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!
Play for me! Strum on silvery strings!
Old golden hymns of ancient Truth…
Soul calming song, fly on Dove wings!
Remind me of all eternity’s worth!
Tell me of the miracle only Love brings!
Spirit’s joy, lifted by Heaven’s mirth!
Saintly song across the ages still rings…
Encircling all of history’s wide girth!
Jesus the Name a saint eternally sings…
Calling the lost home to a new birth!
Soft and low Jesus is calling; faith swings,
Life Door opens! Church of one Faith…
Ancient cloud of witness with us sings!
Healing words approving His Truth;
Faith transcends, Jesus in all age’s rings!
So strum and sing of Messiah’s birth!
Rock of Ages to you believer still clings…
Glory come down! A Pearl of worth!
Revive us again! Hope in praise springs!
Light the dark! Simple songs of Truth!
The budding artist that never quite blossomed into fame is that eccentric old woman. I am her and she is me and the hardest part about being her is accepting her. Once active hands and mind used to create things of beauty now, often lie in rest or are consumed with self-care. However, that eternal flame that inspires still burns inside and sometimes blazes as these old hands tremble and rise once more to make something new, young, and beautiful. Old dreams awake in a turbulent rush of ideas clamoring for expression. Who knows how long this will last and can my more feeble faculties endure to give them birth? How long before the heavy blanket of age and failing health seeks again to smother that inner flame? I wonder is it fame and worldly acceptance that has the power to relabel an eccentric an artist? Or is it I who holds that power in simply expressing what I know deep inside, by that bright inner light, to be eternally true about my identity and purpose?
Yes, I am old and eccentric. I am a winter artist.
When the cotton flies on a summer day worries melt in the magic of rose bouquets presented by the Walking Stick Cactus. In the heat of sun and full life, time, age, and winter don’t matter. Swirling white cotton floating on the warm wind lifts my fanciful thoughts to go dancing in a summer-time blizzard. Feathery white stuff tickles my nose bringing me home to reality with a sneeze! This is June in the Bosque’ where the Cotton Wood is a benevolent King offering life with protection to every heat-stressed, desert creature beneath the cooling power of its shimmering leaves. Shelter for the deer and other four-footed animals is also, found among the Russian Olives, Salt Cedar, and other river-loving shrubs. The ancestral homes of many birds adorn the branches of the Cotton Wood and the lesser tree kinds of this deciduous, desert forest. During this yearly, ‘Summer Ballet of the Cotton’ all is well and at peace.
Suddenly, the cotton’s spell is broken by the sharp screech of a Magpie swooping low! He brings many of his beautiful black and white brethren with him but their dazzle is quickly forgotten in the cacophony of obnoxious sound made by these thugs bent on obtaining dominion of the Bosque’. Nothing in the trees or on the ground is spared as they swoop high and low in tacky pursuit of any creature that moves. The soothing tones of the song birds stop. A few brave parents stay in a valiant effort to protect their nests along with their young but every other bird flees. The land creatures hide beneath bushes and dive into their boroughs. An empty silence replaces the happy sounds of contentment but still the cotton drifting-twirls and the Cotton Woods are undaunted. They stand in silence offering their comforting green branches even to the likes of the Magpie who soon grow bored without the contention that defines them. In the empty, dead silence they’ve created, they begin to eye one another and soon the forest is filled with the sounds of civil war. Swooping, diving, and curling into a moving ball the great battle ensues breaking all from their assigned ranks as camaraderie is forgotten in the pursuit of personal power. Soon, the weakest among these invaders dart away and others follow until the warring mob shrinks to only two. This pair builds a nest and settles in as the other bird’s now wary, return to reclaim their home. Having revealed their true selves to all and being outnumbered, the new-comer Magpies fall silent, craftily subdue their contentious nature, and busy themselves with raising their young.
The Cotton Wood leaves quiver and quake offering their moisture to cool the hot, dry air; by wisdom blessing the righteous and the wicked alike thereby, maintaining balance in the Bosque’.
Vapors rise to form clouds and dreams.
Most take flight to drift on a pleasant breeze,
Then dissipate unremembered.
The few give of themselves to the nurturing of green hills;
Causing flowers to bloom in bursting color!
While others grow, gather, rumble, and flash!
Turning day to night under fear’s shadow;
Destructive damaging force!
Genesis in primordial mist of human imagination…
The world we created first in our dreams,
Then swept away in the flood of our iniquity!
I surrender these misty dreams of mine to Holy Spirit sway!
I prepare for that Day when a world created from toxic fumes
Is burned and only Holiness remains.
“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/
Welcome to the menagerie of my mind!
Collection I have traversed time to find!
Untamed creatures a one of every kind!
Circus of dreams ideas in passion I bind!
My wild imagination I sent to be refined;
High Def exaggeration in story entwined;
Dash o’ rose hint o’ lime polished shined!
This, my life’s work which daily I do grind.
Compulsion obsession madness confined?
From my depth of soul divinity I’ve mined!
My search for guidance only faith defined;
A purpose to purify menagerie of my mind.
The weaving of chartreuse and lavender is a matter of opinion,
A controversy over the many shades of spring!
Summer moods are translated through subtle hues of vermillion,
Passion’s peak of heat that red-oranges bring!
Autumn sets color free speech in primary hues of truth dominion,
Enter souls by eye-gate beauty inspire to sing!
Color falls to grey as white blanket drapes over every color minion,
Winter wipes slate clean in an icy-dazzle-bling!
“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.
What if I have written it all away?
All those important things I had to say,
And my creative mind fades in aging?
Should this old woman sit silent?
Observing only, as life’s passions relent?
And ambitions fray beyond assuaging?
Is this the day I’ve become irrelevant?
A life of experience now, an impediment?
As youths fires of souls in mind raging!
Old marries alone; aging artist is eccentric.
Cutting edge technique, an olden-day trick!
Museum dust, archived tomes arranging.
Inside this graying head ideas still burn!
Refined, honed, tested, polished; Taciturn,
Waiting for perfect moment, right paging.
Old woman’s color fades into the background…
Expert hand trembles to write words profound.
Perfect gems require no salacious packaging.
Does age purify the art of the creative?
Or does it stagnate, cease; become vegetative?
Like me, is my art from life now, disengaging?