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Sally Duback and Christina Brockett

Duback R

Sally Duback
Totem 15

Oil and monotype on handmade paper,  30″x72″
Created using Christina Brockett’s story (below) as inspiration

Orange
By Christina Brockett

Driving along the road towards home, I look out across the rolling corn fields waiting for the fall harvest.  A little further, we pass a large patch of land where vines twist and turn, shadowed by pumpkins waiting to be picked by eager children.  Between the mountains, the smoldering sun is setting.  The sky is a mixture of molten orange, highlighted by wisps of blue and pink.  Looking in my rearview mirror towards their faces, I ask the ever recurring question, “So, what type of cookies are they baking today?”

The responses are as varied as they are, “Gingerbread, Mom,” replies my son.  “Choca Chip, Mom Mom,” quips my daughter.  My son’s friend looks to each of us as if we have completely lost our minds, to which my son enlightens him, “This time of day is very special.  It’s when the angels bake cookies.  That’s why the sky lights up all orange and pink; it’s the glow from God’s oven.”

Grinning, I can see how proud he is to share his knowledge and “educate” his friend, completely oblivious to the fact that he himself has never seen a “glowing oven.”  A broad smile overcomes my face and warmth envelops me as I am transported to the first time I heard this tale from my Grandmother and suddenly I envision my kids grown, saying these same words to their own children.

Arriving back home I let the kids run and play amidst nature’s confetti laying in the back yard, a clear sign that the smothering heat of summer has finally faded. Inhaling the cool musky air, I watch as they trample over the red, orange and yellow leaves that dot the ground.  I bring a cup of hot cider up to my mouth and pause, absorbing its steam which is filled with hints of cinnamon and citrus.  Sipping it, I look out to the break between the trees and take in the last rays of the sun.  Now everything is soaked in a pinkish orange hue. This is one of my favorite times of day. It is a time of transition and reflection of the day that has past.   Most days these transitional moments are lost in the noise of daily life.

“Hey Mom, look what we found!”

Turning, I put down my cup and cradle his small, cold red hands in mine and survey the bounty of color before me.  I help him over to the table where he lets the leaves fall.  The next thing I know my son’s friend and my daughter arrive complete with their own bundles, which they promptly add to the collection.  Surrounding the table, all of us sort and sift through leaves trying to make things with them. First a few shapes, next letters, and then I watch as my happy brood order the leaves by red, orange and yellow.

“Why do you have the leaves like that?” I ask, curiously.  Always the authoritarian, the older of my children replies, “Because it just makes sense, Mom.” As if I clearly did not know anything, he adds, “Red is bright and strong; yellow, bright and sunny; and orange… well orange is just in-between.”

The irony is that he doesn’t know how accurate he really is. Orange is a color of change; the color of transition.  It is warm, but not “red hot.” It is strong, but not overwhelming. Even as a fruit it shows its balance of being tart and acidic but at the same time sweet.  Much like metal rusts and transforms into burnt orange sand, as it evolves from one state of existence to another, I think that I too am in a state of transition. I am no longer bound to the previously imposed restrictions of my youth as to what I was to become, but rather on a path as to who I really am.   With that thought, I gather a handful of leaves.  Before I toss them towards the heavens, I command to my expectant audience, “Grab a leaf with a color most like you!” With one swift movement, I release the leaves up into the air above us.  Amidst rosy cheeks and giggles, the leaves rain down upon us and I reach out and grasp a singular orange leaf.

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Duback I

Sally Duback
Totem

Oil and monotype on handmade paper,  34″x72″
Inspiration piece provided to Christina Brockett

Pie de Grue
By Christina Brockett

Cora sat in the well worn Adirondack chair on the front lawn looking out to green grass poking up through the shallows of Bogue Sound.  Sitting in her black pants, mock turtleneck and ballet flats she looked as if she was ready for the streets of her Manhattan, rather than the back waters of North Carolina.

She sat there in silence except for the sound of reeds rustling with the breeze. Cora closed her eyes and inhaled the earthen scent of mud and vegetation. Then a noise sounding like a bugle mixed with a quack of a duck and the honk of a goose splintered her peaceful repose. Startled, Cora sat upright, her body tense as she searched for the source of the haunting sound.  And then she saw it.  A large mass of white pushed off from within a patch of the yellow-green grasses as its massive wings pulled it up towards the clouds above.  Leaning back, she watched as this graceful bird circled overhead.

“If I was superstitious, I’d think that someone was goin’ to die soon.”

“What on earth are you talking about Nana?”

“Well, Love you see… If a whoopin’ crane circles a house three times, it’s an omen that someone will die soon.”

Dutifully Cora rolled her eyes. “Nana, that’s absolutely ridiculous and you know it.”

Sliding into the matching Adirondack chair next to Cora’s, Nana responded, “It’s all a matta of perspective Love. A matta of perspective.”

Cora Lynn Earhart gazed at her grandmother.  It was hard to believe that she was eighty.  Hazel May Earhart sat there with her long legs outstretched in her perfectly pressed pencil thin pants, starched white shirt and trademark lime green Keds.  Studying her face, Cora was once again astounded by her Nana’s features. Her platinum hair, long nose and clear eyes still bore a classic beauty barely marred with age. Born the same day and year as Grace Kelly, Hazel was often mistaken for the Hollywood beauty. Some might have become absorbed by that, but Hazel just gently thanked people and moved on.

“Now why don’t we get to the real reason you’re heah.”

Cora could never hide anything from her Nana, not even the first day when she came to live with her nearly 25 years ago. Carolyn Earhart, Cora’s mother, found her teenage daughter inconvenient as she pursued husband number three.  So, when Fred “Pappy” Earhart died suddenly, Carolyn left Cora with her mother, conveniently reasoning that Nana needed something to “focus” on during her period of mourning. Cora lived through her teenage years with her grandmother, seeing her mother here and there when Carolyn graced them both with her presence before leaving again for some exotic destination or spa.  Cora finally left North Carolina when she went to NYU, finding comfort in the anonymity that New York offered. It offered her an escape from the reality that her mother had not wanted her. It was also why she chose to stay in New York after school ended, save for a few obligatory holiday visits home to North Carolina.

“Nana, I just don’t know why it happened.” Looking down, tears welled up in Cora’s eyes, her cheeks heated and pink.  “He just left. Just like that. We were, ‘done’.” The tears began to stream down her face.”I mean, I waited all these years to get married. I’m thirty-eight years old. Now what am I going to do?”

Reaching over, Nana brushed the wisp of brown hair out of Cora’s face and caressed her cheek with her long fingers.

“Love. Ya know that the good Lord works in mysterious ways. When Freddy died, I didn’t understand why he had to be taken away from me so young. We had so much planned… But then he was gone. Believe me, I cried. I cried with all my heart. And then… then you appeared. I may have not done so well with your mamma, but the Lord, he gave me anotha chance with you, dontcha see? The Lord, he works in strange ways. Frankly Love, I don’t think Patrick even knew the real you.”

Patrick. She said his name. Tall with black curly hair and green eyes, they had made the perfect couple, or so everyone thought. An investment banker with Merrill Lynch, he lost his job and somehow this had been a catalyst for him to completely turn his world, and hers, upside down. Now he was putting everything in storage to travel and “find himself.” They sat there for a few more minutes as Nana gently rubbed Cora’s back. Slowly the shade of evening and light of the rising moon began to descend upon them.

“Come on Love, let’s have a propa cocktail before supper.” Nana grabbed Cora’s hand and glided back across the lawn to the warmly lit house.

That was a week ago.  It was hard to believe how much had happened in that short week.  The day after she arrived, Cora found her Nana collapsed in her beloved garden. Cora had returned from a run on the beach and discovered her limp body.   She called 911 and the paramedics arrived, but it was clear after they approached the body that they were no longer in a hurry.  “I’m so sorry for your loss ma’am.” Was the phrase that Cora kept hearing over and over again.

Robotically, Cora called her mother Carolyn. “Mamma, Nana is dead.”

“Darlin’, I’m afraid I can’t hear ya so well. I’m in St. Vincent’s deah. Can’t this wait?”

“No Mamma. Nana is dead. Don’t you understand? I said, YOUR MOTHER IS DEAD!”

The response that Cora received was as expected. “Oh deah, I will send some flowas ya’ hear? You can handle this, can’t ya little lamb?” Of course she could, as she always had. Cora didn’t know why she had even bothered to call her mother.  Carolyn Earhart had long ago morphed into a new individual. One who, except for her slow southern draw, had no recollection as to who she was or where she came from.  It was as if Carolyn had never been a daughter, never a mother, never anything but who she was now, which was a self obsessed, Botoxed and silicone filled woman.

The next few days passed with dizzying speed. Cora didn’t even know what day it was when she found herself sitting in that same Adirondack chair.  Turning towards the empty chair beside her, she placed her hand on it. Briefly she closed her eyes and imagined it warm again as if Nana had just gone into the kitchen.  The cool roughness of the wood brought her back to reality; to how drained she felt and the fact that her Nana was gone forever.  In a span of two weeks, her fiancé left her and Nana, her precious Nana, the only mother she ever had known had left her as well. Cora felt displaced. New York held nothing for her anymore. The apartment she had shared with Patrick on the Upper East Side held too many memories, and the only real home she had ever known now felt empty.  Settling deeper into the chair, Cora covered herself with Nana’s pink silk wrap which still smelled of her grandmother’s trademark Shalimar.

Looking out along the horizon, Cora spotted movement amidst the grasses.   The setting sun gave the sky its coral color as she watched the deliberate movement of the graceful bird.  The crane’s head rhythmically bobbed into the Sound as it stepped through the shallows, searching for just the right morsel. Cora too was searching, searching for an answer as to why her life had turned out as it had, and the clarity she needed to decide what to do next.

Then, without warning, the whooping crane made its haunting squawk and lifted off. As it soared, Cora felt that she was watching her Nana climb towards the heavens.  It was as if with each smooth movement of the crane’s wings another piece of Nana was released to the golden abyss above- first the mother she once was, was liberated, then the wife, and then the grandmother she had been, until piece by piece the bird had flown almost entirely out of sight.  Not willing to let her completely go, Cora felt the need to follow it. She slipped off her ballet flats and walked into the black muck so that it squeezed up between her toes, soft and warm like it had that first sad summer of her thirteenth year.  She stood, with Nana’s pink wrap tightly around her shoulders, so that all she smelled was Shalimar mixed with the rotting musk of the marsh. Cora waited there, with the water lapping against her legs until she began to feel a peace and a sense of belonging rise up within her.  With the last bit of daylight sneaking away, Cora realized that maybe; just maybe she was right where she was supposed to be.

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