Thursday, September 13, 2012

Hard Summer

It was a hard summer. Many horrific happenings in the state like the shootings in Aurora in Denver and so many fires in state and out West.

Here a huge wild fire suddenly started in Colorado Springs where I live and to our horror the wind pushed it suddenly down the mountain into town and it burned three hundred and forty seven homes and killed two people.  The air was filled with smoke and debris and the heat of the days was intense. 

I was sad.  Too sad to work the first days and so often finding myself looking at the images on T.V.  I could feel the tension in the city.  I received countless emails from family and friends and spent my time at the computer.  By the time the fire was contained with the hard and dedicated work of more than one thousand firefighters, it was declared the worst disaster that ever hit the state of Colorado.  I was humbled.

It reminded me of a few other disasters that I lived through.  Plane crash, terrible earthquakes in South America, hurricane Andrew in Miami.  All events to remind me - and all others - that nature is unimaginably powerful and faced with it, we do not mean much even though we often think of us as top guns.  The fires here left me really focused on what can happen and does happen so often as we read in the news or hear from other people that made it through a disaster.  So many humans die of natural related events and we can only acknowledge the vulnerable state in which we live.

Which means I thought a lot about death.  Life is finite and death is a part of life.  It does not matter what we believe, or what age we are, one day we cease to breathe and that is the end.  Are we ready?  Death is the big unknown.  A territory that is so unexplored as to be totally foreign despite what all humans have written about it. Where do we go? Do we survive death or do we plunge in total oblivion into the nothingness of non existence?  Is there a God?  Do we reincarnate?  Do we go on to perfect ourselves and come back as better beings?  Do we matter as humans?  Is our life worthy, not worthy?  Do we survive death and live forever-after in a form of bliss we often dream about?

What do you believe?

Belief dictates our way of life, our actions, our ability to act and to think and feel.  I like to think that I will come back a much better being, enlightened, cleansed and renewed. The thought makes me smile.  After all, nothing like going through the unfathomable door of the unknown so many humans have talked about and debated since eternity. Death will certainly bring answers.

Being friendly with death enables us to better live, to appreciate the subtle forms of life and its many expressions that evolve every day under our eyes. The  little things as well as the important ones who are dear to our heart. Life as it comes daily and brings the joys of all the things we are familiar with.

I was once at a friend's home and offered to do the dishes. She told me "no, it is my meditation." It was great to see this simple act of cleaning the dishes as profound a happenings as a meditation can be.

I plan to greet my days with the humble approach of daily gratitude and as Casteneda has written in one of his books "carry death on my left shoulder."

Copyright 2012 Micheline Brierre 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Champagne for My Mom

So much has been said about Mother's day that it is hard to talk about anything new.  I feel left alone to be a complete adult on this earth since many years ago my mother died.  Even though we lived in different countries, we kept a lively correspondence and I remember traveling to the old island when she died and with my sister going through all of my mother's things to find boxes and boxes of old letters of mine written on blue and fine paper all enclosed in their envelopes and a testimony to my whole life and hers. I was stunned.  I was sad.

My memories of vacations in her home were a day to day accumulation of joy.  I reverted to being a child again since she made all the decisions about food and things and her maid Ghislaine knew everything that pleased me and how I liked to eat anything.  She catered to all my desires under the watchful eye and directives of my Mom.  I did not have to think.  In a way, it was like a long meditation when we talked about all and nothing.  She often asked me "don't you want to see a movie, a play, go out?"  My pleasure was just to bask in her attention and being like a little kid again able to forget the challenges of living in her treasured presence.

I was spoiled.  I was received by her at the airport and later in her house toasted with champagne. Her favorite drink.  On her death bed she asked for a glass of champagne.  What a way to go! I remember when she was a few minutes away from dying, I went to wake up my dad who was taking a brief nap and he knew instantly. He spared me the words. We walked hand and hand to her bedroom.  I admired her body, her beautiful skin, we used to say she had a perfume skin, so fit to retain the French scents she applied on it. After a few minutes she was gone and no tears would fill the void. 

I look at her photo now and wonder where she is, where she has gone to and the silence is my answer.  In Haiti, long time ago, the ones who had lost their mom wore a white rose for Mother's day and the fortunate ones who had their Mother wore a red one. The tradition is still alive in my imagination and maybe that is why I never buy or plant white roses.  The pain drips out of their petals to invade my soul.

Copyright 2012 Micheline Brierre

Friday, April 20, 2012

A Time of Renewal

Not long ago we celebrated Easter.  A time of renewal and rebirth.  It is spring time here and all over town the cherry trees both white and pink are in bloom and my forsythia is all yellow and most every plant alive is coming out of the ground.  The city is slowly greening after a dry winter and a drought.  But the perennials are not shy as their sturdy stems peek from my flowers beds. The lack of rain does not seem to disturb them.

I am wondering what I want to renew or see reborn in my life.  I am aware of such transformation having happened many times as I went along my days.  I still remember when my cousin and I, both of us artists, decided to organize an art exhibit outside of Haiti.  It was novel for us as we only used to show in local galleries. But we were young, had plenty of dreams and were quite affected from the terrible and oppressive dictatorship of Duvalier.

We contacted a few friends, moved a few mountains to get out of the country and shipped all of our art work to the Carib Hilton Gallery in San Juan Puerto Rico.  Neither one of us spoke Spanish then but were warmly welcomed by the director and all the staff.  We had to find an apartment, find our way through the city and most of all, we had to sell some of our art to survive.  I was eighteen and loved the freedom, the absence of horrible killings, of whispering in the dark or looking over my back.  I did not miss the blackouts, the heavy atmosphere that existed before under such a dictator.  After a few days, I thought I had reached paradise.

With our new friends, we used to go to the beach on weekends.  We carried lemons and knives and swam to the nearby island that was just a rocky kind of place in the middle of the ocean.  There, we collected quite a few sea urchins and cracked them open under the direction of our french friend and cut our lemons to pour over them.  They were as good as oysters and we turned very brown and hot under the sun until it was time to swim again to return to the mainland.  Our life had become so different, so carefree that I realize how great we felt and that our life in Haiti, despite family and friends, was not the way to be.  I made up my mind then to return to Puerto Rico and that was the beginning of my life abroad.

It was a real rebirth.  I had many challenges to face, but I had new horizons and found many friends to share the time I created for myself. It was the beginning of a new life and some years I visited Haiti for a few days or a few weeks at a time to see my family and  friends.

Now living in the mountains, I want still to create jewelry plus go back to drawing with pen and ink.  I miss the dark flow of the pen as it glides over the white paper and create shades and forms as if some magic was happening at the end of my hand.  I like the simplicity, the unforgiving honesty but streamlined approach of just using a pen loaded with ink and my paper that I can also carry anywhere.  My studio can stay at home and yet I can be creative with such uncomplicated elements wherever I am.

I became aware of this need by looking through my things and finding a little collection of simple pen and inks that I did some years ago.  I completed some of them and they are ready to frame.

Life provides us sometimes with a reminder.  I find that it was so for me who found the reason for my renewal and the rebirth of one of the many mediums I love.

What about you?  Do you want to find a whole new but old love you want to bring back to your life or find a whole new one? What would make you happy and feel reborn?  Life gives us many opportunities to do so but first of all, ask yourself many questions and the answers will be all yours to ponder.  I will wait to hear from you.

Copyright 2012 Micheline Brierre

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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Carnival in my Memories

Many countries celebrated carnival not long ago.  I am so used to spelling it Carnaval (the French way) that I have a hard time accepting the English form of a word that evokes so many memories and many of them are quite mixed.

In Haiti, it used to be a yearly huge thing.  In my family we planned our costumes and most of the time I ended up as a pirate, maybe because unconsciously I relived the life of this old pirate under the orders of Napoleon who traveled to Haiti, fell in love with one of the natives and started the beginning of our family.  I remember  drawing carefully with a black pencil a line of some imagined elegant mustache on my upper lip and draping a sash around my waist while ample sleeves of white cotton fell on my arms. I was transformed into a fierce buccaneer with knives and sword on my waist.  I was menacing, at least in looks.  I used to dress my friends and dribble gold specks on their hair while I transformed my sister into  a fawn ready to roam the slopes of our nearby mountain.  And we danced like crazy.  All hot nights at Choucoune, the night club en vogue at the time.  I loved it.  I even remember one night of Carnival when we danced all night, ending the ball at the beach, sipping on coffee and worrying my parents to death (I realize, now that I am a long time parent and grandparent.)

In the afternoon we used to gather on top of a friend's house on the Champ de Mars, the big park close to the National Palace and watch as each group of dancers paraded around a float where the queen and king would salute from their height while around them people would dance ardently, wildly gyrating while the music blared leaving me nearly deaf.  Group after group competed to be the craziest dancers in the crowd, loud and probably somewhat drunk and I wished then to be back in the quiet of my home with my books or brushes in my studio. Carnival was becoming too crazy. Too loud or too wild.

While living in Peru, my husband had business to do in Rio and it was Carnival time. Was it a coincidence?  I prepared what I thought was a very fancy outfit with a long skirt, slit on the side, a bra-like top, all in satin hot pink with jewelry and hairdo to match.  We watched the schools of Samba with dazzled eyes realizing that what I was used to in Haiti was a pale version of Carnival.  It was an incredible, awe inspiring spectacle that we waited for as each school of Samba announced itself with its own music, its own amazing costumes and singing with percussion and passion.  A sound we could hear coming around the corner and announcing a total feast for the eyes.  The elaborate, unimaginable, magnificent costumes, the bodies and legs undulating to the sound of the drums had me in a trance myself.  It lasted all night and I stayed awake to watch it all, completely mesmerized and astonished.

But the ball the night after was something else.  I got to wear my costume and packed into a car with some American couples from my husband's company and we all went anticipating an evening of dancing like in any well-behaved night club.  We were wrong.  Poised on a balcony we watched the immense ballroom as it filled up and by ten o'clock it was packed with the most extravagant unimaginable costumes I had ever seen.  It was obvious that it took them a year to prepare such elaborate and often diminutive costumes and headdresses versus mine that took me only a day to create, and looked like a nothing and forgettable pale dress.  Around us were a group of women clad in so little as to derange the minds of the men that accompanied us. With wild eyes they were looking at them and obviously were drooling, senses ablaze.

At the table next to us was a beautiful woman with some tiny little red lights magically lit on her naked nipples, a small beaded V covering her sex, and otherwise naked with a huge green feathered boa around her neck; she got close to total drunkenness as were most people and of course, could she dance!  If you want to call the amazing motion of her waist and rump a dance.  Her laughter was also an irresistible draw.  Pretty soon, my husband was dancing with her and so were the pale, mild men who were at our table leaving us women wide-eyed looking at each other with astonishment and disbelief.  It ended up with the green boa woman spread on the table, legs open, while some of her companions held her with delight. When they popped a camera to remember the sight, I nearly jumped in fright for her.  But she only laughed!  It lasted all night.  Once you got in the ballroom, you could not get out.  Somehow at dawn, we managed to leave and collapse in the car, exhausted with so much stimulation while my husband was green with little feathers that littered the car and later our hotel room.  I will never forget!

My memories of carnival were mixed.  Some enchanting and some obviously not so. A friend of mine sent me a video of the carnival in Venice and I loved the amazing old world, imaginative masks and costumes and it made me dream.  I keep seeing myself drawing the elaborate frilled tulle, gorgeous rich embroidery and lace framing the many white masks with pearls and crystals glittering from marvelous headgear by the Adriatic sea.  In a way, we espouse a new identity while we hide carefully under the masks and veils and it gives us the liberty to act so very differently than we would in real life.  A chance to borrow the image of a new self and be the person we would never dare or imagine to be in normal life.

Carnival, this very old feat, can be inspiring and give us a chance to be a confident double.  But for me, it is now safely in my memories where I can just recall it while quiet and purposeful in the mountains of Colorado.

Copyright 2012 Micheline Brierre

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Living With a Cat

At night, on velvety paws he sneaks up on me.  He startles me awake with whiskers close to my eyes and the soft sound of purring in my ears.  I forget my dreams as I curl around on one side and the cat nestles up next to my skin.  He lays there patiently unless my electric blanket gets too hot for him-- furry being that he is.  He lets me sleep in peace, sometimes settling between my feet.  Not the most comfortable position for me.

But as I wake up, I find  the fabric little mouse that we fill with catnip in the hallway or my yarn or even my new knitting that I forgot to secure in a bag --- he loves yarn.  It is a testimony to his hours of play during the night.  But now he runs down the stairs, sits by his bowl and waits.  I am supposed to feed him but I open the fridge, get the almond milk, get my home made granola, my fruits to greet another day.  Eventually he gets fed; he runs to the spider plant to munch on it, his dessert I guess; then settles by the window to look out and eye the landscape over Colorado.

He is my winter Tabby cat.  He spends time with us until we get too busy traveling and doing Art Shows to really care for him.  A great arrangement that I have with my daughter.  I love to touch his fat belly, the markings on his coat mesmerize me as does his sleekness and his talent for jumping high that he manages to show always.  Sometimes he climbs across the most crowded places but nothing falls, adept as he is to travel carefully between object not disturbing any.

All the cats that I have had in the past have been healers.  They seem to draw the sickness out of your body by sitting legs stretched on your chest and eyes closed purring until you are lolled by the heavenly sounds that I wish I could carry with me always. They purr their love and their enjoyment.

He is hugely attracted to the outside but hardly ever wants to go out  by himself.  The little rabbits, birds and squirrels catch his eyes and sitting on top of my credenza by the window, he clicks his tongue, moves his tail, all hunter in action with the body flat on the glass ready to jump, but I laugh knowing his stance is nothing but a motion and he is safe in my home.

Sometimes I peer over his looks disbelieving that a foreign creature like him has chosen us, the family of man and dare to be our friend.  He has that look of the wild, and I know that left on his own he will return to the long ancestral habits that his specie has nurtured before it got domesticated.  His tame looks do not fool me.

But he does follow me like a dog would do.  When I go to my studio, he runs after me down the stairs and looks for his favorite chair just close to mine and sits.  After grooming himself thoroughly he closes his eyes but still stays aware as his ears move in the direction of any sound.  I am sure he hears so much more than I ever will.  That it why he is a cat and makes the nights his time to roam.

We put up with his cat litter that I clean every morning, his crying in the middle of the night sometimes, his walks between our legs and once in a while, the gentle bites he takes on my husband's ankles as he comes down the stairs.  He knows that the man in the house is the one who gives the treats.  The cat sits on him by the TV while I beg for him to join me.  Males win sometimes!

Now he lays down at my feet, belly up soft and beige as tabby cats like to show and he dreams of catnip and of our hands gently caressing his fur.  He is all within himself but I know that he is also all vigilant.

                                                                                         Copyright 2012 Micheline Brierre

 The Cat

All sinuous and curves of fur
he stretches and yawns, his markings
a pattern of a thousand lines.
Now stretched  by my chair he lays
mysterious companion
who walks by my feet
and looks with eyes
of eternity.

I stare at the yellow-green of pupils open on my life
long looks reminiscent of time immemorial
when he roamed the earth, wild and proud
as a creature of lonely nights and vivid days.

I have dreamed of long journeys when we travel
in lands lush and humid, mossy and green  
a solace for his paws and for my feet.

I sleep, legs warmed by his body
and I escape in immense voyages
of the soul where he leads the way
as cats can only do.

Copyright 2012 Micheline Brierre 
All photos copyright 2012 BD Kaplan Photography

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Love of People

The end of the year was a mixed event. I got sick with a bronchitis and was alone in my house because my husband had gone to St Louis.  He planned to bring back his mom's car that she had decided to give me.  At her age she thought it was best to stop driving.  I guess she loves me!  I felt weak and had an exhausting cough that kept me many days in bed not doing much but reading all the books I could find at hand.  It was not easy.

My daughter's best friends came and shoveled the snow out of my driveway and I stayed indoors as much as I could.  Miso the cat was my companion.  He was my daughter's tabby, a huge cat who had come "south for the winter" as her friend said.   I do live south of her, although in the same town, and his voyage to my house lasted less than 20 minutes! This is his second visit at this time of the year since I stay home then and do not travel.  He gets to remember his favorite spots in the house and knows that I am his winter companion.

This gave me time to think.  I reviewed the year and found so much good in the everyday living and all the people I got to see and correspond with.  This year brought old friends back to visit me and at many art shows I got to hug many that I had not seen for a whole year.

I also got to think of all the things that happened to me and to them this year.  The people were certainly the most fulfilling aspect of every day. I realized that looking at a person in the eye to follow the tracing of their words, plus the words they might not dare say but that reveal their absolute consciousness is a treat. I was able to understand them with an empathy of the heart.  It was the best of the year.  Not traveling, even though going elsewhere is exciting and enriching.  Not reading some of my best books although I love reading; it was simply sharing a great moment with soul friends, people who listened and talked straight from their gut and heart.

This particular pleasure is like eating great pastry or like going inside of me to search for the traits I most love; or spending time alone investigating the many quirks in my head when dreams linger by and echo in my soul.

People are it.  Fascinating, interesting, crazy at times, sad, fulfilled, passionate, inquisitive, quirky, present and so terribly satisfying.  I line them up in my head and I feel blessed with so many who share so many characteristics and offer so many disparities, enough to satisfy me for a lifetime.  So this year of 2012, I dedicate to all my friends and my family that brings me the joy of following their life, of sharing their sorrow, and of laughing with them when their excitement is high.

I thank all of those who wrote to me, who talked to me, whom I dreamed of, whom I remembered, whom I rediscovered as well as the ones whom I missed and never got to see.  I want to celebrate us, the people who roam this earth and make my life worthwhile and prodigiously happy.

I used to think that bread was a huge and very simple pleasure. So satisfying.  A nice chunk torn from a baguette and so good to the tongue.  I think that the huge flow of humans that populate my life and let me enter their lives is the greatest satisfaction and the most enthralling and interesting aspect of living.

Copyright 2012 Micheline Brierre