Return to Kirby Pines
On Monday I facilitated a Zoom meeting with eight of the twenty members of the Kirby Pines Lifecare Community‘s Creative Writing Group. I introduced y’all to this group back in July (see my post, “Senior Living in Isolation”) after my first meeting with them, which was in person. In October I shared what was happening “Four Months In.” Unfortunately November was my last in-person meeting, as Covid had found its way into the facility and they had to close to visitors.
In December we had our first Zoom meeting, calling it a Zoom Christmas Party rather than an actual writing workshop. It was my first time to facilitate, and the first time on Zoom for several participants. By this week’s January Zoom meeting I was getting braver–even learning to “share screens” in order to share an image for a writing exercise. (Although I still don’t know how to get rid of the desktop images behind the screens I’m sharing.)
Ekphrastic Writing Exercise
The reason I wanted to learn to share screens was in order to display an image for an ekphrastic writing exercise. I first wrote about ekphrastic writing in a post back in 2009 (on my old blog) called, “Prehistoric Hypertext.” But in simple terms it is writing poetry or prose inspired by an image – a photograph, painting, or sketch. For this exercise I shared three images, giving the writers a choice of which to write about.
The most popular of the images was this photograph by Shawna Lemay of her husband, the artist Robert Lemay. Shawna gave me permission to share the image here. Isn’t it amazing? It’s from Shawna’s blog, “Transactions With Beauty.”
One of the ekphrastic writing samples done for the writing workshop was this one by Jean Saunders. I thought it was exquisite and asked Jean’s permission to share it here. Jean has compiled and edited numerous publications and currently works at Memphis University School as data-base manager, Manager of Advancement Series, and also does some proof-reading and editing of the school magazine. I hope you will fall in love with her reflection on this photograph, as I did.
As Always, My Love by Jean Saunders
The dream woke him before dawn. Dreams had eluded him in recent months, and he felt an urgency to paint this dream before he slept again. His heart was awake, the colors still vivid in his mind. Slowly, he swung his legs over the bedside, trying not to wake his wife.
“I’m sorry dear. I didn’t mean to wake you. I can’t sleep, so I’m going to paint a little.”
“I love your dreams. Paint it for me.”
“As always, my love.”
He pulled on some old khaki pants and a shirt he had left draped across the chair at the foot of the bed. All his clothes had paint on them, even his shoes. He never wore any apron when he painted, and he always forgot to change clothes before he went to his studio. A smear of paint might linger on his forearm. The current oils he was using were under his fingernails.
His studio was a mystery to anyone who lacked a passion for painting. Two large windows let in natural light. A wooden easel stood beside one window, paint spattered on the surrounding floor. Shelves along one of the walls were lined with old jars holding colored pencils and new paint brushes. A store of different kinds of paper waited their turn for his artwork. New tubes of paint in boxes were organized by their colors, flattened empty tubes strewn about with disregard. Coffee cans with turpentine and used brushes crowded together in the corner. A sink long since covered with rainbow colors of paint submitted to the constant dripping of a faucet. Assorted sizes of canvases leaned together against every available space.
Old fingers knotted with arthritis made opening new tubes of paint difficult. He was grateful to find the colors he wanted in tubes that were well used. They still offered enough for another painting. He used both hands to squeeze the oils onto his well-used palate. A fresh, clean canvas stared at him from the easel.
Now his hand relaxed around a favorite brush, and the work began. He mixed the oil paints together, colors that reminded him of golden hair and blue eyes. She had teased him in their art class when he was first learning to paint.
“I try to paint more from what I am feeling,” she offered. “If I paint exactly what I see, there’s no personality, no individuality.”
This morning, his work began to sing. One dull color placed against a bright one. Blues and greys flowing into a stream of water. Yellow and burnt sienna blending into sunlight. Memories of love making a poem of his painting. The day was gone before he knew it. Using an old cloth to wipe paint from his hands, he backed away from his painted vision. It was as he had dreamed it.
He returned to his bed to sleep alone again. Dreams had eluded him in the months since her death. Perhaps he would dream again. As sleep finally overtook him, a familiar voice whispered to him.
“I love your dreams. Paint them for me.”
“As always, my love.”