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