“This past February, the Cornwall Writers Group worked together with The Cline House Gallery & area artists in an oral presentation based upon works of the Gallery’s annual Juried Show. Writers selected a piece and wrote poems, haiku and various stories that were then read aloud to a small audience. The painting for this piece was created by Pierre Giroux.”
In the fall of her 55th year, my mother and her sister Lillian, found a bounty of blue grapes running in bunches at Guindon Park. Loading my father’s car with banana boxes, the two got to work in the weeks that followed. Their fingers, stained beyond bleaching, filled many stoneware pots with bittersweet wine, plucked deep within the sumac.
One evening, the pair drove to that secret place, only to find the most spectacular sunset they’d ever seen. Another car pulled alongside. People got out and walked into the woods.
Towards the call of night birds and a pine needle forest, the two women soon fell in behind. But for the calming wind, they told no-one of what they’d found.
That winter, my gym class went cross-country skiing there. Barrelling in the house, rosy cheeked and breathless, it wasn’t long before mom bought skis for everyone –just in case.
Given first choice, my orange vermilions proved their worth over many a trail and Mogul. The poles were wobbly things of thin bamboo but they did their job and kept us upright.
Over the winter break, my mother, Lil, their aunt Evelyn, myself and my sister, made our way to the trail head along the old #2. Ejecting from the overstuffed car was euphoric as our breath barked out our mouths into that brisk cold day.
If you were a meteorologist, you would know that winter sunshine belies the damp and bone chilling ache of frostbitten extremities. But by some miracle of madness, the embrace of that woodland thicket changed everything about the day.
As an aside, I have always loved winter scenes. My mother before me was an artist herself. Encouraged by friends at the Encore Seniors, she too loved the quiet stillness of winter forests and painted them often. The snow, in blue, pink and marble shades, working their way to the ceiling of imagination; were but the bones of our coming-up years.
One September years ago, a friend gifted me a silver ring with a circle of red coral. Worn nearest the skin, its powers of strength and courage find their roots in the woman whose hands resemble my own. Receiving compliments for its place on my finger is a bittersweet reverence of anniversary.
Looking at my elders and aunts with all of their foibles, I am struck by their determination to find meaning and purpose, in all. So like this piece before you, where the artist finds beauty in the dark.
I recall our last after-school skiing trip with the crew fired up and ready to go. Just as the path ahead grew dark along the trailhead, a crescent moon peeped between the birches.
Of bluest sky and coldest dusk, I whispered a prayer of warmth and sanctuary and was answered back with a cardinal’s call. From the highest branch, in brilliant red against the midnight blue and crunching snow, it did wait.
I have dreamt of it often.
Lisa Gray Copyright © January 2023