"Lotus Opening" by L. Folk

Friday, August 16, 2019

The Miracle of Jennifer Martelli’s My Tarantella


What happens in the world permeates us in very personal ways; events attach themselves to our most intimate lives. The murder of Kitty Genovese affected my friend Jennifer Martelli in this way. In her collection, My Tarantella, Jenn acts as a channel for Kitty. But perhaps I am oversimplifying things a bit by saying that. Jenn’s poems are not at all simple; you can’t say, Oh here is when she… or Oh yes, it makes sense that… This is the stuff of dreams, of ideas, that, like fruit to wine, ferment into myth. This is the stuff of nightmares:

I peek through/the sliced webbing of my gloves, forget to protect/my belly and throat. Golden birds, velvet bats/escape my mouth and no one hears me.

In “Kitty Genovese Names Her Fourteen Wounds,” wounds become mouths (“There’s a mouth below the mouth across my throat”). The 14 wounds that Winston Moseley inflicted upon Kitty Genovese in the vestibule of the Tudor Apartments in Queens (where some 38 witnesses hid in their apartments) speak to a poet who is striving to hear:

I thought of Kitty so hard, I was afraid she would manifest, smiling—/in the dark corner of my laundry room, from my closet hook where belts hang—

This is a book that was meant to be written. This is a book that transcends imagination and plunges into fate. We artists, writers, poets begin our journeys based on the intersection of curiosity and creative prowess; it’s an exploratory process that poses specific questions. When we are on the path of the truth, the world answers back. A psychology-student friend of mine once termed this as “oracular consciousness.” While Jenn was writing My Tarantella, our mutual friend Jennifer Jean found an image of Kitty Genovese stenciled on a building near her home:

Is this Kitty? Is this who you’re writing about? She was/barely formed, barely filled in, except for the contours of her face:/the messy bob, the arched brow, oh that beautiful top lip curved.

The face on the wall was like a ghost saying Yes. The yes is like a breath, relief. Proof. Corroboration. Keep going.

In “A God Lives in the Amygdala,” Jenn expresses precisely what so many of us feel when we hear of such an atrocity, that God is indifferent to what happens here, that “[h]is indifference has settled deep within our ribcaged country.” It’s something that needs to be said, a frustration that needs to be voiced:

Do you know that nothing outside of our mouths will save us?/A god lives in the amygdala, but he is weak, too, asleep under the new/moon./Did you see an angel’s viscera across the sky?

I remember when Jenn was writing these poems, the haunting images that came to her: gold bugs, bats, Queen of Night tulips. I remember her telling me she wanted to plant the black satin-like tulips in her yard. She was living the book when she wrote it, and this is what makes it not just a book. It’s a life too.

If Jenn is a channel, Kitty is a catalyst. In “After JFK’s Assassination, Things Got Really Bad” Jenn writes “Kitty puts things in order, things I thought I’d forgotten.” Kitty serves as an impetus to shake Jenn’s memory. We’re not talking nostalgia, here; nostalgia is too simplified a word and too rosy. A specific hunger for the past is evident and this makes sense. As we get older, the need to remember becomes more pronounced; it is imperative to have proof we have lived. We need to be connected to this life, because it’s the only thing we’re certain of:

During the Bicentennial, when the Tall Ships
sailed into the Harbor, I wore a tube top
with red and white stripes like the flag’s
bloody wounds. I wore sailor pants deep navy blue
with two rows of white buttons tracing the shape
of my uterus. I wasn’t smiling

Ultimately, Kitty’s murder is more than a murder; it’s a metaphor for the disregarded female—an archetype subtly known and sadly, widely accepted, as evidenced by Hillary Clinton’s loss:

Last night, on television, I saw a woman scrubbed/of makeup give a speech. I read about a woman who screamed/but no one came.

I found this book to be a seminal work for the voiced and the voiceless. I feel I cannot do it justice by the meager words I’ve typed here. The evocative images, the divining words—it’s a kind of miracle, a kind of justice for a voiceless voice finally being heard.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

When Creativity and Domesticity Clash, There May Be Brilliance: A Review of Domenico Starnone's novel Trick

In Domenico Starnone's fourteenth novel Trick, septuagenarian Daniele Mallarico is a renown illustrator in the twilight of his career who must return to his childhood home to care for his grandson Mario, a precocious, goblin-like child who demands his grandfather's attention at all costs. The two battle wits, jockeying to have their needs met--Mario to engage his grandfather in play and Daniele to illustrate Henry James's ghost story "The Jolly Corner." Despite Daniele's league of frustrations in trying to make art happen with a four-year-old in the house, he ultimately produces a brilliant body of work, but not for the James story. What transpires are illustrations of Daniele's own ghosts, of family, his former selves, and to quote James, "all the old baffled foresworn possibilities," different versions of himself he may have become, having grown up in Naples, a city known for its rage ("la raggia").

Daniele admits that he is afraid of being without work, that he is less in demand, that his body is deteriorating; the James story is a chance for him to sustain his productivity and confidence, his life force. But he is thwarted at every turn by the child and by his own limitations:

I had no fun at all. Playing with the child had not only worn me out but depleted energy from the drawings I'd felt the urgency to pin down...Now they sat there like ailing beasts waiting, mutely and blindly, either to heal or die.

He becomes stumped, blocked. He can't envision the New York apartment where Spencer Brydon sees his ghost and he stops trying. He succumbs to what comes easier, to what demands recognition, reckoning:

I still saw my father in flashes, grim, throwing his hair back with both his hands, and my mother, who transformed amid fits of terror and melancholy from a shabby Cinderella to a lady in a veiled hat, and my grandmother, who having suffered a stroke, now sat always silent, arrugnata, a word that, in dialect, meant a body folded in on itself, curved like a billhook left to rust in some corner.

Daniele realizes in the midst of his reflections that he is the lucky one; yes he has always had "various human types lurking in [his] body, some violent, others wretched" but because he had talent, he could conveniently "crush all [his] other spirits and banish them to the farthest reaches of [his] blood." Without his talent, without his work, however, he lies vulnerable to these; they rise up and taunt him just as effectively as the child does.

I found this book to be utterly spot on in portraying the clash of creativity and domesticity; I read it with awe and empathy. Starnone is like Ferrante, immeasurably close to the witness self, precisely articulating each of the protagonist's experiences and the emotion and thoughts that accompany them. Both Starnone and Ferrante (argued to be one in the same or husband and wife) deal in what I call "the brutal truth." There is no pretense in their writing, no decorum, no niceties, no moral trivialities; these writers write from the primal self:

When my father sent me to the foundry he wasn't being wicked, poor man, he was giving both himself and me a lesson in realism. The tradition in my extremely sprawling family tree was to be a mechanic. Or an electrician, like my father. Or a turner like my grandfather...Or [making a] living by my wits, by hustling, by the wiles of necessity, leaving no doubt that I only ever have women on my mind, that I'm never satisfied with any of them, that I collect them, caress them, take advantage of them, beating them when they don't want to bend over nice and quiet...Or to reject the dark chasms of women and slip into male bodies with the excuse of humiliating them, or only because it's easier to feel at home with known actions and reactions, or because the drives are confused, the flesh is uncertain, always moving without resolution from men to women, from women to men, holes here and holes there, so many useless distinctions.

The story culminates with little Mario locking his grandfather out on the balcony in the rain and the cold. The boy literally holds the old man hostage, and as with most hostage cases, release only comes when something is gained. This gain is twofold: the boy succeeds in gaining the grandfather's undivided attention, and the grandfather gains insight and acceptance: he's never going to finish the illustrations for the James story; he can't, it's beyond him, and that's okay. What's more important is that he's pinned down his own ghosts, in a kind of artistic reckoning.


Jhumpa Lahiri (Interpreter of Maladies, Unaccustomed Earth, The Namesake) does an impeccable job in translating the novel from the Italian and her introduction is written with grace and respect. She gives us food for thought on how a translator deliberates over words, the dance of words on the page, the different levels of meaning. The dialogue she captures is so real it seems as if you're hearing it and not reading it. She informs us of Starnone's penchant for James and how the two stories play off one another. Also included in the text is an appendix of real drawings done by the artist Dario Maglionico, which are haunting and surreal, a perfect and justified complement.


Sunday, July 21, 2019

Visions of Maine



It's early July in Maine and the beach roses are still in bloom, as are the irises. We're staying where we stayed last year at the Ocean Point Inn in East Boothbay, a charming old inn that was built in the nineteenth century and was once a farm house. Our unit is an efficiency with a deck that looks out at the bay where boats are docked and rock gently with the lapping waves. Across the water is what appears to be an island with rocky shores and rugged firs. There's a house there, a grandiose house and whoever owns it must own the island as well. That's what people up here do: they own islands. We saw one for sale when we were kayaking.



Last night I watched the sun set over the water and an osprey halted itself in mid-air then dove for a fish. I was awestruck at its acrobatics, how it could reverse direction so efficiently, be so precise. It snatched that fish decisively and was back up in the air in less than a second. And then its mate came from somewhere else and the two flew home over the firs. We humans have to think, plan, execute, but animals can simply execute. They run on instinct, a code in the brain.

This place reminds me of the essay by E.B. White titled "Once More to the Lake." White talks about the new flywheel motors and the third track missing; I don't get a sense of the passage of time here, more that time is slower and involves less. You would think I would be okay with that. I want to be okay with it, but the truth is there is this undercurrent of unease rippling inside me, as if all those things time is normally stocked with are rumbling underneath my skin, and I can't let myself truly be present.

The lobster boat chuffs now into the bay there are far away voices. The water is relatively still. It's a quiet sight. A dog roams the rocks on the island, a trap is dropped and the boat makes a turn and stops. I think to myself, why am I not enjoying this? What tears at me?




In a dream my father planted an orchard
when there were apples already in the trees
and protested when I bit into one
In a dream women came to decorate with holiday flowers
begonias in the windowboxes with satin ties

In a dream my English teacher tried to teach me algebra
and a shelf of her precious books was burned
because it took up too much space
In a dream my high school turned into a labyrinth
and I walked through the same shadows again and again

In a dream I had racks of beautiful clothes and pants that fit me
because they took out the tumor and my stomach was slim
In a dream I called my boyfriend by the wrong name
and embarrassed myself in front of my family
In a dream I needed someone to love me
so I thought him up and he appeared miraculously at my side
and freed me from the labyrinth
but this stranger was a quick fix
and I longed for the time I forged   my    own    way


There are tiny bees here that reap the nectar of the antique roses, and I found two mating on my arm. Delicate but steadfast creatures, I had to wait a while before the wind took them away. At night, frogs chirp and croak in the lily pond between the buildings and the lotus flowers peek up from the muck like the soothing thoughts of a bodhisattva. Mary walks the sea wall with tiny daises in her hair and Stephen can recite the totem animals of Maine. When he put on a Polo shirt with miniature sharks on it, I could see the handsome man he's destined to become. And I am half here, because a part of me drifts a few feet above my head in a limbo space, where I am wishing and waiting for a time to create and process the gifts of this place. But that never really comes. Despite the separation from my daily routine, there are responsibilities here, things to do as a family. Even here there are things that must be done.




I debate with myself what I should do in the brief time I have to myself. I could swim in the ocean, but the rocks would cut my feet. The cold water will numb my limbs. The sun burns my skin if I don't use sunscreen and the mosquitoes will devour me if I walk in the woods. This is a treacherous environment despite its beauty and you must be prepared, but I never am.

My husband tries to be prepared at all costs. He spent hours packing the day before the trip and then again just before we left. He gets anxious that he will miss something, the car has to be packed just so, and he often snaps at me and the kids before we leave for one reason or another. His neuroses usually pays off, though, because we have everything or almost everything we need. He packed food, clothes, toiletries, drugs, vitamins, drinks, books, electronic devices and their chargers. (We had to buy salt and paper towels). I am one who believes in spontaneity and being resourceful; he can't tolerate poor planning. He thinks my lack of planning and packing is childish. Reckless. I think I have more faith in life than he does. I am willing to put myself out there, rely on instincts, wit, or at least this is what I tell myself.




The homes on Ocean Point are well kept; some are refurbished cottages, others are hidden mansions accessed only by a private road or trekking up the granite coast. It's a precarious hike, you've got to be careful of your footing, and the question in my mind is what must one do to acquire, build one of these museum-like habitations? And I use the word habitations loosely, because it doesn't appear as if anyone is in them. It's wild on this nook of the coast; all you can hear are gulls and waves and you get a sense of the treacherous solitude of Maine. What must one do? Further down the coastal scenic road and I have a full sense of Have and Have Not. There are "PRIVATE" and "NO TRESPASSING" signs everywhere. I can't help but feel rejected when I see four inviting Adirondack chairs facing the sea and a red and black "PRIVATE" sign.


We went kayaking on the Damariscotta River and it felt right to exert some energy to be fully indulged in the landscape. It cleared my head. In the evenings, we perused the Boothbay Harbor shops, had dinner and ice cream. Mornings, we had a full breakfast at the Inn and were served by hospitable people who spend their summers working at the inn and then live somewhere else during the winter. They were seasonal people, and I wondered about their lives, if they were always working, working, the maids in their beautiful Jamaican braids and their carts full of cleaning items, cleaning the toilet bowls and the rugs and the sinks, making the beds, finding who-knows-what the guests have left behind. What was this place to them?



The last day, we visited the Botanical Gardens (the pictures I have posted are from there). Here people have learned the secrets of the treacherous landscape and have harnessed it to put forth blooms. I finally feel at ease and delight in all the burgeoning flora; it's like the Garden of Eden, and I feel welcome here. A cultured space like this belongs to everyone and no one at the same time.


Sunday, June 30, 2019

When one field is fallow, the other one is blooming

My garden beds are between blooms and I stare hard at them, trying to figure out how to add color in the now. It's not an easy thing for me to accept-- the lack of vibrancy. There are times, I tell myself, when a field should lie fallow. Every organism needs a rest period. Maybe this explains why my writing seems to be nonexistent? But when one field is fallow, there are others in bloom. Somewhere. When one medium is resting, the other thrives. Today was a productive day with respect to collage, and I am grateful.











With these collages, I tried to keep the colors similar, because I knew I would be posting them
together. The above collage, which I am calling "Portal," is indicative of the door to the subconscious. I think collage is the perfect medium to depict dreams (my creative inspiration these past couple of years for stories and art) because it is composed strictly of disparate images, as are dreams.
"Contents" has a mirror at its center and emanating from it a spiritual aura. I once wrote a poem titled "Mirror" and described a dual opposite world. I would include it here, but I wrote it when I was twelve and it's terrible.

The dream world, like the opposite world in a mirror, isn't logical. The symbols in dreams are merely contents--and often have no unifying meaning.













"Women Are Sacred" is a collage in response to the ridiculous anti-women sentiments popping up around the country. When a woman carries a child, she is a sacred vessel, but this cannot be enforced by banning abortion. It's ludicrous to even think it. A woman forced to carry a fetus to term becomes an incubator and that is a violation of her rights.







Saturday, May 11, 2019

Reflections on Motherhood, Revisited, with New Collages

Mother and Child, 2019

The following essay was written in 2015 when I was steeped in my contemplation of motherhood.  I am publishing it again in celebration of Mother's Day.


 Reflections on Motherhood: The Good, the Bad, and the Wonder-full

 
Mother in a Grotto

Love that does not have humility as its mother and holy awe as its father is orphaned from all goodness.
                                                ~Mechtild of Magdeburg

I don’t find it easy to write about motherhood, probably because the independent, creative self wants to be free of all duty (and motherhood, although a blessing, is indeed a duty). But the above quote struck me as true. No matter how talented you are, no matter how brilliant, successful, etc., motherhood and the type of humbling love that accompanies it can knock you on your ear.

A couple of weeks ago I posted two pictures of myself side by side on facebook: the one on the left was taken of me when I was newly married before motherhood; in it I have long model hair, a tan, and I’m smiling like the world is my oyster. The one on the right is of me as of my twins’ third birthday: I’ve gained weight, have bags under my eyes, wrinkles across my forehead, and I look exhausted.

Motherhood takes its toll; you get gray hairs and no longer have visible abs; you are often at that
place of Wit’s End, but as a friend once advised me, that’s how you know you are doing it right. Love that does not include the hard part isn’t love at all. And what is the hard part exactly? Compassion. Putting another first, caring for them first, satisfying their needs before your own.

The women of my generation went to school and got jobs; we knew how to put ourselves first. When we wanted a new dress, we bought it. When we wanted dinner and drinks, we called a friend. We lived independently from our parents and followed our passions even if they failed us. My mother’s generation never complained so much about motherhood (no one ever told me it was going to be this hard, we always say when we’ve found a confidante); they went from their father’s house to their husband’s where they assumed the role of caretaker and that was that.
Mother Singing Praise

This is why motherhood is more of an adjustment for my generation. The education, thinking skills, and experience we got serving ourselves translate to valuable wisdom for maneuvering our own kids through the world.  We use these skills to try and strike a balance between a life for ourselves and a life for our family, but that just isn’t easy in today’s society. This often leaves us frustrated and it can get the best of us.

When I was pregnant with the twins, I remember observing a gull with its baby, a speckled bird bigger than its demure white and gray mother. The baby followed the mother along the edge of the water, crying and squawking incessantly. The mother gull walked ahead, ignoring her baby, and then she suddenly took flight across the bay and the baby hurried after her. Yep, I thought. That’s a part of mothering, too, wanting to fly away.

I take my dog for a walk every morning and when my son sees me put my jacket on, he importunes, “Where are you going, Mommy? Huh? Stay here, Mommy. Sit down right here on the couch.” My daughter confronts me every time I fetch my purse and keys, “You’re going to come back, right?” What do I do that makes them question if I will come back? Is my restlessness that visible?

I remember how frustrated my father used to get when my brother and I started acting up, so much that he would voice this frustration and threaten to leave. And he did take off, for weekends at a time, to go hunting in upstate New York, to be free for a little while and blow off some steam. But my father always came back. And this is what a humbling love does: it brings you back to the people who need you most.

I try to see the world though my children’s eyes. My daughter is delighted by dandelions, pill bugs, and worms. She likes to carry them around. She tells me she loves them, that they are the most beautiful things to her. My son notices every truck and construction vehicle we drive by. He moves his matchbox car over the sofa and observes how the wheels rotate in unison. My children are enthralled by the world, by snowflakes, spring blooms, tidal pools, and I can reach back, back and recall this feeling of the “gift of life” of a sacred wonder, where everything was new and precious. For me, it was the fiesta colored azaleas with their silk thread stamens and the rainbows in the hose water, the peonies with their ant sentinels patrolling each bud, and the feel of the cool grass between my toes at twilight. I was safe. My parents were home and my parents were everything.

And that holy regard one has for one’s parent does not go away, no matter how old you are. A couple of weeks ago I was giving a public lecture at North Shore Community College and my mother walked into the room. Something inside me cracked open and I wanted to sob. She’s here. She’s come. My mother.

So I remember what it’s like to need a mother, to love a mother and I need to be mindful of this-- in my rush to be this and my desire to do that-- because to be anything less than a mother would bring suffering to my kids and that, to me, is unthinkable.

Regarding those two photos, the motherless me and the mother me, well, here’s a secret: pound for pound, I’m happier being the mother, despite its physical and emotional drawbacks. I have lost the existential angst that used to plague me during my younger years and I wouldn’t want that back for all the model hair in the world. This humbling love is hard, and it has taken everything I’ve got, but it has meaning and purpose, a deep soul kind of meaning and purpose that confirms, no matter how nuts I get, that I am on the right track.







Saturday, February 16, 2019

Excerpts from My Dream Journal with Collages


Tidal River


Last night I went to a beach with a tidal river, and it swelled the sandy banks with its pristine water. There was a museum with ancient Greek statues, half eroded in pure chalky white marble. I looked through glass into the immediate depths of the river, wondering if it was dangerously cold. The water was perfect; you could see every grain of sand in place at the bottom. And then the glass was gone and the river was allowed to wash in lovingly around the statues, brush its foam against their pedestals. It was all part of a dynamic exhibit that included the tidal river acting as a sensual element, how it contributed to additional sculpting—a subtle type of erasure. There was also a shop where items were displayed. These items were mostly rusted iron figurines that were buried in the sand for thousands of years, uncovered by the river’s washing in and washing out and discovered by people walking the banks. I made a choice, some rusted relic with wings, and brought it to the cashier. She rang it up and charged me $4. She put it in a sturdy paper bag and handed it to me. I went out to go sit on the bank, but by now the river was swelling in full and people who were sunbathing had to leave. There was no room; if you were going to stay, you had to swim. I looked out at the night sky stealing in, a dark slate, how it contrasted with the white foam of the rushing tide and I felt pure fear. I was alone.

Supernatural Fish Bones

I had become distinctly aware of something floating just above me on the right side of the bed. It was a fish, but this fish had no scales, no flesh. Its bones were radiant and its eyes glowed. It hovered above me in a lime-green hue, fluorescent, flapping its tail gleefully. It lit up the dark. And just when I reached to grab it, I slipped back through the portal of consciousness. My immediate feeling was terror, because I had realized then that I had been with something unworldly. Why is my first feeling always fear? Would not a supernatural fish be intriguing? Wouldn’t this be a particular remedy to a day-to-day life that chisels away continuously at imagination? Am I not constantly yearning for imagination?

Fish Kiss

Last week, on an abnormally warm day, I took the twins to the dentist. As I sat there watching them lay back in their silly sunglasses getting their teeth cleaned, I noticed a large empty fish bowl on a shelf. It was wonderfully round and elegant. Before they were put in their chairs, the kids were asking for the fish, where were they? Where was the tank? They had to be told several times that the fish tank was being repaired. The fish were unavailable at the moment. This was very disappointing to my kids. Marielle pointed out the empty fish bowl on the shelf, and that's when I put to mind the exquisite curvature of the bowl. The fish bowl reappeared in my dream a following night, and inside it was a fat yellow-bellied fish. This fish was female, and it floated vertically in the water with its lips puckered at the lip of the water. I placed my lips on top of its lips. What a delicate thing to do! And then suddenly there was a marring of the water in the tank; there was a dust plume floating beside the vertical kissing fish. Or was the dust plume a placenta? There was no baby. I attempted to get the fish out of the dirty water into clean water without letting in the dust plume placenta; this was arduous and I nearly gave up. I finally succeeded in placing the fish in a two-part tank in which she could slide over a small plastic bridge and into a second body of water. I thought this could be an interesting activity for her, to keep her from getting bored. And then suddenly, as if it was spontaneously generated, a carp appeared in the tank. The carp was a brilliant vermilion color and could jump from one side to the other. I thought the yellow-bellied fish could learn from the carp, how to jump and live a more exciting life. But the carp wasn’t happy jumping from one part, over the bridge, to the other part. The carp leapt out of the tank entirely and landed on the carpet, twitching. I fetched it, and he flopped in my hands. I put him back in the tank and then he flipped back out again.

Some creatures, some ideas, some people are simply wild and must come and go as they please.

Friday, December 28, 2018

The Idea of Simple Christmas and Simple Christmas Collages

Early Christmas Eve morning, there was a bone-white moon in a pale pink sky. I had seen its face--a circle of ghastly white--suspended in the embroidered web of the tree of life, a curtain I have had hanging in my living room for ten years or more. It was a full moon, a placid moon, a Christmas moon. The previous night, it was a comfort, as it has so often been, while I lie with one eye awake on the couch, watching Josie, who lay in her bed on the floor, a bandage over the gash she opened a week ago. She was fidgety, and I was worried she would get into it again, nibble at the sutures the doctor sewed into her after he took out the tumors. Part of the incision has healed fine, but the part she had gotten to bloomed into a fleshy pink rose with  an opalescent white center, a tendon, perhaps, in the middle of it. I couldn't look at it at first, but life has a way of making things mandatory. So now I am a professional dresser of wounds.



This entry is supposed to be about Christmas, the concept of Christmas, or rather, what I have long discovered, how Christmas can never live up to what we expect from it. This is the mistake we make in our society. The "stuff and story" part of Christmas renders it a child's holiday, toys, Santa, elves, etc., but even children feel the insatiability of Christmas, of materialism, always looking for one more present to open. (I can acutely remember the hollow feeling of Christmases past and opening that last gift, myself). Adults over drink and over eat. We over decorate, over buy. This all feels so stupid and I keep asking myself why do we keep doing this?

If you look south when you drive over the Bridge Street bridge, crossing the Bass River at night, you'll see a small tree out on a pier, lit up with lights. It's just a a simple pine tree, maybe four feet tall. It doesn't have a thousand fancy ornaments, and there are no presents beneath it. I look at that tree, and it gives me such joy to see it. It's as if someone is saying, I know there is darkness everywhere; it is the time for darkness, but there is light, there is festive light, if you take care.

Hearing a choir sing Silent Night also gives me joy, as does the moon on an anxious night, and a star, a prominent star, something to follow, to reflect upon, early Christmas morning. Josie had fallen into a deep sleep, and I thought I could go up to my bed, top off the night with quality rest, and I turned to look out the stairway window and I saw it. It was the brightest star I had ever seen, and I waited for it to move because it just had to be a plane, and I blinked, and still it did not move. It was a star. It was the Christmas star. There wasn't a congregation of angels dancing around it. It was just a simple star, but it was the brightest star I had ever seen.

If maybe we start to expect less of Christmas, we will have a better chance of being fulfilled. If we turn to nature, as the Wise Men did, we might find our gifts there. The collages that I have created here are my attempts to find a simpler Christmas, one more soulful and satisfying.