Saturday, May 16, 2009

A Lesson in Grace and Beauty

My daughter and her classmates, a merry band of 12, competed in the Pentathalon Games yesterday. They tested their will, their strength and their form against the standards of excellence set forth in Ancient Greece. The dawning days of man reflecting the heavens by recognizing that what lies with the gods, strength, speed, endurance and truth, beauty and grace, lives in us too. They spent a glorious day moving with their City States - Athens, Sparta, Delphi among them - showcasing their powers in six events.

Claire's team drew discus as their first event. Her best, she knew, and everyone said. Her form flawless when she could get out of her head. Coach, who earns his title in every best sense of this word, stood by her and helped her stay light and loose as the tension of waiting grew. 

Her performance was transcendent. Fluid and strong. The disk floating between her fingertips as if made of light, rather than 500 grams of dense rubber, today's answer to lead. You could see it on her face. She'd never done better. She was filled with all that is possible, ever was and could be. A moment inscribed forever on her eleventh year heart.

This day is truly something you should see. Every single child, a god and goddess, focused, determined, playful and one. 100 fractals of perfection sprinkled like wildflowers across a grassy field. At the end of the day, crowns are awarded, golden mantles woven from branches of willow trees. Two each per team for every event. The first for Strength and Truth, the second for Grace and Beauty. Four of the classmates won crowns for discus, each one of them deserving for their amazing performances. I would not have wanted to be a judge forced to rate and choose. Claire was not among them.

When the last crown was placed on these god-children's heads, every one of her classmates had one, every one but Claire. Let me say this again. Every single child in her class, together since kindergarten, as close as siblings, had a crown but her. An unprecedented event. I held my breath and ached inside as I watched her struggle with jealousy, sadness, rage and despair. For awhile it engulfed her, swallowed her up. Threatened to overtake all that was good about this monumental day, dull her brightness for a good long while. But she fought. And her friends stood with her, wouldn't let her drown.

This photograph is taken less than an hour after the last crown was bestowed on a silky head. I think you know which one she is. Her strength and truth, grace and beauty winning out over darkness. What more could one ask?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Writing Madeline Part 4

There is a disturbing tension, redrawing a life. I set out innocently to write my way into the unknown terrain of my great aunt Madeline. With a curiosity that had become an insistent invitation, bubbling up at a moment in time when I was more than interested to see if I could, I took up this endeavor to Write Madeline. From a few photographs, a poem, a bit of family lore plus some need in me I sit in the soup of knowing I am taking great creative license with a very real life. The question comes up, would I want this done to me?

If all history is revisionist, which it can't help but be, given the nature of how we think and the tenuousness of memory, then what is the harm? Doesn't it help to draw from the past? To make sense of it, let it speak to you, tutor you across time about who you could be? Another question comes up. Is it fear or love, that drives my desire to take thousands of photographs, and write and make art? To be, or to not be forgotten. 

I think it's good to do, documenting my life I mean. But maybe not too much. I think I would like to leave for my great grandsomeone the thrill and hard labor of mucking around in the mystery.  

Friday, May 1, 2009

Writing Madeline Part 3

Margaret showed up to join the telling of the women in her family. Madeline's older sister who died in her parents arms at the age of three. This is what she said to me:

I fill in spaces.
Some light and some dark, the faces of being.
Angel and spook, evil and good.

Maybe it is jarring to you,
"not right at all" you say,
to think of a dead little girl as evil.
Like being possessed.
It's not really that way.

How do I explain.
It is the place in between where I exist.
For Mummy and Daddy on their darkest day,
I fill in the great chasm
to the sunshine that feels to them
so awfully far away.

My presence holds sway.
Whispers them nearer,
'til they can see the light again,
and leap toward it's warmth.

If they pause in between,
keep very still
I am present with them, one being.
Pure love.

Time stops and we are together again.