Have you ever had a burning desire to write something? Something, powerful? Something that meant the world to you – that you wanted to share with the world, but you weren’t exactly sure of how to get started? Or maybe you did get started. Made some headway, but not as much as you’d hoped. You still loved it. Still wanted to write it; but, you shelved it. You gave up. Or, maybe temporarily.
If you have – you are not alone. I wanted – and still want desperately to write a book about a slice of my life growing up; a testament to life with my dad who struggled with mental illness and alcoholism until his last days. I’ve started it. And stopped. And started. But the more I read a variety of things, the more I feel a nudging to finish what I started.
Can I be honest? I’ve not always felt that my “caliber” of writing was good enough! I’m so blown away by the work of other authors, I think, “Eh, I might not be at that level. I’m not sure anyone would even be interested. Would it be good enough?” I’ve since decided I need not judge myself too harshly. Instead – I should write. With that in mind, I’ve decided to dust off my very old chapter and share it in the community with which I feel the most confidence for feedback.
My heart is wrapped into this work still in its very early stages as I’ve had many setbacks and a long way to go. Nevertheless, I can’t continue to read beautiful stories that have touched my life forever and not want to share one that I hope will touch the lives of others. So, here’s my several-years-old chapter one of a book that I still hope to write one day. Honest feedback appreciated from this memorable slice of my life.
He was mesmerizing. My dad could mirror the essence of any landscape with a few hours of intricately pressing ebony charcoal against paper. When feverishly, but contemplatively working on his art, he could make countless settings sing with crescendos and melodies, harmonies and highlights that would transfix any viewer for days. I can still see him staring at his canvas, glancing back and forth at the lush trees in the park, paying homage to their branches that curved over the streets creating arcs that met like wooden rainbows. He revered both still life and wildlife. Sometimes, I think robins and blue jays would prance onto the scene because they wanted to be featured in his timeless masterpieces.
He gave careful attention to the bubbling fountain and the cooled water that cascaded into centric waterfalls, cradled in sculpted cement reminiscent of Roman prowess. Benches that otherwise went unnoticed were suddenly staple characters in what may have been a story for the ages. They had a lot to say after all. They had warmed many seats of the most intriguing folk: couples in love who wanted nothing more than to peer into each other’s eyes, blissfully unaware of the world around them; moms with multiple kids, two playing and laughing incessantly while a toddler in an oversized stroller (that was unbearable to navigate) licked chocolate ice cream that melted faster than it could be eaten.
And there were office workers, of course. Those who left the job, if only for a moment, to read the paper to a different symphony of sorts – one of sights, sounds, and smells. Magnolia trees presided in the park whose trunks were of such enormity that they couldn’t be hugged by a circle of four large men. I loved how he drew attention to their winding and prominent roots, immovable on top of the soil, yet traversed by tiny scientists blazing trails of their own at the park.
Busy bees relished the succulent sweetness of the intoxicating nectar that flowed from soft, oversized ivory blossoms. Larks lulled some to sleep with their lyrics. Cardinals cooed to their contemporaries. Freshly baked pretzels filled the air while beckoning palates to sample their sweet and salty goodness. His ability to pull me in to the places he’d been was majestic, especially if I’d been there, too. He could transfer the finest details of the surroundings with remarkable shadowing and the insight of a guru.
Ray was my unofficial art teacher. He educated me on the effect that adding a little darkness could bring here and there; how it could change the divot under one’s nose and over the lip. How crosshatching, a pattern of shadowing made by drawing intersecting lines on top of each other, could add depth to a building or soul to an unsung hero. My favorite was always how he recaptured the humanity of the passersby.
His mind’s eye had a magnificent way of using pencils and paints to translate gladness and hope. Suffering and sorrow. Rage and relief. Glee and pain. I wasn’t sure of how he could see that, but I think he passed the gene to me. I study people all the time, and some things that I see behind their eyes I wish I didn’t.
Such thoughts swirled in my mind like a whirlpool of bittersweet mullings and memories. I gently stroked the photograph of us in my hand, yearning to return to the time when I was four instead of fourteen. I wanted to go back to the park that day, to feel the sunshine on my skin that warmed me as if soaking up rays had been my daily prescription.
I wanted to see the smile that ebbed and flowed across his face while he threw me into the air and affectionately called me Baby Girl even though I knew I was way bigger than a baby. I wanted to hang on his every word, listen to his stories, and prop myself up with my own artist supplies so that I could draw, too – and be like him.
I wanted to talk to him about what was happening with him and mom and me; to tell him how important it was that he be around for my brother, because he was a boy and he needed his dad. I wanted to grill him about his bizarre behavior and vanishings at odd hours of the night; scold him for not taking the medicine that helped him maintain his sanity; demand of him that he transport me back in time to that picture; to that place; to that feeling!
I longed to question him about his whereabouts when I needed him most. Because I needed him. Most. I wanted to hug him. Because what I really wanted after three months of knowing nothing, is to know where he was. He was gone. And that’s not what I wanted.
#sliceoflife #mybestartteacher #stillmissinghim #towritethisstory #wouldbepriceless #hopefulamidstheartache #carlamichelle