YOUR CHILDHOOD SENSES
GRASS * BEES * WIND
(this fable intersects with SEA FLYER)
The bees are dive-bombing over rigid rows of flowers, pulsating with the pastel hues of spring. Tulips swirl in the breeze, drunk with fresh wind and air. Just past this field of shifting color sits a stone building. I can just locate the window where I’m headed by the painted scarf floating in the breeze, swinging to the opus that is nature. It is spring and I am about to be born…
Behind the window, my mother lies in the warm morning light, sweating and panting, yet a silence surrounds her, a silence born of concentration. Her hands clenched, her cheeks red, she pushes all that she knows outside of her and releases a life, my life, into the world. An almost inhuman sound escapes from her mouth.
My hands are shaky; arthritis and age have ravished them. I can hold them still just long enough to focus on the photograph in my hand, a faded image that reveals another century and another continent. It is a vision of childhood glory: a cherubic girl wielding a wooden sword, her cohort, Vigo (the toy horse) at her side. I entertain some wholly sentimental thoughts and then decide to fully project myself into the past…
Anna embraces her wet infant. Together, they are a now a family of two. She gathers a blanket and holds the bundle in her arms, contemplating the life ahead of them. A love seeps through her and spreads out, like a beautiful stain blooming on cloth.
Across the way, the storks are slowly circling the chimneys, gracefully landing in their expansive willow nests. They too are caring for their young, feeding them, protecting them, carefully avoiding the cruelty that can be nature.
On the wall next to the open window, the blue wallpaper is visible in the soft filtered light. It features characters of local lore, their likenesses engraved in vertical patterns, their names printed proudly below. Anna finds a name she likes under the image of a woman sporting a sword. She decides to name her new daughter Marike. Marike yawns in acknowledgment and returns to the silence that is sleep.
The child emerges into life and into a world of paths – leading to fields of flowers, large trees, railways, canals, and even the steel and foam colored sea; often alone, with only my sword and my tiny horse to guide me. Anna works away; eyeing the clock on the wall, always wondering which path Marike has taken.
The child continues to grow and sprouts into a wonder of blonde curls and abrupt mannerisms; sporting the metabolism of a water bug, dodging, weaving and stitching her way through Anna’s life, wholly unaware of the poverty that settles like dust around them.
Some days Marike takes the path that begins just behind the church, where lies a terrace of tall grass that spills into a wooded area. She enters this realm as one would enter a cathedral, immediately invoking silence and awe.
Two columns of beech trees form an aisle into the forest along with an extravagant ceiling of shifting silvered leaves. Marike often runs down the aisle leading straight to a platform of fallen wood. It is here that she brings her collection of bugs, moths, red spotted mushrooms and colorful flowers. She creates a miniature city – the blooms acting as bright lampposts, illuminating the bugs in their beds of leaves and grass, the mushrooms surrounding the city in pillars. Behind this platform is a gnarled tree whose twists and turns resemble a muscular man. Sometimes one can envision the man carrying a heavy weight above his head. Sometimes Marike sees an actual man in the woods. He too has a horse; only it is a real horse with chestnut hair.
Anna works hard to keep her family fed and clothed. The war has started and many soldiers pass through their village. She cleans their uniforms and polishes their boots. Often she cooks for them. Sometimes planes land on the water and Anna and Marike walk to the edge of the sea and witness their spectacular landings; the great planes hovering over the deep water, so close to catastrophe. To their amazement, men climb out of these large metallic birds and arrive on shore, needing food and refreshment, often paying extra to rent a bed in their home. Marike carries her sword to show the soldiers that she too can carry a weapon.
One day while Anna is starching the soldier’s shirts and hanging them to dry in the wind of the coming winter, she has a vision. In her vision, Marike is marching by a column of trees in the woods. She wanders happily, chatting away with her confidante, Vigo, the wooden horse. Suddenly, there appears a threat. Marike has raised her sword in confrontation before a horse, a horse made of flesh and blood. Substantial in size, it rears up beside her. In the distance stands a man. Anna drops the last shirt in the grass and runs towards the church, past the meadow and into the wood, halting when she sees a broken sword on the ground, on the edge of which lay a tuft of chestnut colored animal hair. I am nowhere to be found.
Forgive me for interrupting, but what is frolicking youth without the contrast of sad and pathetic old age standing opposite it? Neither can exist without the other in sight. And, what is history without the present and future, dancing close by? It is in this moment that I choose to reach my swollen hands into, first, the rich carbon blackness that is nothingness, and come out the other side – grabbing into the past, altering and shifting the path of Marike’s – my, life. Yes, my friend, I have become my own puppeteer. I successfully redirect the delicate vessel of innocence (that is youth) to flourish rather than wither, whether by war, poverty, or simply evil.
As I reach further into this darkness, I encourage Marike to drink from the river of forgetfulness. She, like countless mythical heroes of the underworld, sips the sweet water and quenches her thirst.
Anna suddenly hears a sound from above. A squirrel with its comedic smile intact, flies in an arc over her path. Mimicking the squirrel, Marike too, lifts off from a branch, and lands within feet of her mother. Anna embraces her daughter in relief. Anna tells Marike it is time to return home. The young girl begins to gather up her toys – her horse Vigo lays in a clearing on his side, slightly wounded, a chip carved out of his neck and his embroidered mane in shambles. Marike leans down and delicately takes hold of his felt reins and pulls him along as she heads towards her sword, somewhat broken and bent, but certainly fixable.
Marike joyfully marches out of the forest, her mother’s hand in hers, Vigo, like a small dog trailing behind them. Marike waves her sword back and forth in the air. Mother and child smile into the chilly November wind.
Now that I am beyond the autumn of my years, perhaps even heading into the full frost of winter, I feel great warmth in conjuring up my past. My paths forever guiding me, taking me from the flat lands of Holland, across the great ocean, here to New England. I still miss my wooden horse Vigo. We spent countless hours and days together. I named my first real horse after him. Both are long gone now.
I hear the wind just outside my window and shiver from the lingering cold. I pull a woolen throw over my knees, yawn, and return to the silence that is sleep.
Copyright © 2009 Meike Kopp, All Rights reserved.