Friday, April 30, 2010

The Connection

There is something special in waking up at dawn and looking at the dark but blue sky and watch it slowly become a lighter shade until  it envelops me with the incredible presence of the atmosphere so rare, so far, in our known universe.

Our dreams still cling to our skin and the stars are still a part of the night. The stillness is palpable while on the street below, people drive following some unknown calling. The light of their car is a streak of light in the dark. This is a magical part of my time.  The in-between hours when it is no longer night and not yet day.

I like to come to my favorite oak chair and listen to myself;
kind of set the energy for what is to come even if it is only to   write a bit on my computer or listen to the birds as they awaken with the timid sounds they make at dawn.

I imagine things; I see decorated elephants that are leading me on a trail and beckon me to images of dunes partly lit in the desert as they open a world of fantasy that I enter quietly and where my imagination gets lost.

Soon, the day will start and the phone will ring or my husband will awaken and I will find my voice like a bipedal being that I am. Talking.  I wonder sometimes if it is really necessary; if our thoughts transmute and travel to others and we do not need to voice what our minds entertains.  Sometimes my daughter calls me just as I am about to pick up the phone and call her.  Our connection is so tight and I find myself realizing that indeed we are united and we let our spirits touch.  So often my husband’s mind is exactly focused on my own and we voice at the same time the same circuitry of our thoughts.

But when I go to my studio, the light change inside of me.  I see things differently as I pick up my needle or my brush.  My sense of acuity is intense and I listen to the voice that resides in me and tells me what to do.  The inner voice…the intuition, the creative self.
I know that I am not alone.  Countless people wake up early and stare like me at our sky above and wonder.  Our atmosphere is so rare and fragile.

It is like being connected to a long army of watchers that are all waiting in silence for the day to begin.  A sacred ritual, like a long line of thread that is present and goes around each person enchanting them and freeing their soul.

So, early today, I am next to you in my thoughts.  We do not have to say any word.  But deep inside of us the magic begins somewhere between night and light … we connect.

Copyright 2010 Micheline Brierre

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Bright Instruments of Our Will

Since I was very young, people’s hands exerted an immense appeal on my imagination.  How many paintings have I done using my hands as models?  All the innumerable pen-and-ink drawings that I made of hands? I cannot count, but the number is great.  I incorporate little bronze hands in my jewelry and there are quite a few hands on the walls around my house: a collection from other artists who also revered hands.

It is not only a fascination but also an awareness of all the roles hands play in our lives.  Not only are they so very useful at the end of our arms, but they seem to symbolize the ability to create, to grab, to caress, to gesture, to feel, to touch, to heal and to manipulate.  The list is enormous.

As an artist, my hands are my main approach to life.  With my hands I paint, I draw, I make the necklaces that will grace someone’s neck, in a few words, I create.  All with my hands. I have seen some paintings made by artists who had no use of their hands and with a brush lodged perilously in their mouth, they paint.  Imagine…the huge effort, the pain, for what is so simple when we have our extremities.

I look at my hands weathered by years of living and now showing a few veins, skin a bit loose on the bones and yet, I am so thankful.  I get such an exuberant joy out of working with my hands.  A good deal of my soul is flowing from them to the piece I am doing.  And many people notice.  Sometimes I look at my fingers and they seem foreign to me, more like very competent tools, the infinite potential for a mute pleasure that seems to engulf me as I use them to render my moods.

Our hands play a momentous role in touching another’s skin, in running them around the curve of a lover’s back, in moving through a mop of hair.  Our hands ignite passion or tenderness, healing and discovery; our hands say our welcome and spell our goodbyes.  With our hands, we feel, and people move into our lives or are left aside and forgotten according to what the handshake tells us.

We give our hands in marriage; the blind touch our face to feel. I am thankful to live in America instead of being under a dictator who rules with an iron hand.   Of course, unfortunately, hands also do their share of hurt.  They can harass or terrorize, torture with utmost dexterity.  They can kill.  They destroy, they rob us of breath, of life, of our humanity;  but they also bury what had been alive and through a companion, shake us awake at times to witness the stars in the night or the rosy light of dawn as we face the new day.

With my hands, I can write on your walls the many words that unite us both.  Or draw my signature.   Or signal a common road where we will discover together.  Or clasp them in reverence like I learned to do in southeast Asia.

Lets us lay our hands in front of us now.  Let us look at them, let us give them thanks at last for being the expressive part of the body that we inhabit and which allow us do so much each day without too much effort … as if they were the bright instruments of our will.

Copyright 2010 Micheline Brierre

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Purr in the Dark

In the dark and silence of our nights, I would wake up and find two intense eyes right in front of mine, staring benevolently; once the shock was gone, I would listen to his purr and smile.  He would sit on my chest driven by some obscure interest and watch me sleep.  My dreams were alive in his eyes with the mysterious exchange of our two psyches merging in the middle of the night.

We named him Mimi, a short for Minet, the French nickname for cats.  Pretty generic but so natural to me and pleasant to the cat's ears. He came to me when he pleased with the wonderful independence of cats imbued with a sense of self that inspired me always to be only my own person.

Who gave them this complete sense of personal ease, of simple pleasure like finding the plushest cushion or the place in the morning sun to lick his fur and, pleased with the world, fall asleep, ears in tune with the wind?

Mimi thrilled me with his elegant form and the simple grace of his movements as he went about living like a regal self all over the house. I watched him move to the innumerable places he liked. I could not have chosen better. The higher ones were best.  He was  a red tabby, big, an orangey shade that I loved with the amber eyes that seemed to echo some of my most hidden dreams and whiskers forever moving, in tune with the days. 

My husband and I had to leave once and my niece found a
coworker to come and check on him.  As they reached the top of my entrance stairs, he told her "I though there was nobody here!"  Mimi's steps resonated on our cushioned floor like the ones of an intruder pacing the floor.  The man was astonished.  How could a cat make so much noise? Mimi was taking his morning walk, strolling the house.

We got him in Miami, Florida.  After moving here in Colorado, he looked at our decks covered in snow with total disbelief.  A medium he had never seen.  He went out reluctantly and once in the white stuff, he shook his legs, looking at the snow in dismay and shaking it off his paws until he got totally used to it.  Since then he would go out in the cold and white garden as if it was his territory of choice.

I let him free.  I watched him from the deck while he roamed the outdoors, smelled the flowers, got an occasional bird, chased butterflies, established his territory and reigned like a benevolent monarch upon his land.

He oftentimes would accompany me in the garden while I pulled a plant from its roots or collected weeds in my basket.  He was silent and gentle but his strength was never in doubt.

I refused to put him to sleep.  I thought he should die in his time, like humans do, with dignity and the knowledge that he lived well and that his life had come to an end.  He came one evening to my studio and purred in a diminished body then went outside the door and was no more.

I wrapped his body in one of my shawls and stayed with him until my husband returned.  It was dark and I loved him.

We buried him in the garden but at night, in my dreams, he comes to visit, silent with huge amber eyes watching me sleep.  I know he helps in healing my body, straddling me like he did years ago when I was sick while his purr would absorb all the pain.          

Sunday, April 11, 2010


They sneak up on us, take us totally by surprise.  I am quietly doing my work in my studio and the vague sound from my husband's stereo suddenly awakens a flood of past memories and I am lost. The attack lasts a minute or so, but for awhile, I was back a very long time ago in Mexico city, after a dinner, late at night, listening to a band of Mariachis on Plaza Garibaldi as if they were in front of me, dressed in their black and silver suits, playing. Little boys sell little bouquets of flowers that remind me of my mother who is back in Haiti and my husband graciously buys the flowers for me.

What triggers our memories out of nowhere? How can we say: "I remember?"  It is like having a double who can recall anything if enough is there to stimulate him or her. It works sometimes without effort and sometimes we struggle to remember but achieve nothing.  I know that men in white study our brain and record the effect of different impulses on our mind.  It is done in sterile rooms (I imagine) and is given many efficient and serious names. Names that leave me cold.  After all, I am not a scientist.

To me, there is something wild, diabolical and magical about my memories; the easy flow of recall that leaves me awed and amazed.

My memories aren't selective, they touch on the miraculous and on the sad or bad.  I still remember the voice of my school director who told me: "Even Micheline Brierre!" after gathering a bunch of us, little girls then.  Standing in front of her, I was so ashamed with her three words but her tone of voice was shattering!  What had I done? With some other kids in my class, I had helped to put salt at the base of a tree, in the back of the school, in the hope of killing it.  Why would I want to kill any tree?   Trees are precious.  I was just following the voice of one of our peers and of course, the little salt we put at the base of the trunk did nothing to the tree; but my double laughs at me while the memory emerges and swamps me with shame.

I see memories as a long, infinite string with little pouches attached to it, floating wildly in the wind.  A sound, a voice, a smell, music or a touch will open one of the pouches and we are back to another time - dreaming, reliving what once was.

Yet there are some things we would rather not remember.  But they hunt us down and like a snake slowly coil their way around our mind and demand that we learn from them to put them finally in repose in some imaginary coffin of our dream. They are like a force from the past battling us until we see the hidden lesson they sometimes bring.  Being able to learn from our recall is one of the great aptitudes we carry through life. It frees us to reset our will and let it bring a better future for us.

How do memories that come from days past influence our future?  I tell myself that they set a course for us but we can correct their influence and with that will move us to a different day.  Our actions are in the now, but  the now becomes tomorrow, and hope is there forever present.  We can, our lesson learned, let such memories go innocently down the trail that we bury in the past.

I still remember a dress my mother made me when I was barely an adolescent.  It was called at the time a princess dress.  Sewing machines then did not do the fancy zigzags they do now. A straight stitch was plenty.  The dress had enough panels to create a whirlwind and bellow under the Caribbean air.  She handed it to me asking me to finish the inner seams by hand and only then, when finished, could I wear it at last.

This was a time when many of my projects stayed unfinished in my drawers, cabinets and my mind and doing slip stitches on the dress seemed to me as a task of patience unlimited.  Yet, I wanted to wear the dress, it was new, tantalizing, waiting for me to look so special in my princess dress.  So I threaded my needle and assiduously did the stitching, seam by seam.  As I did, I also learned.  My incomplete little projects started to call me and I learned to finish what I had started.

In the now, I look at what I do and I complete my work.
It is not difficult; I recall the princess dress and imbued with memories, I want to walk out and dance on my deck between birds and squirrels while letting the panels bellow in the wind.

Copyright Micheline Brierre 2010

One Day

One day
you leave behind
the many masks
that you forged in the past.

The shadows and layers 
now dissolved in sadness and dust
and you gather your Self
your hands raised in praise
to sit between roses at dusk
and call forth
your very own

You sit in awed silence
as a small voice
rises on the breeze.
You do hear what
your heart
has saved
for last:

It is time for you
it is time for you.

Copyright Micheline Brierre 2001

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Call of Books

A few days ago, I arranged my books from the huge disarray left by my eagerness to read them when finally late at night, I finish my day. In bed, facing my inner thoughts, I get to open a book. I put much on hold for this moment.  Needless to say, I love books.  Not the electronic books, but the real paper ones that you hold in your hands while you turn each page like some silent treasures and complete fantasies that echo in your mind and unleash your imagination.

I used to go to visit a book binder when I lived in South America.  The moment I entered his shop, the wonderful smell would grab my nose with visions of glue, gold leaf, old parchments and leather in many colors all ready for him to do his craft. The many shelves would dispatch me to another lifetime when monks copied rare books by hand and traced these great illuminations to add a touch of color to the first page and specially to the first letter.

A friend of mine also floated sheets of paper on salt water loaded with pigments destined for the first page of old and precious edition books that we relish in our collection.

I have lots of books.  Some are quite old, some are in French or Spanish, most are in English now, some I have given in complete collections to others as I left a country or a town. Many are on my many bookshelves tantalizing me with their silent calls.

Did I say I love books?  I buy them everywhere.  In Barnes and Noble, Borders, little bookstores, thrift stores, online, and wherever I can find them.  Oh yes, they accumulate!  I have bookshelves with books two rows deep and only in my bedroom are there five bookcases with more books laying on the ground beckoning me to read them.

Books reveal complete worlds of thoughts to us and have multiplied since they are now printed in huge numbers overseas and also here in so many presses in America.  The source is unlimited.    

I still remember the French books of my childhood, pages uncut that you read with an ornate paper cutter and insane curiosity never knowing exactly what the next page would reveal.

Books remind me of my grandmother who spent her money on foreign books bought for me in the years of my adolescence; she would show me my grandfather's collection, carefully bonded with his initials in gold on leather. She also showed me books printed in France by my ancestors, crowned by the French Academy that linger in my mind and inspired me to take a pen and write.

I also remember my uncle's books that he lent me once a week as if he was a library. He kept them upstairs behind glass locked by key in a long bookshelf. A book returned meant another book lent. A most private collection.

I remember books I passed to friends and never recovered or books returned to me, covered and cherished. And I remember ancient books by the Seine in Paris in little cases that I could not bring home, not having the room for them in my small suitcase.

Books, I suppose, will always transport me to someone's imagined world, a foreign land of thought and ideas, explosions of the mind with the mystery of words put elegantly together to seduce me and attract me in the vortex of their pages.         

copyright Micheline Brierre 2010


Bookcases I brought in my room today.
Pale wood shelves, three tiered, new,
ready for whispered secrets
sealed forever on paper.

Journals, novels where worlds
initiate at the first page
and shut down on the last.

Poems standing
triumphant or hermetic seducing or luscious
laying between covers.
Silent history facing memoirs, where
life explodes in humor, success or arrogance
with infinite losses and love gained or lost.

Fingers linger on long loved pages.

I summon the past
with the quiet power
of the inner call;
The past, imbued in words
the phrases of personal
and I watch shadows
pursue the trail
of very old dreams
asleep … quiet,
my books.

Copyright Micheline Brierre 2003