FUGITIVE PIECES



This is my studio – full of blank canvases. I’ve had a six-month hiatus from painting which I probably needed but now I need to paint more than ever. I have been preparing these canvases for the past few months… itching to slash through all that purity.

I’ve started working in design again and while I love the engagement of the office environment, it will suck my soul right out of me if I am not vigilant. This sounds very dramatic I know, however, I am exhausted when I get home and my ‘portal’ to the office from my home computer blinks at me at all hours of my home life… I have to draw a line. Mmmm, I can draw a line...

On days in the studio when I feel the muses circling, I pick up old novels and pick a chapter to read, wondering where the goddesses will lead me.

I reached for this one the other day and was so moved by this section I thought I’d include it in this post. It comes from the novel Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels, the voice is of a young man who has escaped the utter devastation of war, if only physically.

 “One evening I walked up Grace Street, a summer tunnel of long shadows, the breeze from the lake a cool finger slipping gently under my damp shirt, the tumult of the market left blocks behind. In the new coolness, and new quiet, a thread of memory clung to a thought. Suddenly an overheard word fastened on to a melody; a song of my mother’s that was always accompanied by the sound brush bristles pulling through Bella’s hair, my mother’s arm drawing with the beat. The words stumbled out of my mouth, a whisper, then louder, until I was mumbling whatever I remembered. “What good is the mazurka, my heart is not carefree; what good’s the girl from Vurka, if she does not love me…” “Black cherries are gathered, the green are left on the tree…” All the way through to the opening verses of “Come to me, Philosopher” and “How does the Czar Drink his tea?”

I looked around. The houses were dark, the street safely empty. I raised my voice. “Foolish one, don’t be so dense, don’t you have any common sense? Smoke is taller than a house, a cat is faster than a mouse…”


Up Grace, along Henderson, up Manning to Harbord I whimpered; my spirit shape finally in familiar clothes and, with abandon, flinging its arms to the stars.


But the street wasn’t as empty as I thought. Startled, I saw that the blackness was perforated with dozens of faces. A forest of eyes, of Italian and Portuguese and Greek ears; whole families sitting silently on lawn chairs and front steps. On dark verandas, a huge invisible audience, cooling down from their small, hot houses, the lights kept off to keep away the bugs.


There was nothing for it but to raise my foreign song and feel understood.”


The truth is that I could have opened that book at any page and found a similarly beautiful section. It’s just that this passage is about connection: that connection, elusive and momentary that I seek. That moment that I feel whole. I think, maybe, we all long for it but I am not knowledgeable enough to make that assumption. I wonder if the power of memory lies in the fact that there, safely catalogued in the past, those moments are sitting ducks - easy to isolate, and own. In the flux of daily life it is much more difficult.