Monday, September 22, 2014


I just went for my first session of physical therapy.  I was told by many to be prepared because therapy hurts.  It did not.  She massaged my hand and it actually felt good, and later, with her many exercises, gave me a sense that my hand, eventually, would be able to do again what artists do.  Like all of us do.  Use our hands for so many things.  The incredible power of hands: the tools of our brain. The pain came later as I tried some of her "homework" but pain was something I had come to accept as a way of life since the accident.

It happened so quickly, close to home, as I sat next to my husband who was driving my car.  The next thing I knew, was coming to the reality of many cars, ambulances, police and a medic asking me how I felt ... I was absently looking in front of me and seeing double and trying to figure out what had happened. 
I came fast to the realization that we had crashed. A bad crash. My car was totaled. I felt numb. Pain came later as the shock wore out.

When released from the hospital after a few days of examinations, x-rays, CT scans, and the soothing presence of my daughter and a friend as I drifted in and out of sleep, I realized my total dependency and total vulnerability.  I was frightened to look at myself in the mirror.  My whole body was covered with black and blue marks, the right side of my face was scratched, lacerated and bruised; I had a concussion, my right hand was in a cast and my left thumb in a splint. Later my right thumb was operated on.  Despite having injured his back and hands, my husband was doing everything. He cooked, fed me, did the dishes, gave me a shower, drove me to the doctor, took care of the lawn and garden, watered plants, was busy most hours of the day despite having to go himself for physical therapy for his back.  I felt useless, devastated.  I had always been independent and my sudden utter state of absolute dependency drove me to a state of great sadness.

I went to doctors, and stayed home and read. Books accumulated.  They took me to places and events where my mind wandered and roamed.  I wanted to be cocooned, protected, safe. I stayed home. Friends and family came, sent cards, gifts, cooked for me, told me that being so limited in my movements  gave me a break, that it was normal that my husband took care of me, that I would do the same if I was in his place. None of it registered. I had a great sense that the accident with its immense shock kicked a part of me somewhere and It got lost.

But as people came to visit they told me about what had happened also to them.  I began to realize that most of us carry our own wounds.  A neighbor showed me her hands where she was missing two parts of her fingers. I had never noticed! Yet she did everything with her hands. She became emblematic for all the human beings who talked to me relating their accidents or their losses or hurts.  I was humbled listening to all of their  heart wrenching stories. The chaos in their lives. Being wounded triggered others to tell me how they had overcome their own pains or how they were still in the grip of so much sorrow.

We humans are fragile and are creatures that live with darkness and light, pain and joy.  A life is a trajectory of many great events and others that torture our soul.  It is hard to be human and avoid such a pattern.  I came to think that a state of utter vulnerability and pain opens the door for others to share the terrible obstacles that they had to face.  In many ways it connects us.  It creates the link where we share of our humanness and fragility.

Perhaps the greatest joy is this immense compassion that awakes sometimes in our heart and helps to bring the understanding that each of us has been through some ordeal and becomes a better being--so we hope.

Now after three months my body and hands are healing.  It will be awhile before I can grab my tools and crayons or brushes and feel totally me.  But I am on my way and much is added to my feeling of humanity and community and while the pain is still with me, I can see the light ahead.

Copyright Micheline Brierre 2014

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A Bird's Eye View

When I was a little girl with long braids and skinny legs (seems a long time ago!), I had a french girl friend who was called Sylvie.   She lived in a large house on a corner street.  It seemed huge to me then and maybe it was.  Many balconies, large terraces and a grand attic, hot as could be under the Caribbean sun and full of what we imagined attics can hide.  Old gowns with faded fraying fabrics, antique furniture, books and ancient porcelain dolls.  We climbed there through a dark, airless passageway both suffocating and tantalizing.  We held our breath until we burst through the door of the attic and could breathe again.  Revived, we could explore.

But downstairs the place was actually a guest house with mostly french people and Sylvie's aunt who was an artist and quite lovely.  She was an ex-beauty queen and looked it.  The whole place was a receptor of my dreams and imagination.  I had huge powers then along with my friend.  We sometimes took a look of offense and told Sylvie's little cousin "we will turn you into a frog." Young enough to believe us, she would cast on us a look of horror and disappear from our sight. We were the fairies and believed in this temporary incarnation.

Often we climbed up a very large old Banyan tree between old branches, leaves and green lizards and high, unseen to the passers by; we watched.  People strolled by, people talked and behaved as most humans do on the ground.  We observed and laughed sometimes but mostly looked.

This gave me a bird's eye view over the behavior of other humans.  The detachment of being above them and watching.  I find that this habit is sometimes most necessary if I want to detach myself from the mundane and see a situation with new eyes and spirit.  The ability to rise above and see things for what they are and not as they seem when we are involved with them.  Often as I sit with a group of people I imagine myself flying above and listening with the detachment of an observer looking at the scene under me.

It is not always easy.  Sometimes I am too involved to do this.  But as I get ready to go to sleep, quietly laying down on my bed, I replay the situation in my head and realize that I am creating the distance necessary to see what was hidden to me by my own emotions.

I imagine myself in the tree again up high and seeing what was needed to be revealed. In a way growing older is like flying above and having a long and amazing perspective over our life.  The way we acted, the way we did things then, the way we did not like something, the way we created, the way we loved and the way we used our imagination.  Mistakes we made, also things we learned.  Life becomes an evaluation as the years accumulate.  We, at this point, not surprisingly, reach and do our best.  Often not always.  So many artist and musicians reached their peak when older and their mastery over a medium only echoes the spiritual attainments of their soul.

So flying is not only for the birds.  We can fly in our mind and look down, or look over life and turn on the beautiful capacity to evaluate and discover. Our older years are sometimes our better years having learned so much from how we have lived.  It is true that they often come with aches and disease, but also how much we have learned and how well we can still perform in our fields!!

Copyright Micheline Brierre April 2014


Sunday, February 16, 2014


It has been a long void between the written words and me.  I have been in a period of absorbing what life throws our way.  Life and death, early morning light, winter and snow, silence and memories, ideas and a new key word for the year: expand.

Now I find myself every day working in my studio; the silence and peace a constant companion as I listen to the gemstones and beads and follow the organic shapes and lines that flow through my mind.  I absorb the days and the books I read at night.  Objects around the house remind me of stages of my life of a time when my youth thrived and now brings a smile to my lips.  Remembering!  It is not always easy but our memories are one way to trace the trajectory of our lives.

I look over by my window and I see my blue bottle collection.  Cobalt blue glass in diverse forms that filter the morning light and cast a soft glow over the plants nearby.  When I lived in Peru I remember going to a woman's studio.  She made glass in her furnace and all over her shelves were the vessels reminding me with their color of late afternoon ocean from my Caribbean island.  I was bitten by an urgent need.  A need to have some of them on my own window sill.  They have followed me from country to country and now on that South facing opening they are gloriously again speechlessly speaking to my soul like filters of the light.

In my living room there is a clay woman with huge buttocks and a long strand of large beads hanging from a hook in the ceiling. She comes from Santa Fe. Magical city.  Strolling around with my daughter I saw two of those clay figures identical and proud framing the entrance of a store around the main Plaza. I loved them.  Squat and solid they evoked to me the strength of womanhood.  We took a trip to the flea market which is filled, as all who have visited would testify, with artistic creations from so many artists and where fleas have no place.

I suddenly ran into the little woman in clay. The artist was there selling them.  I asked him why they had such big buttocks and he smiled: because they have a long way to swim to the ocean.  That was enough to convince me to get one. Now it brings the spirit of a town that I loved, where I stayed a month in the joint quest of my husband and I to find a new place to live out West.  It proved to be way too expensive to buy a house in Santa Fe and we moved here to Colorado.

When I first came here to stay, I loved all the variety of leaves that seemed foreign to me.  I collected them, dried them in my studio and they covered a huge area of tables and shelves.  To me they evoked the appeal of old forests I have seen here and their secrets and inhabitants.  They made me dream and wonder about the past they enclosed and the stories they held.  One day, I painted this watercolor and kept it for me. A memory of my move here because my husband was in love with Colorado where I had never been and the west was calling us.

Copyright 1996 Micheline Brierre

Hands have been a constant in my life.  Hands speak to me.  Everybody's hands. Our hands do menial work or meaningful tasks like a fine surgeon working on a heart.  I just think of the absolute necessity of hands to express so much of what we mean or want to convey or express.  Hands are a vital appendage ready for an artist to pick a brush, a pencil, a needle to bead as I do, to type, to cook, to hold tools to fabricate or to extend in greeting, or to join in respect as so many Asian cultures do.  Our hands are one main form of expression and say without words what we have on our mind.

I have a small collection of hands.  The most colorful one is a collage of many pieces of ceramic that I bought in a Kansas Art Show from a lady.  It symbolizes my life long love for hands.

In fact so many of the objects in this house have a history.  They seem inanimate but hold a whole part of life and its stories.  I would love to take a quick tour of your home and stare at the objects and listen to their stories that make you laugh or cry in remembrance, or smile contented with what life has taken you through.

Copyright 2014 Micheline Brierre

Monday, October 28, 2013


This summer we had been sitting outside on the terrace of a restaurant basking in an early morning sun and chatting about our work, some of our challenges and life in general.  We were all artists.  Career professionals.  One of us mentioned how she missed her tribe.  She used to have a studio in a building with many other artists and now her new studio was much bigger and certainly more beautiful.  This new space was isolated from the other like-minded people that she used to interact with in the old location.

Missing her tribe.  It impressed me as something quite meaningful. What is this contingent of people we call our tribe?  Who has their name branded in my mind as members of my tribe?

When I was a teenager I felt quite isolated and alienated from a lot of people my age. My few friends were older and I had a friendship with their parents as well.  I was bookish and stuck in my inner circle of happenings.  My life was spent on a section of our roof turning pages, dreaming, thinking. There I was isolated and brewing what I would later write and create and show at the galleries of the time.   One of my friends called me "The lonely light of Debussy."   I lived in Debussy; a neighborhood courting the mountains in Haiti.  My tribe was very small but it was mine and important.  It help define who I was.

As I grew, it grew with me and then I left my whole tribe to go live with my artist cousin in Puerto Rico.  And living there and moving became a trend.  Find a tribe in a country, like it a lot, move to another country, grieve and create another tribe.  Living here in America gave me a sense of stability.  But I still wonder about all the people whom I love but that are away and yet still a part of me. They are like a magical part of my previous reality and at times with a quick e-mail or a phone call, they fill my heart with joy and drown me in memories.

I have finally accepted that the tribe is composed of different people in different places even different countries and what links us all is the warm, unseen feelings we have for each other.  They are a tribe because I like or love them all. Even though some people had come to challenge me and are now better forgotten. Yet they are alive in my mind and brighten my soul with a few words whether written or told.

My family is only a part of it. They are the tribe I was born into but never had to choose. They include a big sense of shared memories of a life lived close to one another and the common bond of having been raised in the same context and knowing the same crowds and loving or disliking what they had to give. There are some members we do not see as our tribe.  They seem like aliens and difficult.  So unlike us. Even when attached to us by some blood bonds.  I guess they are best becoming a part of someone elses tribe but their skeletons remain a part of our path.

I also have a family of friends that mean so much and are chosen to be my companions along the way.  They did not come into my life with my birth or theirs as is in a family.  They were chosen because we shared a common ground, an affinity, a natural connection, maybe a specialty and met by circumstances that created our closeness.  Sometimes they come and go sometimes they stay as beloved sentinels.  They keep our soul intact.

But between all of those people, we have our inner tribe.  The ones so very close to us that understand us truly and seem to touch us with simple words or simply a look.  The ones that give solace and inspiration, the ones that seem to create a road that we follow and always lead us to joy or inspiration.

So how is your tribe?  Do you have different ones and collected a few along the way? And where do you stand with them all?  How do you feel about living with the inevitability of a tribe?

Life in its complexity provides us at different times with different connections. The people that like us have a similar goal, a like or dislike or a simple affinity and path that bind us to them. Sometimes we also run away from people in our tribe and that is our choice.  That makes them an elemental and fulfilling part of our growth, our aspirations and of course our tribe here on earth.

Copyright 2013 Micheline Brierre 

Friday, August 9, 2013

My Home

In Colorado Springs it has been hot and dry this spring and summer.  The grass in the city was brown and the sun was like a relentless furnace on our heads. Many trees have not come back to life from winter and their dry silhouettes are like dead ghosts all over town.  Now the landscape has greened with the rains of July and August and wild sunflowers pop their radiant heads everywhere.

When the Black Forest fire hit, I was returning to town with my husband and the huge column of smoke towered over us and could be seen from far away; I approached the town with apprehension wondering where it was.  Smoke was everywhere and as we got closer we knew that a fire had erupted nearby.

The next day, it was all over the news.  It even made national news and emails began pouring in from concerned friends and family. The result of all this after a week of evacuation, pre-evacuation, and a huge amount of bravery from all the firefighters and care from all the city officials and the army, was five hundred and nine home burned and many more partially touched by the fires.  I was just floored.  I think that the fires have left a profound mark on the collective psyche of the town.

My heart went to all the people that lost it all.  Lost their home and were homeless in shelters, with family or with friends. Worst of all, the family that watched their home burned on TV.

It was a painful reminder of last year with the Waldo Canyon fires that devastated the mountains and hills, came to town and burned more than three hundred homes. I felt vulnerable and helpless.

It prompted me to think about the meaning of a home.  What is it to lose it and what is it to see it go along with the flames of the forest around it?  It never happened to me so I can only guess and imagine what it would be like to see it all go to ash.

My home now of 20 years is like an oasis where I can breathe happily and that over time I have filled with so many memories.  I have the silver goblet that my grandmother used everyday when brushing her teeth and old black and white portraits of my grand uncle who was a poet and so very good looking.  Old french books published in limited editions in the island with the verses of talented poets of my family who felt every word and put them on paper for us to assimilate and inspire us.

My mother and father's photo is still in my studio looking at me from their grave. So are my old friends and my much loved mother-in-law.  My studio is full of old writings of mine sleeping between the sheets of paper.  Lots of jewelry supplies and art supplies fill my shelves and closets.  Then there are the photos of all the grandchildren and my son and daughter and my great daughter-in-law. And of course books.  Filling shelves, cabinets, guest room and even the garage and storage room.  I read a lot.

On my walls are so many art works of mine and of artist friends here and from other countries where I lived, and many artful objects that I collected over the years.  The greenery... I have twenty one house plants that grow and bloom under my care.  Plus, I will not list all the dear objects that fill me with delight.  My house is the center of my life, the place where I have my studio and where I dream each night and share my hopes and desires with my husband.

Should all of that burn I would be devastated.  I had lost a great part of my home to Hurricane Andrew in Miami and lost many precious books and art work and art supply that looked as if they had been put in a huge blender . 

I imagine what would it be to lose my home completely. To see everything turned to ash.  Maybe if I walked out with my husband, untouched, I would feel so very thankful; but the loss of what is so dear to both of us would be a unique, powerful and painful experience that opens my heart to all the ones who are now homeless and with them, I grieve.  

Monday, March 18, 2013

A Life's End

She stopped breathing and ended, by so doing, a lifetime of goodness, integrity and generosity.  She was my husband's Mom but also my "love Mom" since only love linked us and she was to me another Mother after mine passed away.

I was very lucky having had two formidable women to serve the role of mothers, the later more of a dear friend since she did not have to raise me.  It was hard, was sad and was so final.  In a way, it was the farewell to the connection with such a dedicated generation that valued what we often forget; quiet and unspoken courage to go through life, illnesses and challenges as well as success. They made something really good and brave out of themselves and stood proud but not asking for any recognition.

We buried her on a cold, windy, gray and snowy day with a graveside ceremony.  The whole family sat in the front row under the tent fighting tears that got caught in our throat making it so hard to talk.  As her casket got lowered into the ground, Mirah, the four year old granddaughter of her daughter-in-law, walked to the grave holding her grandma's hand and dropped a card that she had made for Grandma Ruth onto the casket.  We all looked at such a miracle gesture only a four year old could do, so endearing, so meaningful and inspiring.  In a child's eyes death is not final.  The note was there to be read.  Most likely in spirit and in peace, Ruth read the final note with its colored crayons drawings and laughed.  Mirah always made her laugh!

Death has its gifts.  Being able to see so many people we had not seen in a long time and visiting with them, reviewing their memories about Ruth to add to the long store of images and words that we carry with us about her.  The rabbi at the graveside service said it so well.  "As long as you live her memories will stay with you."

So it is with all of us. The long lineage of the previous generations are stored in our heart and souls and since we cannot be born without dying, it is in a way a form of immortality.  One that is precious.

After a few days, her two sons and wives revisited the grave.  The sun shone on us but it was cold.  Steve, my husband's older brother had been generously taking complete care of Ruth's needs with his admirable wife Deana and both had done so incredibly much compared to us living here in Colorado limited by distance; only sending genuine love, making phone calls, writing notes, e-mailing and in my case, sending snail mail letters. Their grief was great but her illnesses had them prepared for her final departure. My husband was still very much in shock.

Steve read something he wrote inspired by the Lincoln museum they had visited the day before in Springfield IL and mentioned the importance of spending a lifetime reaching out and touching favorably other people. He said that not all people influence so many as Lincoln did.  But within our own circles we do. We hear it all the time.  Make a difference.  I believe that we touch many other beings that we either inspire or actually work with in life and often the difference it makes is not obvious to us, but it is present like a beacon of grace that gets passed on to others.

This chain is the never ending link that all humanity shares.  It perpetuates what humans recognize as our basic goodness and all the qualities that go with it. We are born, live and die but we live through others that come after us or around us and the beauty of it is infinite.

Steve and Mirah

Ruth and Barry

Copyright Micheline Brierre March 2013

Friday, March 1, 2013

Fragile Strength

We contain within us a duality that is not evidently apparent.  We are both very fragile and also very strong.

At times, only the fragility is apparent and at other times the strength is overwhelming.  Where do we stand with both?

A good friend of mine was leaving a shopping mall heading for her car when suddenly she was hit by a vehicle.  A very young woman of  only eighteen was late for her work at the mall and hit her in her hurry to get to work on time.
My friend had to be taken to the hospital and checked and she ended up with broken ribs and a broken ankle.  She could not go to her work and she was home-bound and full of pain and frustration.  She felt very vulnerable and fragile.  Yet her spirits kicked in making her inner strength emerge.  She was capable of healing her wounds that were a lot more than the obvious physical damage.

She is not alone.  The earth is loaded with great examples of human beings that were hurt in their fragility but found the strength and inner power to transcend their situation and go on.

I am now being surrounded with many friends who are experiencing a very hard time.  Some have cancer, disease of some sort and some have sprained ankles, some are sick spending time in a hospital.  Lots of pain.  I witness all of that and know that only their inner power carries them beyond the body ailments.  I do feel sad when my thought goes to them and it happens often.  I feel inside me the moments of immense fragility and realize that being in a body makes us destroyable or at least susceptible to all kind of disease and accidents.  The nature of being humans.  Our mind and emotions can also trigger a full moment of fragility and utter vulnerability.  This happens more often than we want to remember.

At the same time our spirit can carry us to great height over the disease, over the discomfort or over the strain in our minds.  We do have a brain that can think or be redirected and a great ability to transcend what our body experiences.  I know having been very ill myself.

So our days are dictated by our feelings. They oscillate between either the pole of strength or our pole of mere fragility.  States that can emerge at times or can stand apart while we stand in the middle.  We are beings of fragile strength and get to deploy both emotions at all times.

Copyright 2013 Micheline Brierre