Estelle’s eyes open as the sun peeks over the horizon sending a beam of light to warm her face. As she stirs, Caravana also, rises from his nesting place in the crook of her knees and stretches arching his back. Estelle lifts herself on one elbow and reaches to stroke her faithful companion as she has for so many years. Her old Tom is getting up in cat-years and she wonders how much longer he will remain with her. Then she remembers what day it is and feels an unfamiliar surge of happiness as she realizes that Alisha will be coming for their art-time together. She looks at the clock and then jumps out of bed to get ready. As she dresses, her thoughts are focused on the lesson she’s planned for today and hopes Alisha will enjoy learning about texture. It is one of Estelle’s favorite aspects of creating drawings and paintings, as she is a deep thinker who loves to lose herself in intricate details. She is excited about sharing this love with little Alisha, who has become so dear to her.
Estelle is sitting on her back patio enjoying a breakfast of yogurt and nuts when the doorbell rings. She doesn’t stop to consider that the usual feelings of dread that generally accompany that chime have been replaced with joyful anticipation. Instead, she simply reacts to it by setting her bowl down and walking briskly to the front door. She pauses for a moment to smooth her hair and straighten her mint-green summer dress before opening the door. Before she is able to say anything, an exuberant Alisha rushes in chattering like a brook in early spring. “Good morning, Ms. Williams! I’m here! Did you miss me? Look…Momma and I made Biscochitos again and I brought some for desert!” Alisha hands Estelle a plate covered with a clean dish towel. The cookies were still warm and smelled wonderful. It was tempting to have them for breakfast but Estelle thought about Alisha and didn’t want to teach her such decadence. “Thank you, sweetheart! I’ll put them in the kitchen and we will enjoy them after our lunch. Follow me. It’s such a lovely morning that I thought I’d have you help me weed my flower beds today.” A month ago, such a suggestion would have caused Alisha’s nose to curl but she loved spending time with Ms. Williams and her attitude toward chores was changing. “I’ve never pulled weeds before. How do I tell which are the weeds and which are the flowers?” Estelle puts on her favorite gardening hat while handing another, with a pair of gloves to Alisha. “Well actually, a weed is only a plant growing where a human being doesn’t want it to grow…so, a gardener must learn to identify the wanted plants and remove the unwanted plants. In my garden, I sometimes allow plants to grow that others call weeds.” Estelle and Alisha laugh together at this very eccentric remark, as Estelle leads the way to the back fence where the older woman and little girl lose themselves in identifying plants by their leaves and blossoms. Each nurtures the other while accomplishing the task of nurturing Estelle’s flower garden.
Lunch passes in a pleasant blur and as Alisha clears the dishes, Estelle gathers the art supplies for the project she’s planned. Their new relationship has established a flowing rhythm and Alisha seldom has to be reminded to help. She’s also, found a new source of accomplishment in completing tasks on her own rather than manipulating someone else into doing them for her.
“What are we going to do today, Ms. Williams?” Estelle finishes laying out large sheets of paper, oil pastels, charcoal, colored pencils, and markers. “We’re going to learn about texture. The most important thing about being an artist is learning how to see. We’ve learned a lot about the outer or contour lines that form shapes. Now, we’re going to learn about the inner lines that bring those shapes to life.” Alisha is amazed by Estelle and listens eagerly. “Here are crayons and charcoal. First, I want you to take a piece of paper and one of either, and then we will go around the garden and take rubbings.” Soon Alisha is caught up in examining the patterns of bark, leaves, rocks, bricks and seeing all of them in a way she’s never noticed before. After forty minutes or so, Estelle calls her back to the patio. “Now Alisha, we’re going to draw the rubbings we’ve found on another piece of paper and use these textures to create a finished work. Let’s divide our papers into measured squares and then fill them with colorful textures to create a quilt effect. I think your mother will love it.” A dream-like warmth envelopes teacher and student as both lose themselves in creativity. Alisha has learned and is learning so many new things in these happy hours and delights in the wonder of nature as it translates itself through her onto her paper. She watches Estelle’s expert hands closely and strives to imitate every move. Her teacher in turn feels an almost, overwhelming relief as knowledge and experience kept too long to herself flows outward into the mind and heart of another. Sharing her art in this way gives her a new passion for her art.
“Do you like church Alisha?” Estelle suddenly asks. “Well…you know, it’s just something we always do. Mom and Dad care a lot about me going. I like the other children and my Sunday School teacher. I don’t like listening to the preaching very much but Momma says that’s because I haven’t made my choice yet.” Estelle’s curiosity was peaked. She’d never heard anything about a choice and thought people were taught certain traditions in church and their choices about belief were made for them. “What choice, Alisha?” “Oh…you know about Jesus. Whether I want to follow Him. Who I really think He is. Right now, I just listen to what the grown-ups say. Sometimes, I think I believe in Him and sometimes, I think I don’t. Do you believe in Jesus Ms. Williams?” Estelle was caught off guard by this question. She didn’t want to answer in a way that would undermine Alisha’s training but believing in Jesus wasn’t something she’d ever given much thought to. “I’ve never gone to church, Alisha. I don’t know if I really know who Jesus was or is or….” “That’s okay, Ms. Williams. If you’d like you can come with us and see what it’s like. Momma says everyone has to make their choice. I don’t know how you can do that if you don’t know about Jesus.” Go to church? Now, that was an unexpected proposition. “Well…I can’t invite myself, Alisha. I don’t want to impose on your parents.” Alisha quickly reassures her mentor, “Oh Ms. Williams, I’d love to have you come! The children’s choir will be singing next Sunday and you can watch me. Please come? Momma would love it!” Now, Estelle felt she had no escape and there was something irresistible pushing her toward acceptance but out of a habit of erecting barriers she replies, “Well, if your mother invites me, I’ll go.” Alisha’s smile brightened, “She’ll call you tomorrow!”
Neither Estelle nor Alisha notice the storm clouds building until large, cold, drops of rain begin beating down. They rush to gather their art work and move inside. Estelle also, feels a bit rushed as if her life is moving rapidly in an unknown direction but she mostly, just feels happy. The two of them put the unfinished artwork away to be completed when they meet again. Estelle gives Alisha her umbrella and watches until she enters her front door. She sighs contentedly, as this saffron day comes to a close. Caravana weaves in an out of her ankles, enjoying his mistress’s new state of mind. Estelle picks him up for a cuddle then carries him to her office where she immerses herself in work.
To be continued.
For previous posts in this series go to https://joyindestructible.com/the-recluse-series/ . Posts are listed in ascending order.