Alive

Running through mesquites,

sun on my shoulders,

fighting

for sandpaper breaths.

never approaching fast.

it was awful.

it was awesome.

*

Rhythms that matched my pulse,

handing glowsticks down the row

shouting the chorus

with the man on stage,

with the crowd,

united.

*

Sketching my newborn cousin

in our grandmother’s arms

rubbing his silky hair

holding his tiny hand

in mine.

*

Throwing snow at my brother,

or water balloons,

or socks,

or paper airplanes,

or fallen leaves.

*

The first time I drew a mermaid,

eleven and gangly and wrapped up

in stories

that guided my lines.

the mermaid I painted a decade later,

with

a shark’s tail

a steady gaze

only the vaguest idea

what I was doing.

*

Dancing

in a garden at night,

on a stage, wearing glitter,

in a kitchen,

or a dream,

or a studio,

or a quiet warehouse.

sandpaper breaths are an old friend,

and so’s the burn between my shoulder blades.

I jumped more

when I was young,

but the dance has the same heart.

*

A Gila monster

sighted at dusk

on the side of a dirt road.

a peacock

wandering, gleaming,

in a zoo.

a tree, old and bent and strong.

ants on the sidewalk.

fish in a tank.

a coyote, half glimpsed in tall grass.

a heron at a river.

a dragon

that no one can touch.

*

Cutting

paper and fabric and soul

into bits,

reassembling

into something new,

*

Finding a story

that fills a space

I didn’t know my heart

was missing.

telling a story

to do the same

for a heart I can’t even see.

*

Standing in a thunderstorm

wet clothes

bare feet

just listening

to the pulse of the rain.

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The Snow Queen

Watching winter through a window, it is easy to see a certain majesty to the scene. Snow drifts through the air, shining brightly under the street lamps. Clouds hunch above. Breath turns to mist. Jack Frost paints ice on car windows. It’s a time for stories and stillness, and dropping ice down the back of your brother’s coat.

One of the stories my family reads most winters is the Hans Christian Anderson tale “The Snow Queen.” You likely know the story–a boy is stolen away by the queen of winter, and his best friend takes a long journey to get him back. The story has existed for more than a century and a half, and in all that time no one has been able to explain the Snow Queen’s motivations to my satisfaction. That’s never stopped me from loving her tale.

When I was eleven, I wrote a story about the Snow Queen while I was supposed to be cleaning my room. In it, snowflakes were faeries who served the Snow Queen. They fell to earth to watch the children and collect their wishes.

My tendency to write stories while I’m supposed to be doing something else has not changed in the slightest, but the stories themselves have evolved, and so has my attitude about the Snow Queen.

The ideas she represents-the power and majesty of winter, and the danger–are still wonderful, but my personal idea of her has an element of petty trickery that wasn’t there before.

Snow falls, and mounds onto car windows that were scraped clean yesterday. Ice forms in thin, nearly invisible layers positioned just so in order to make people slip. Snow plows scrape the ice to the side of the road, and the mound of grimy snow that forms stays there far longer than is fair–even after the rest of the ice has melted, and it is spring. The snow on sidewalks turns to icy sludge that will take the slightest weakness in your boots as a chance to soak your socks. If we anthropomorphize winter so that the Snow Queen is responsible for all of its pretty elements, surely we can picture her as being responsible for these.

Or maybe I’m just missing summer.

And now, the weather

I’ve just survived my first week of university classes. I’ve really enjoyed them. There’s some problem with city air and hills and my lungs, but I’m used to it, and working on improving it.

The other problem is the weather.

I grew up somewhere that experiences very little snow. Once or twice a year, it gets a little bit of snow, which melts by midafternoon, and is an Event that sometimes manages to cancel school.

Now I’m somewhere where snow is a persistent presence, and it’s a bit alien to me.

Okay. A lot alien.

So here are my thoughts on it.

Mounds of cold white stuff. When first I arrived, they covered practically everything, but the sun has snuck enough heat through the thick cloud cover to melt all but the thickest patches of snow. Who knows how long that will last.

The snowmelt frees dead leaves from autumn from their icy cages, but then it rains and freezes overnight and by morning the ice glues the leaves to the pavement like a collage. It snows again, and the process restarts.

Some enterprising soul has been stomping giant words into the snow to support one or another of the university’s sports teams. It wasn’t me, because a) ew, snow, and b) I have slightly less school spirit than a wet paper towel.

I like my university, I wouldn’t be attending it otherwise, but I’m just here for an education. If one of the school’s teams wins some big game, good for them, but I probably won’t be paying enough attention to notice.

Besides, I just can’t relate to someone who’d want to run around in this soggy cold stuff wearing sports gear  on a regular basis for fun. The track team I can be okay with, since the track is indoors and running can be fun, but not the rest.

That is the environment I found myself in when I received an email from the Illustrators of the Future contest. I didn’t win, but I was a semifinalist! And they hope I’ll enter again.

I’ll start on a new submission as soon as my homework is finished.

Today’s picture is another effort at digital art. Someday I’ll figure it out.