Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Tea Kettles and Blue Shoes

Sunday the air was so filled with moisture that it had the effect of living under a blanket tent. For a while it was comforting but all too soon it began to cloy. Monday the sky lifted a bit but I wandered bumping against the edges of a too large, too cold, too dark, too empty house. I filled my day with tasks and chores and trundled on with my spirit clattering along somewhere behind me.

Today despite a lowering sky, I took myself out of the house and immediately began to feel better. As I walked purposefully to the shopping precinct in town with tea kettle, halogen bulbs and anything to help organize the house on my mind, a pair of red and blue shoes with flowers on them caught my eye.

I dropped off two bags of miscellaneous household goods at the local charity shop and then rewarded myself with a cup of coffee and a leisurely read of the weekly local paper in a corner cafe. My eye landed on an obituary--not the kind of notice published by the family but an article about a woman who had recently died. My heart thumped because I did not want to believe that the woman whose funeral had been a celebration of her life was the woman I knew. I read the article twice and knew finally what my eyes had known as soon as they stopped to admire the blues shoes in the window.

I never knew her last name. To me she was "May, you know the artist", or "Denise's mom". Denise is a friend of my husband's. We called on them one afternoon when I had been here not too long. Denise showed me her mother's studio and the colors struck me right away. Her studio and bedroom overlooked the garden and the ocean but the colors inside were a garden unto themselves. I smile even now recalling it.

May was out walking the dogs and then joined us for coffee when she came back. She was trim and erect and had the pent up energy of a much much younger person. At the time I met her, she was 90 years old and wearing a pair of jeans and sandals. She had managed to avoid the perils of all those years with grace and energy. I met her again once or twice. She and Denise and I chatted one day over coffee. We always spoke of getting together but somehow it never happened, but whenever we ran into each other we enjoyed a bit of conversation.

May fell one night. She took a tumble down the stairs from her studio and landed hard. Her collarbone was broken and she had a massive shiner, but the worst part of the fall for her was that she could not do her work. During her convalescence, I knitted a red and blue scarf that I thought she could use to help with the weight of her cast. It was the colors I had seen in her studio. Her arm healed. She was able to work again and to get around, but unbeknownst to any of us, the colors in her had leaked out through the broken places. Even if we had known, I don't think we could have done anything about it. Where the colors leaked out, age rushed in.

The last time I saw May, her daughter had left her briefly in a local bookstore while she hastily did a couple errands. Her mother could no longer do things on her own she explained as she hurried off. I rearranged my own errands to detour to say hello to May. She did not recognize me at first though she was happy to see me. I reminded her about the red and blue scarf. The colors connected us. She smiled, we talked, her daughter returned and they were off. When I read the notice today I consoled myself about missing her funeral with the memory of that last brief meeting. May had seemed fine then, but she spoke of her inability to do things and clearly that limited perspective chafed. Her bright world had gone lackluster.

The newspaper article said that May had taught the Queen Mother how to dance a progressive Gay Gordon, a social dance where partners move around in a circle for an opportunity to dance with new people-- a kind of ice breaker. I like to see that in my mind's eye--the homey dowager queen and the artist twirling in the living room at the Castle of Mey.

Art and color and our hunger for them in our lives stay nicely tucked into the bottom of our hierarchy of needs--below shelter, food, and tea kettles until we no longer have them. Today I got my tea kettle and I will get those blue shoes and dance at least one Gay Gordon in memory of May.


At 12:05 AM, Anonymous ampiggy said...

I'm going to send this article about bright colors to a woman I know at work who likes them and usually HAS to buy whatever she sees that has them.

At 8:46 AM, Blogger landgirl said...

The shoes did not fit. I found a nice (perhaps more sensible) pair that feel on my feet the way ballet slippers first felt as a young girl on my way to class for the first time. Since May was a dancer, too, I think it would be OK with her, too.

At 2:18 PM, Blogger scorrie said...

May was a light to shine over a too grey land at times // I am glad you met her while she was still here // as so many are// nice to talk a little earlier on my way back from Tesco // scorrie //

At 10:07 PM, Blogger ZACL said...

Hey - I didn't know May had died - that's a bit of a shock. I saw Denise and her sister recently and there was no obvious indication of anything amiss.

You're right May did love vibrant colours her enamel work shows that. It will live on. Yes, it's true May loved Scottish Country dancing even though, as far as I know, she was not a Scot. She held classes, her daughter went to them. It doesn't surprise me that she showed the late Queen mum (a Scottish lassie herself) a thing or two about traditional dancing.

At 9:04 AM, Blogger landgirl said...

Yes, zacl. I think it was sudden and the funeral must have been very private because I did not know about it even tho I was here in town. I saw Denise yesterday. Her daughter has moved up here, which may help to fill the void. I spoke with her only briefly yesterday so hard to get too much of a sense of how she is.

At 10:00 PM, Blogger ZACL said...


I saw Mike who gave me some of the 'lowdown' and darn me, I forgot to get today's paper, The Courier. There's meant to be a further write-up about May in it.

Denise's sister is up here now so it sounds like half the family is returning to the fold. I don't know if Alexia actually ever lived here before but I have seen her on visits.


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