November Blue

November Blue

On this sacred, blue November day

Somber, thin, high-clouds do lay

Heavy; on trees naked and gray.

Spirit? Bend me and I will pray:

Please God! Deliverance today!

For all who remain death’s prey,

The weak the wicked who will pay.

Sin’s permanent ink-stains stay,

Hard hearts can’t soften to obey,

Leading all who are lost astray,

Blind, deaf, soul’s night in the day…

There’s something sinister at play!

As those dying and lost only say,

To Jesus, to life a proud, Nay!

Sad, they the full cost must pay!

Lost. Infinite blue November day…

Father! It is for mercy that I pray

Melt all prideful blindness away!

As for me, also possible for they,

By Spirit’s grace be led to obey!

Hopeful truth, on blue November day

Between

Between

When all the leaves have fallen

To crunch beneath indifferent feet

Afore winter's capturing talon

Executes life's final, sad retreat

In cold silence loud and sullen

When kettle drums begin to beat

Humbling each arrogant felon

The august end in brutal defeat

Wail! No immunity to dwell in

Ominous! All graves loom to greet

The poor, the rich, the driven

All the same pointless end do meet

Kiss the Son,now! Determine

Sure escape by a fall at Jesus'feet!

Deception

Deception: Mary Mageleen in the Cave

Long and heavy-hot, July-Doldrum-Days;

Shag hazy thought as staggering, drunk strays;

Desperation fraught in scorching-hot-rays!

Instinct (not wisdom taught) seeks cool caves.

Safe, in a hidden spot! As my long-lost slaves…

I reclaim my thought, my icy-blue-memory saves,

My present re-caught in isolation my soul craves.

Rid of the fiery onslaught! By cool, blue waves…

Comfort the distraught,Oh Shadow of the Graves!

Deceiving the overwrought on blazing-hot-days.

 

Lost

Vanity
Vanity

Mooribound thoughts in grey sliced by a jagged indigo wind!

Shatter across the frozen tundra of the mind…

Then conclude at the dead end of human wisdom.

Gray truth of depression speaking again!

Hopeless dry snow! Cold powdered emotion!

Stinging the eyes and faces of all daring to come near,

Offering the salve of cheerful words that burn!

Here to remain in shadowed dark retreat…

The deepest forgotten cave of a tortured brain;

Silently licking these old wounds opened again;

Protecting new gashes now, both festering as one…

Gangrene of the soul threatening amputation!

Complete severing from God and life. Woefully lie,

Safe in the embrace of isolation. “Lover hold me close!”

No one can hurt me here! Hints of safety and relief in nonexistence…

Death’s soft whisper seduces awful grey to flow into a sultry ebony dream…

Black delusion! Dead coal to burn red-hot!

Ignited as latent anger explodes! Life’s final stand!

Mollified in the righteous anger of God! Oh ancient lake, Gehenna!

Garbage dump zealous to consume,

Vain creators and their works born of carnal purposeless lives.

Faith lying dead in heaps are the broken dreams of mortal pride,

The very cutting shards of this biting indigo wind!

Wind fanning the flames that never die!

Outside the City Gate…

Where regretful lost souls gnash their teeth and cry!

The Recluse (Part XIV)

“Maria! Did you see what happened? You shouldn’t be playing match-maker! Our strange neighbor isn’t even a believer and Oscar, our brother, is vulnerable!” Tony can’t wait to begin correcting his wife after the last guest leaves. Oscar’s interest in Estelle is the perfect excuse for him to vindicate his extreme separatist views. His perspective comes from his damaged psychology and an unmet need for protection as a child but being in deep denial of his broken state, he is able to twist many scriptures to suit his need for safety from the dangerous other. Maria knows this about her husband but for years, her efforts to help him look within and face his problems rather than project them onto others have been unsuccessful. Maria’s answer is soft, “Tony. All I did was invite two lonely people to a dinner party. It’s up to God, Estelle, and Oscar after that. They are mature adults, Tony.” “Estelle isn’t a Christian, Maria! It’s wrong for Oscar to become involved with her and you…you set him up to sin!” Maria squelches the urge to criticize in retaliation, “Tony, I can’t control everything and neither can you. Maybe Estelle will find faith in Jesus and maybe God will use Oscar to lead her to Him. It’s up to the Holy Spirit, not you or me.” Tony is exasperated as he always is when he can’t force his control in a situation that causes him to feel threatened, “Maria, I love you but you are so naive when it comes to people and what they are capable of! I know first-hand what kind of evil lurks in the heart of a woman like… like that Estelle! I don’t want that… that poison infecting my daughter or my friend! How can you trust like that!” Maria pauses from clearing dishes and sternly gazes into her husband’s red, flustered face, “I trust God, Tony. Do you?” Tony answers by turning on his heel and fleeing from the room.

Propelled by a force he doesn’t understand Tony dashes out the front door and slams it behind him. The night is muggy and heavy like his mood. Storm clouds rolling in reflect the street lights eerily as if validating his suspicious mindset. Tony walks fast to keep up with his racing thoughts as he clenches and unclenches his fists. He knows he has to keep moving or he will start breaking things. Old memories flood his brain and remind him that he might even hurt someone in the way he had hurt people in the past. Walking it off is the only way Tony knows to ‘be angry and sin not’ when he can’t get control of a situation and feels compromised. As a young man, he’d learned to gain control by going out of control and ruling people through fear. He knew now how wrong his actions were but he can’t get a grip on his own fear and it reigns over him. “Trust? If she really knew what I went through…God, I trust You…or I try my best… but I don’t trust people…I mean, You know what people are like! There is no evil they aren’t capable of! I don’t know how to get around that reality…”

Thunder rumbles over-head and big, cold drops begin to pelt Tony but they can’t cool his rage. Driven by memories of his mother and junky girlfriends, he begins to run as if he believes he can outdistance the storm with his past. Flashes of an old world he’s locked away inside and is vigilant in hiding break into his conscious thought. Those memories and the emotions that accompany them are overwhelming. “Maria, you are a good woman, innocent and you have no idea what some women are capable of…things even the world won’t speak of because no one wants to think of mothers doing those things…” Tony feels a sob come up into his throat. It breaks through his effort to keep himself from crying and exits his body in an agonizing scream. “GAWWWWD! Why did they do those things to me? Why did my mother…why did You let that happen!” Tony upon saying these things immediately feels guilty for his anger. “How do I get rid of this anger? How can I trust You, Father and still keep my family safe? Father, help me…”

As the rain begins to pour, Tony’s rage gives way to feelings of utter helplessness, not unlike the pain he knew as a small boy who had no father. A boy who had no one to protect him from the mother who should have kept him safe but instead abused him and shared him with women more demented than herself. Heroin is a cruel god that demands even the sacrifice of the faithful’s children. “Oh Jesus! Please, help me learn how to be a real man…help me figure out what that means. I’m failing everyone who depends on me…and I’m failing You…” Tony being fully submerged in his secret inner world, forgets how far he’s come since Jesus came into his life and is overwhelmed by his stock-piled, emotional pain. As if crying with him or for him the rain intensifies, soaking him to the bone and threatening to drown him.

Tony can’t ignore the weather any longer and begins running back home. As he approaches, he sees the lights still on, guiding and welcoming him. Maria meets him at the door with a towel, helps him get out of his wet clothes, and taking his hand, leads him into the kitchen where a cup of Chamomile tea waits for him. Neither of them speaks but each is pre-occupied with the same problematic thoughts. Maria caresses Tony’s hand in an attempt to show understanding but the truth is she can’t fully understand and it is beyond her ability to heal his heart and mind. Tony struggles to regain composure by stuffing his past back down deep where he hopes no one can see and for emotional relief, practices that by which he has so aptly learned to cope, begins re-projecting those horrifying images onto others. He takes a sip of tea and thinks to himself, “This wouldn’t be happening if that strange woman hadn’t entered our lives. I’m going to have to do something about her so our lives can return to normal. It’s up to me to keep us safe.”

To be continued.

For previous posts in this series go to https://joyindestructible.com/the-recluse-series/

The Recluse (Part XIII)

“I really don’t know why you invited that Williams woman to our dinner party. Obviously, she prefers being alone to socializing.” Tony scolded Maria while getting plates from the cupboard. “Ey Tony! You are too hard on that poor woman. You should be ashamed. She has been so good for our Alisha.” Maria responds as she always does to Tony’s criticism of others, by pointing out their goodness. Tony comes back as is his habit with self-justification, “Well, I for one am thankful that school is about to start and Alisha will have less time to spend over there. I’ve heard things about that woman’s family and background. No matter how harmless she seems, I’m just not comfortable. You are too quick to dismiss the darker side of people, Maria. She isn’t even a Christian. How can she be the right kind of influence for our daughter?” Maria wiping her hands on a dish-towel looks up into her husband’s face, “Anthony, our Lord requires more than that of us. There is no one beyond His power to mend. Do you remember where He found us? Look what He’s done for us, Tony! He can do the same for poor Estelle!”

Tony silenced by the reprimand chooses not to reply but instead, keep his judgments to himself. Maria’s correction however, triggers memories of his childhood. Shadowy remembrances of a life colored by alcohol, drugs, and abuse; a childhood characterized by spiritual and material poverty. That sad existence that required him to grow up too fast and fashioned him into a protector, the man of the house long before he became a man. The hefty responsibility nearly crushed those small shoulders but somehow, he grew accustomed to it and bore the weight. Now as an adult, Tony doesn’t sense anything wrong in taking on more than belongs to him. He isn’t conscious of being controlling because he sees his actions as necessary to prevent horrors from his past repeating themselves in the present. He is determined not to let any of those things hurt his precious wife and daughter. “Maria is so naïve and trusting. No matter what she says, I am watching that woman. I won’t let my guard down. I could never live with myself if I let…that happen to Alisha.” Tony pushed the flash-back of his childhood trauma to the side, where it constantly resides, influencing every thought and decision he makes.

The tinkling chime of the doorbell brings Tony more fully into the present and with confident strides, he moves into the entryway to greet his first guest. As the door swings open, his eyes catch an emerald flash just as Estelle lowers her eyes to avoid direct contact. Tony misinterprets her shyness and feels his suspicions rise. He thinks to himself, “How can I trust someone who won’t even look at me?”

Estelle finds herself frozen in the doorway, trying to hide behind the bouquet of flowers she cut from her garden, as an offering to Maria. She didn’t imagine Tony answering the door and can’t help but feel his hostility. She tries to speak but croaks instead, “Hello…Mr. Hernandez.” Tony takes a moment to observe this eccentric woman but is unable to clear his mind of past experiences and the town gossip he’s heard. He fails to actually see Estelle but instead, sees a living symbol of perceived threats. Wanting to tell her to leave and never return he forces himself to say, “Good evening, Ms. Williams. Welcome to our home.” Tony opens the door wide and stands back to allow Estelle to enter. “These flowers are for Maria.” Estelle holds the fresh-cut arrangement of red and yellow roses interspersed with baby’s breath out to Tony but then Maria enters from the kitchen and takes them from Estelle’s hand. “Oh, Estelle! How beautiful and how thoughtful of you! I’m so glad you are joining us this evening!” Maria wraps Estelle in a welcoming embrace that soothes her jitters and acts as a shield against Tony’s disapproval. “They’re from my garden. I’m glad you like them, Maria. Thank you for inviting me to your party.” Estelle couldn’t remember the last time she’d been invited to a dinner party. Maria couldn’t know how much her kindness meant to her. Estelle wanted to make her home in those warm grey eyes and the friendship they offered. Maria’s nurturing heart, responding to a deep need in Estelle, causes her to take Estelle’s chin in hand and reply, “You are always welcome here. In the Southwest, where I am from, we have a saying, ‘Mi casa es su casa.’ That translates as, ‘My house is your house.’ Please, think of my home as your own and know that in this place you are loved.” Estelle has never heard such beautiful, kind words. Her eyes fill with tears and neither she nor Maria notice Tony in the background, clenching and unclenching his fists.

Maria finds just the right vase for Estelle’s flowers and after taking a deep breath of Rose perfume, places them at the center of the dining room table. The women chatter as they return to the kitchen to finish preparing dinner. Two couples arrive and the final guest to appear is a handsome gentleman in his early fifties, rounding out the dinner party at an even eight. Maria introduces him as Oscar Lovell and Estelle can’t help but be taken aback by his mature good looks. “I’m so silly.” She thinks to herself after the introduction is past and he moves on to converse with the others. Estelle stands firmly in one place, trying not to be noticed, as she is unable to think of any small talk beyond, “Hello. Nice to meet you.” She wishes she could disappear and wonders what possessed her to think she could belong here. Finally, some relief comes when Maria announces that dinner is served and asks everyone to take their seat at the table. Any sense of calm Estelle gains by following directions is shattered when she finds herself seated next to Oscar. He politely helps her get seated and as he takes his place beside her, she feels her legs quaking beneath the table. Then she catches Maria watching them from the corner of her eye and understands, “Maria, I will let you down. This man won’t be interested in me.” she thinks to herself as she tries to stop shaking.

Over the course of dinner, it is easy for Estelle to discern that everyone but she is a Christian. The talk centers on church, family, and the state of the world. Though all come from varying backgrounds, it is obvious that their mutual faith is a powerful bond. “Relationships built on individual relationships with God.” She thoughtfully considers this new insight while never feeling more isolated and alone. “God, I want that. I want what they have but I don’t know how to get there.” Suddenly, Estelle’s inner dialog is interrupted by Oscar, “Ms. Williams have you lived in Greenwood long?” All eyes turn toward her and finding herself at the unwanted center of attention Estelle stammers, “Umm, ugh, yes. I’ve lived here all of my life, actually. Even in the same house…” Then she blushes and looks down at her half-empty plate hoping these words are enough. Oscar senses her extreme shyness and immediately, feels regret at having caused this beautiful woman discomfort. He also, finds himself wishing he could get a closer look at those beautiful green eyes that only appear in flashes before hiding behind lowered lids and thick lash

“Father? Could she be the one you made for me?” Oscar prays to himself. “I’ve been alone for a long time…but whatever you decide. I’m waiting on You.” He sneaks another peak at Estelle and thinks how perfectly beautiful her hair is against her smooth skin. He wonders if he will ever see her again after this evening. Estelle isn’t unaware of his gaze but interprets it as disapproval of her inability to converse in social situations. “He must think I’m a dolt.” This overly critical inner voice gains volume and expounds upon all the reasons why no man could ever find her worthy of love. Estelle listens to the inner deprecations repeated so often before, is comforted by their familiarity, and nestles in the security of not being forced to move beyond her comfort zone. Suddenly an alien idea invades Estelle’s inner world, “I am my own jailer.” This shocking thought pierces the safety of Estelle’s secret ruminations. Estelle has no idea from where this truth emerged but she can’t deny that it is truth.

Dinner draws to a close with satiated guests stretching and yawning. Estelle sees her chance to exit and says her goodbyes to Maria. They set plans for Alisha in the week to come and as she starts to walk toward the front door, she feels a large hand land gently between her shoulder blades, “May I walk you home?” Oscar asks. “Wha…oh, well I just live next door…but I guess that would be okay.” Estelle is too shocked to answer differently but immediately, wishes she’d spoken otherwise. Then she remembers the jailer and decides to be brave. Oscar opens the door for Estelle and offers her his arm as they negotiate the short journey to her house. Estelle feels very awkward but also, exhilarated. They pause together on Estelle’s front porch under the soft porch light and Oscar gets his wish as she looks up and her green eyes fill his field of vision. Estelle is startled by the strength shining from his eyes. She is transfixed by eyes the unexpected color of clear blue crystal and must take a deep breath before she can speak with composure. “It was nice to meet you, Mr. Lovell. Thank you for your kindness.” She reaches for keys in her purse and when she finds them, Oscar takes them from her hand and opens the door for her, then returns the keys and stands back. “Please, call me Oscar. May I call you, Estelle? I hope to see you again. May I call you sometime?” Estelle feels herself blush as she resists the urge to dart inside and slam the door shut. “Ummm…yes, you can call me Estelle. I guess it would be okay to call me, sometime. I mean yes, I’d like that. I think. Here let me give you my number.” Oscar logs Estelle’s number into his phone and then puts it back into his pocket. “Thank you, Estelle. I look forward to getting to know you.” He turns to walk away as Estelle slips inside and quietly shuts the door.

Once safely sealed within, Estelle drops to the floor and wonders if she’s been dreaming. “Did that really happen? After all these years? What is going on here? God? Are You the one changing everything?” Estelle sits in the dark pondering recent events and marveling at how much her life has changed since she first caught little Alisha spying on her. How could one small girl alter her entire world in this way? “Yes, God I do believe this is Your work. Show me what to do! Show me what you want from me next.” Elated, exhilarated, exhausted but also oddly at peace, Estelle picks herself up off the floor and heads for bed. For the first time in many years, Estelle is excited about her future, and falls asleep dreaming of the possibility of tomorrow.

To be continued.

For previous posts in this series go to https://joyindestructible.com/the-recluse-series/ to find posts listed in ascending order.

Survivor’s Prayer

If I am still alive when the bitter cloud passes, may I not I not be found stubbornly clinging to the storm because I’ve adapted myself to misery. Instead, may I celebrate in sunlight as I embrace the sparkling new day the sun reveals. Let me move forward to clean up the damage left by the storm and not be stuck hanging on for survival long after the storm has passed. A powerful storm forever transforms the landscape and the lives of those who survive but help me, Lord to accept and embrace the transformation. May the storm not live on in me in thoughts that exist in loops and refuse to move forward. Make me mindful of the present and keep me from reliving terrifying moments and even repeating them by my actions. I do not want to be a storm bearer, a manufacturer of the misery I survived. Instead, help me share the hope that enabled me to endure. May I be an image bearer of you, Jesus the one who made my survival possible. It is to you that I cling in the midst of every storm. I cling to you now, even though the sun is breaking through the clouds because I need you in good times as well as in bad. I remain tethered to face new storms that soon will appear on the horizon. Even if one of those storms should take my life, I know my soul is secure in you, Jesus. Though I die, I will live. I should never fear the storm but when I do, Jesus, you are always there to comfort and strengthen me. You are there to lead me forward when danger has passed. In you I have hope even, on those dark days when I can feel no hope, joy, or peace. Even when I let go of you, Jesus, I know you are holding on to me. Thank you, Jesus for this gift of faith by which I endure all things to also, overcome. Amen.

The Recluse (Part XI)

“Thank you for taking me to church with you, Maria. I enjoyed it very much.” Estelle opens the car door to step out onto the sidewalk in front of her house and Maria gets out of the car too. “You are very welcome, Estelle. We love your company and I so appreciate what you are doing for Alisha.” As if on cue, Alisha jumps out of the car behind Estelle and gives her an unexpected hug. “Thank you for coming to hear me sing Ms. Williams!” Estelle gasps at the surprising embrace but then accepts it and returns the favor. Maria hugs her in turn and Estelle feels an old ache momentarily fade. It’s been a very long time since she’s felt a human embrace. “I will see both of you soon.” Estelle bends to peer into the car where Tony sits behind the wheel, “Thank you, Mr. Hernandez. Have a wonderful afternoon.” Tony nods in ascent and then looks straight ahead, “Come along Maria…Alisha. We need to get going.” Mother and daughter get back into the car as Estelle walks toward her front door.

Estelle opens the door and is enveloped in the isolation she’s sheltered in for such a long time. The emptiness feels safe and familiar but also, frightening and all consuming. She looks around at the immaculate, perfectly decorated house and has a sudden urge to dirty it up and make it look like someone actually, lives here. Determined but not really understanding the force impelling her to action, Estelle defiantly strides into the living room, looks at the portrait of her mother, and begins tossing expensive, artfully placed cushions from the sofa and chairs willy-nilly and even on the floor. Then she kicks off her shoes, lets down her hair and carelessly, flops down on the beautiful blue sofa. She stretches out as for a nap then reaches for a perfect rose pillow to support her head as she stares into the painted eyes of her deceased mother.

Those eyes leave Estelle feeling frozen. “How many times did I reach for you, Emma? How many times did I need a mother and even though I could see you and touch you, my mother was never there?” In a flash, Estelle understood herself as having always been an orphan on the emotional level. In fact, she’d been forced to be a mother to Emma from the time she was a small child. “Was I a good mom, Emma?” Estelle yells at the portrait as tears begin to spill. Then she remembered what the preacher said in church that morning about somehow, being able to have a parent-child relationship with God because of Jesus’ death on the cross. The idea of having such a relationship is very appealing to Estelle but it doesn’t make sense to her. She also, remembers the words of Jesus and the validation she felt upon reading them. “Emma! Do you know or care how much pain your drinking and constant neediness caused me? Do you know how hard Dad and I worked to keep your drinking secret and how much life we lost trying to protect you? Were you ever aware of what people said to me or what our neighbors thought?” With tears streaming, Estelle counted all she’d lost to Emma’s drinking and the black hole that drinking was used to anesthetize. Much of her childhood was consumed in that hole and even more of her adult years after her father passed. “Even now Emma, you steal my life from me because you never had a life! You never became a whole person! You used me to live for you and I’ve never lived for me either…” Estelle fiercely wipes the tears from her eyes, “I’m going to find a way to be more than the arms and legs of Emma Williams! I want to be a whole woman and live my life!” Estelle moves a few more objects out of place, gives Emma’s portrait a hard stare, and leaves the room.

It’s anger that gives Estelle the energy to move despite these new inner revelations. It is also, anger that numbs and gives her the fortitude to fight her excruciating, emotional pain. In the sanctuary of the only bedroom she’s ever known, she removes her church clothes and puts on her favorite pair of yoga pants and a big t-shirt. Then she goes to the bathroom to wash her face and pull herself together. When she catches her eye in the mirror, she gives herself a hard stare much like the one she unleashed on the portrait of Emma. “I-want-more!” she states firmly just below the tone of a shout.

In the kitchen, Estelle makes a sandwich as she recalls the words she heard in church that morning and remembers the warmth of friendship she’d enjoyed with Maria and Alisha. “Relationship. That’s exactly what’s missing in my life.” Estelle counts the relationships she was never able to enjoy, the school-chums that couldn’t come over to play or for sleep-overs; then later, the young men who could never find room in her life because her life belonged to her mother. “Now, I’m left alone and I don’t know how to connect to others because I never learned.” This truth comes down cold and hard but also, clarifies the solution. “I need to learn how to relate to people.”

Estelle takes her sandwich and a glass of milk with her as she goes into her office for her lap-top. Thinking she will lay down on her bed and catch up on some reading, she starts to enter her bedroom but then suddenly turns and decides to use Emma’s room instead. Pushing decorations aside, she puts her things down and rips open the bed. The frilly comforter lands on the floor where it stays and Estelle builds a comfy seat for herself from the pillows. She opens the curtains to let the sunlight in and then settles in bed to finish eating, not caring about the crumbs spilling all over the expensive satin sheets.

“If I want to know who Jesus is, I guess I need to read the Bible.” Estelle doesn’t own a Bible but quickly finds one online. Not knowing where to start, she decides to begin in Matthew, the book from which they’d read that morning. Estelle reads all of the Gospels and is transfixed by the person of Jesus described in those pages. “Such an ancient story that touches my heart in a way I don’t understand.” Estelle whispers to herself but also, to God. “He suffered so much but He stayed true to You and You were always there for Him. What a wonderful relationship. God, I don’t know what I have to do exactly. I don’t really understand but I want that relationship. I want You to be my Father too. I am all alone and I need You!”

Estelle closes her lap-top, pushes it to the other side of the bed, then sinks down off the pillows, and drifts off to sleep. Before long, she is wandering from room to room in her house-dream. She is a little girl to whom the house of her childhood though small, appears very large. The house is cold, empty, and Estelle lost, meanders circling from one silent room to the other, calling for first her mother and then her dad. There is no answer. The house is filled by an arctic wind and then goes black. Little Estelle shivers in the dark fearing she’ll also, disappear in the void; when suddenly, a bright light appears!

To be continued.

For previous posts in this series go to https://joyindestructible.com/the-recluse-series/ where posts are listed in ascending order.

Married to Pain

There are moments during a rare warm Siesta Moon,

When the pain ebbs and my body sings a softer tune.

Sighs of relief! Pain gone brightens usual Agony Moon,

My cruel lover who won’t let go sings besetting croon,

Beastly howling like a lost coyote during a Dusty Moon!

Our relationship began by accident, a trap by the goon!

I married pain in the greenish light of a Ghoulish Moon…

Day, years, decades pass as I take medicine in a spoon.

Divorcing pain I will joyfully dance under a Fiesta Moon!

The Recluse (Part VIIII)

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.