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    

Sunday, February 17, 2013


Most days as I go to bed, in the dark, I go through my routines then review the day past.  I look at what I did or did not do very well and review what I could have done better.  This is like a mental play over the facts of life and internal resolutions. I store in my mind the things that I consider lacking in my participation, my remarks, or my response.  I try to see the good of what often comes my way and see the reason behind what has been.  For instance, an article sent to me by a dear friend who holds a very different view of the world and is contrary to my beliefs. I started to think of why she sent it to me and came to the conclusion that she wanted me to have similar thoughts to hers; and she cares.  How could I get upset?

Our life is full of little and big events that show us the way to growth and also to help us pay attention to the intention behind each action.  Ours and others. I have been focusing for a while to the importance of gratitude.  I wake up each day (so far), take breakfast to my dining room, eat then focus on what I could be grateful about.  And there are plenty of things starting with the fact that I am alive, breathing, creating, writing, moving and reflecting; many things to be immensely grateful for each day.  Not mentioning loving and being loved.

Gratitude I believe is the key to a sense of well being and a feeling of great abundance and peace. I keep a small little book that I was given that has a beige real cork cover and write in it some of the things for which I feel most grateful.  Often it is simply that I am grateful for being alive and sometimes it is for my daughter having called me or a note from my grandchildren, friends or my sister, or snow when we need so much moisture here or my husband who gave me a great shoulder massage that I badly needed.  Life brings us so much joy if we are able to receive it or simply pay attention.  And we do not need to travel to the end of the world to find its rewards.

My husband and I went last week to a park here in the black forest covered with light snow in parts.  We both walked in the quiet of the forest and I observed all kinds of life in the middle of winter down at the ground level.  Besides the carpet of pine needles, there was lichen, little trees making their long journey to the top of the canopy and sometimes paw prints of some animals that dwell there.  I came home with such a good feeling having breathed the outdoor air mingling with the smell of the pine trees above me. The feeling of having been close to the mystery of nature and life.

Was I grateful?  I was elated and the feeling still is with me.  So I try to make room for a bit of gratitude in my days and enjoy the abundant results.  I could focus on what is missing but I choose to focus on what is there in front of me and that is gratitude.

Try it, it will change your outlook on living.   

Copyright 2013 Micheline Brierre

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Alligator in the Bedroom

He waits for me at night.  When I wake up from a deep sleep and leave my dreams behind to go to the bathroom, I walk a few sleepy steps out of my bed only to find -- to my horror -- a big alligator on the floor, at the entrance to the bathroom.  He lays dormant apparently and I slowly recover from the scare, suddenly breathing hard, to step quietly on his head satisfied that he is but a long shadow cast by my vanity chair.

This happens many nights. The shadow startling me many times.  The night is full of illusions playing on our nerves.  It also plays on my fears, but my worst fear is certainly finding a snake writhing on the floor in the house.  

I had to confront that fear once.  My husband was away on a trip so I was alone in the house.  I came in through the garage, having parked the car outside, looked down the stairs to my left only to find a live snake also looking at me!  Suppressing a scream, I looked at the creature with a desperate horror trying to figure out in a jiffy what to do.  Only one small flight of stairs separated us and he was facing the laundry room.  Perhaps he was as surprised as I was because he was not moving.  Just looking at me.  Panicked, I suddenly hurried upstairs and thought it out.  How was I going to sleep that night when a snake was in the house capable of moving ANYWHERE.  He could come to my bedroom, coil around my neck.  I was petrified.  My heart was beating in fright.  I peered from behind the wall, nothing.  He was gone!  I stopped to think again.  After a few minutes, I got a huge roll of wide tape that I use for shipping jewelry and art orders and slowly and quietly descended.  Perhaps he came out of the laundry room through the drainage hole made in the floor to let water out in case of flooding.  Otherwise, I could not figure how he got in my house.  So, I tiptoed to the place where I saw him last and cut a length of tape and stuck it from the bottom of the laundry room door to the carpet, hoping to contain him. I sealed, I hoped, all accesses to the rest of the house.  I slowly retreated and wished with all my heart that I guessed right.

My night was spent awake, eyes on my door wondering about and fearing the apparition of the snake coming up one floor to my closed bedroom.  I think that the simple idea of a snake spending the night with me in the house was enough to make me shiver in fear.

The next day, I was up at the crack of down and went to look.  To my huge surprise, the snake was glued to the tape at the bottom of the door, full length, unmoving and apparently dead.  I was too scared to touch it so waited a few days until my husband returned to peal off the dead snake and tape and give me back the use of the laundry.  My hero.  Although I was sorry to have killed the creature, I was thinking that I did something to face my fear.  It was, in a way, an act of daring and it taught me a huge lesson.

Our fears no matter where they come from are not overwhelming and can be handled and confronted.  We are a lot more resourceful than we think.  Be it alligator or snake, our minds can come up with instant solutions to relieve our worst fears.

Now the hole in the laundry room floor is closed a with a fine metal mesh and I can sleep a full night -- in peace.

Copyright January 22, 2013 Micheline Brierre