Friday, April 30, 2010

journal junkie

I am a 4:30am journal junkie thus the reason these blog writings are not as constant as I had hoped. Not sure how to make time to write when early morning seems to be the space allotted. But the journal pages scream out “fill me up fill me up” and I bow down to this positive addiction knowing how transformative reflection can be. Pages fill up with critical thoughts on books read, or unexpected conversations shared, or a day gone nowhere but then somewhere, or an argument that turned ugly, or a conflict down the road turned violent, or a brilliant thought from one of the many children hanging in the yard, or a piece of gossip that cannot be ignored because it involves the potential abuse of a child, or the way the sunlight slants through the door illuminating a dancing figure to be sketched for the canvas, or the questions that pop out of maya’s mouth about the colour of her skin or the enslavement of jesus. All this and more hand written religiously every morning reflecting, sorting, creating, questioning, rationalizing, blowing everything out of proportion, and then not blowing anything out of order but creating order from this mind that is chaotic and clear. Then the next morning arrives and this time wanting to type blog pieces but instead my hand moves towards the pen and the white "fill me up" page and i am swept away again into reflection. But of course there are days like these when i begin to transform journal writings into blog pieces and know this can become routine when time opens up and inspiration erupts.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Today i will shine: thanks marilyn

I give thanks and praise for the strength-giving emails i received from the last blog i wrote on Marilyn and reflections of life and death. There were a few of you who wanted to know more about Marilyn and so I went searching for a poem I wrote for her on her birthday two years ago. I found it in an old journal.

As a preface to the poem:

I met Marilyn seven years ago on the Carenage here in Grenada. She came up to me and asked if I was the artist Maureen St. Clair. That was the first time I really heard and accepted the title of artist. Perhaps it was Marilyn’s certainty of Self or her mother like stature that would make any daughter say “yes I am thank you”. The week before our first meeting Marilyn had bought all of my paintings at an Annual Art Exhibit, five relatively large pieces. The irony of this purchase is that Marilyn and her best friend-husband divided their time between Grenada and North America. Their homes are a sail boat docked at a marina outside of St. George’s and an RV Parked somewhere in the state of Indiana. She bought those paintings regardless of lack of space. She bought them because Marilyn is all of and every one of the empowered women that I paint. Marilyn saw her glorious Life Defined self in my work. If you know my work then you will know Marilyn. And so this is what Marilyn taught me:

That a light is a light
shining bright
even under the pressure of time
seeking refuge in a cell that screams “help!”

That a year takes her time to heal the news of cancer
and that healing starts today
within our own minds

That love is free
a phone call
an email
a huge shining presence
walking up the driveway

That passion is within
all fo us
waiting to be released
into this world
a small project, a big event
a small suggestion to a vendor on the street
a hug of resignation
of letting go
and moving on to the next
seed in the ground
a bud with potential to bloom

That one must shine and share
the gifts, the journey of fearlessness
hoping at the most
not to intrude on others
making no one feel small
and everyone feel big
sharing that bigness
humbly with no apologies

That it is healthier for everyone to take out
the maybes
the perhaps
the ifs
the sorrys
the we are hoping tos
and replace them with more
confident stronger pliable positive powerful words

That women friends
are essential to
life’s work
to getting through a hard day a difficult month
an excruciating year

That cancer is cancer
and a breast is a breast
and that these do not define
who we are
because who we are
are these gigantic beings
of light and potential

That life goes on even after the diagnosis
that life goes on even after you look down and there is something missing
but then not missing
because we have love within
and without
circles of strength
circling us

that I am simply
a friend out of many
waiting for you to phone,
to email
to visit
knowing that you are out there
doing your thing
being yourself
feeling the moments
choosing which one fits best

Friday, April 16, 2010

remembering marilyn: life and death defined

My dear friend Marilyn died two weeks ago. Cancer filled up her bones, liver and lungs. I believe many of us were in denial of her cancer including Marilyn. Marilyn was life defined. Memories move frantically within. Each memory competing for attention “remember me remember me” they say. And I remember so as not to forget the glorious courageous life defined Marilyn. Maya moves away from my tears and then back again with unexpected hugs throughout the day “are you still thinking of Marilyn”, she whispers in my ear.

I contemplate how much we should or should not shelter our children from difficult emotions, or from the inevitableness of death. I wonder what Marilyn would say about this knowing that she too was sheltered from death when her father died unexpectedly when she was Maya’s age.

I remember hearing a friend of mine from Canada say she refused to read her kids Bambi because Bambi’s mom dies at the beginning of the story. I couldn’t help think, “yes but mothers do die.” Living here in the Village death is intimately connected with everyone. You either know the dead personally or you know someone who did and therefore you become part of the story and share your own stories of death or near death experiences.

Maya touched the possibility of death when her life was almost lifted away in a car accident two years ago. I remember village friends coming up to the house the same evening and saying to Maya “what gyal you almost dead!” Maya was six when the jeep her father was driving flipped over and landed in the drain. Maya pitched out of the jeep and the door landed on top of her head and half her face. Theo peeled back the steel and wedged her head from the wreck. She survived with very little damage with the exception of a warrior scar stretching across the left side of her face. I remember friends coming over during the course of the week to share with us their own stories of death and almost death experiences. One of my friends came and we remembered her son who was killed ten years ago in a car accident. Her son was beheaded in the accident. On a Monday morning my friend was called out of her house to walk to the scene of the accident to identify her 21 year old boy. His back pack was strewn across the road with parts of his brain scattered on top. The whole village went down to the accident that day. I stayed home. Despite my hesitancy to go that same evening to my friends home I went with the rest of the village. I grew up believing the first night of death was reserved for the immediate family however soon learned that death is everybody’s business here and you are expected to be a part and give whatever support you are able. I remember my friend holding me tight before she was swept away by another long hard embrace. I remember the children running in and around death free and yet present to the sorrow.

After Maya’s accident I was grateful for the stream of neighbors landing on our doorstep sharing their stories and expressing death matter of factly and yet with a gentle presence of life left behind. Today the accident isen’t a story to be hushed but is a tale of courage, forgiveness and strength. If you ask Maya about the scar on the left side of her face be prepared for a gripping story!

I think Marilyn would have liked the direction this blog took. The contemplation of death and pain and sheltering or not sheltering those we love. Marilyn’s choice to live life to the fullest was evident in everything she did and said. I cant help wonder if sheltering us from the inevitableness of her own death was a conscious choice or part of her legacy to be life and death defined.