The Drawing Man’s Heart And The Mind of The Muse
One: The Crow
One unbelievable day long hence — in a wintry mountain basin–on the east limb of the world. Branches sway fiercely in frigid gusts, setting all the forest in motion under a bronze-to-cobalt sky. The winds blow so strongly that sometimes they blow virtually all the snow off the trees, leaving them temporarily bare–almost as naked as they used to be in fall. Frozen, sparkling crystals not anchored to the bristles of the conifers blow in gales of white powder — rising up from swinging, swaying and dancing frosty limbs. A snow-filled gale of them then blankets the trees again — and soon the layers are hardened by another storm’s deluge, hours later.Occasionally the branches spread so wide in the wind that they reveal the frozen, green and white interiors of the trees. Over the whitened and blanketed countryside — the pale winds eventually dissipate and their traces disappear into the distance with a howl, as they force their way into new banks of presently gust-assaulted trees.
And suddenly —
the shrill, startling cry of an invisible and distant crow cuts through the baritone moan
of another nascent gust —
and against the darkening onslaught of the approaching end of the day:
The hearty and resonant, high-pitched call pierces the attention of a thousand invisible creatures near and far — in a curious, beckoning tone — whose scurrying in the brush and breaking crusts of snow is barely audible, but evident and evidence of their departures….
As it used to seem to the ignorant ears of humanity, this crow — for all we can imagine — exclaims in vain… from somewhere — anchored to a branch or an unused electrical wire, or… it is suffering the chill of a frozen roof in a village beyond the forest.
But upon second thought, the almost desperate (or defiant?) call sounded more like a protest — than a report or invitation.
That curdling, trumpet-like tone emanated from a scarred, armored, black beak — and faded up into the approaching night in a haunting decrescendo–and it disappeared into the sound of the aching, moaning wind. And–it is followed with the response of a weakening but equally impressive echo….
Maybe this powerful voice belongs to a strong avian — soaring in flight over the valley — in defiance of the cold, skyward currents he rides — rebelling against the loneliness like it’s a chill one has no time for. His aileron and tail feathers could be manipulating Thor’s ghostly, frozen winds and the dead god’s last, best, bellowing efforts to take him down.
Maybe he’s a fighter-ace– a descendant of the great lizards. No, he is no falcon — but then a falcon never evolved to be as smart as the crow. Maybe he mocks the vain attempts of the wind, which used to bring down air machines of men and women — in the great storms of the new weather.
And perhaps the crow’s strength–despite his age–simply ignores the vast, winter-tortured and snowy world below — whose gravity can’t halt his flight one moment.
Like yours and mine, most of this crow’s behaviors, right now, would seem a mystery to the observer. After all, we wouldn’t ask him why he does what he does. But we might wonder — why he hasn’t taken shelter by now — on this waning, frozen, dying age day. What soul would be attempting anything but hibernation, huddling with his mate some place warm, like in the nook of a time-honored nest — early refuge before the onset of the winter’s evening maelstrom?
. . .
And across the wavy dunes of bright, pale absences of color, piled up between the paths of bushy, snow-covered trees and behind the frozen glass of a window — in a distant, small wood and stone abode — a warm glow escapes heavy winter curtains. If only the crow could see this gleam of warmth… but would it mean anything to him? He’s just like an old man–still moving on his own–in solo flight, because though it is getting late–he just now sees the light.
Two: The Light
A mound of snow half buries an old, lone, cottage with colorful eaves. It’s a solitary, warm and inviting relic of antiquity–quaint, but well kept. It’s half-ensconced in the snow drifts between the wind-blown trees at the foot of a white-capped mountain and surrounded by frosted firs. And despite its spirited tones and unmistakable age, it happens to be the eye-catching, single reminder of civilization in these mountain parts.
Smokey-white gusts abscond with only the thinnest layers of the deluge of crystals blown from the roof of the abode. No smoke emanates from the defunct chimney protruding from behind the mostly-covered gun metal grey tiled roof.
In the structure’s growing shadows, fading–but usually vibrant–primary greens and reds attempt to shine their hues under the eaves — in the roof’s lattice-work. This is an old temple of the ancient Hermit Kingdom, which before the Great Pandemics, Last Wars, Impacts and the Climation — had become a leading democracy — when that word and its institutions were important to safeguarding all that is second-nature among remaining nations of a vastly changed world, today.
Light comes from the peeking glass, framed in the snow-crecented sheets of a multi-paned window — in the side of the house. The warm glow is escaping heavy winter curtains within, which block most of the room beyond the glass — but for a narrow space intentionally left drawn open — to let in a sliver of the outside world, and more importantly, a shaft of its light — to illuminate a room in the southwest corner.
Inside, a man sits–at a slightly angled drawing board–on the floor. Before him and his setup of ink pots, pencils in jars, erasing shields, and other old-fashioned accouterments of the trade, a young woman wrapped in blankets dozes on a long, cushioned platform — a bed of sorts. She’s composed, yet slumped in a-comfortable phalanx of limbs, bodice and columns of parallel waves — in the cloths she’s swaddled among — most of which appear a warm pale blue, transformed into a glow from the bright heat of an electric room-warmer set in front of her cushions.
The man is pensive — an artist at work. He is drawing the woman in ink. Some would say ‘’painting.” His brush-strokes are variously slow and almost non-moving — and then, suddenly lightening-fast, yet fluid — as if his hand were the graceful, contracting & extending wings of the crow, gathering and expelling columns of air in the sky.
The artist’s brush traces out proscribed lanes of pale grey, then a rich, outer-space-black-type absence of color — as if he he is laying down the liquid of the abyss itself.
His eyes squint as they must rely more and more on the electric lamps, candles set round the room and the orange glow of the warmer…. Sol’s light is waning, from the window and from this side of the world, outside — the spectacle of her day appreciated, spent and draining into the darkness that deepens like the artist’s ink — as the world turns away from her giving light. ‘Or is she taking it away?’ the focused draftsman wonders.
Then, beyond the walls and window — out of doors — several tree-branches over and nearest the house part — in a sudden gust — whilst coincidentally, the curtain moves as the woman shifts–and her body, pulling on her blanket, disturbs the curtains–thus exposing more of the glass in the window to the last blessings of that mother star… coming through the moving tree limbs….
Triumphantly–in a last parade of photons arriving on the last leg of the journey of their kind taken every 5,000 seconds all the way from the sun, through space, into the atmosphere, down into the valley, through the trees — and now presenting in a most auspicious flash of light, they emerge from the window, silently striking a hanging fish chime dangling suspended from the roof of the window-box. In a reflected beam, its narrow shafts traverse the space in the room — from the window in front of the artist, across to the muse — and momentarily break the growing dim of dusk inside.
The light catches the dreaming young woman’s suddenly exposed pupils as she half-awakes to adjust her position. That brilliance shines from her eyes, striking the artist’s and vanishes — just as instantly as it had shown — alighting the artist’s vision. And — his heart. The momentarily flood in his field of view startles and enchants him — and he realizes a strengthening of an emotion he thought he had no more ability to increase — for it has been at its pinnacle since he met her: Love. And the young woman immediately closes her eyes again–resuming her slumbering repose. The artists stands there, aghast. In what confluence of fortune, tragedy, history, biology, poetry and grace could one love another so intensely?
‘Beautiful.’ Irony….’ are the words that coalesce in the artist’s mind; ‘her name literally means “bright.”
This millisecond interlude–a poetic appearance of fledgling, traveling sunlight — like all starlight, bright and surprisingly brilliant — a birth of energy expressed in a flash–and a virtually instantaneously it’s subsequent “death” — like the flash of a falling meteor, born in a fiery pulse of drama barely recognized by earthbound sentients — brought more than momentary cosmic wonder to the man than the cosmos itself — for his interest in the physical universe and its majesty — its power — was often challenged by his admission that love was actually more powerful. For love moved men and men had volition — and stars, galaxies, nebulae and planets did not.
Everyone stops in short contemplation after realizing that the serendipity of having luckily spied the random and improbable flicker of a “shooting star”, but this was not a shooting star; this flash of starlight from the sun was appearing at dusk, in his little room, in her momentarily crescent, museful eyes, sent therefrom and seen — by his, was fantastical…. And thus it arrested him, so he stilled by it — and — for a very, very long moment, indeed, because it was not the sun who’d shone on him, it was she — and something in what she had dreamt — though he couldn’t know that now, and wouldn’t — for years to come…
Three: Dreams of The Muse
“You can’t marry him.”
Sessprin’s father, his visage shimmering in the heat of his breakfast–is seated opposite her in the cozy nook of their kitchen. But, strangely, he appears to be within the glow of an aura set against the backdrop of the alter of their church…. She’s seeing things. Or — ‘having a waking dream’ — or at least ‘imagining something’ due to the circumstances–and the light….
He doesn’t look up from his scroll — his scroll of The Book. The circular, white, cloth disk of his undershirt, peeks from beneath the round opening in his purple minister’s collar, appearing to Sessprin like the moon, which Kalim had told her so much about. For an instant she hears his voice.
“Yes, we landed there, and there were colonies there too.” And her own voice, from that now distant conversation — when they’d first met:
“My father says it’s a story told by Temple Knocks and non-believers.”
She stared at her father.
‘He‘s always reading from “The Book.”’
“Why don’t you use an actual book… version… of The Book–instead of the scrolls, Father?”
Sessprin knows the answer to this; even the Temple monks who practice and preserve an oral tradition–prefer scrolls to books when it is necessary to refer to their scriptures.
Sessprin looks at her hot porridge as she speaks–the steam from which warms and wets her face–with her eyes on the meal. Her words refer to her father’s peculiarities–her mind is–on Kalim, the artist–her boyfriend — but this dream of an illusion continues, with the edges of the table seeming to be set against a backdrop of the same glowing aura. Sessprin is not whimsical–not at this moment, anyway; she’s contemplative, and knows it. She, after all — is a more talented artist than Kalim — but that’s not important to anyone who cares to know her. What’s important is her father doesn’t have an artistic notion in his consciousness at all. He is a straight-laced disciplinarian, running a failed parish. But she respects him — in certain ways — the ways one respects her father, here — and a bit more….
Sessprin’s mother, clad in an apron, bonnet and warm flannel collar, looks on from behind the stove, smoke from her crockery bellowing mist in front of her warm and friendly face. her visage shimmers in an apparition-like atmosphere in Sessprin’s eyes — framing this odd experience. Expecting an argument, the young but matronly mother attempts to shoot at Sessprin a glare of warning, but it goes unnoticed. Sessprin, like her father — though keenly observant — is often preoccupied. She’s an artist herself — and thus given to those random (or what the non-initiated would think of as such — inspirations, appearing in consciousness inside and outside the self.
‘I wonder what would have happened if he had let me go to art school? I wouldn’t have met Kalim–and wouldn’t have to see him secretly. In fact, I probably wouldn’t have been in a gallery that day; I would have been busy with a commission — or a graphics project for a big account.’
Sessprin’s father finally looks up from his scripture.
“You’re changing the subject, but it won’t go away, little one. You should listen to me sometimes; you’re–very… bright.”
His eyebrows lift slightly as his seriousness breaks for a moment: he looks as if he realizes he is falling into the trap of referencing her given name: “Bright”. ‘Sessprin’ was a moniker she picked up from friends who teased her about her being too kind. It was a bit of irony. ‘Sessprin’ backward and with the two syllables interposed was “princess.” She was nothing like a princess; she was gentle, considerate, reserved, polite, and very intelligent–fulfilling with her mind her namesake. Her father often used it–“Bright”–in the course of admonishing her–which she despised and often criticized him for–and she reminds him now….
“Just because my name is “Bright,” doesn’t mean I always have to be… reasonable — and, and — smart!” You’re constantly telling me. And — besides: Kalim is — was…”
This gets her father’s attention. He quickly puts his scroll down and look at Sessprin over his glasses and through the steam of their breakfast crocks
“You’re seeing him!” After I forbade it?”
“No.” Frowning and her spirit broken, Sessprin spoons her porridge in circles–without looking up.
“I want you to be happy, not myself. Of course. Everything is for you.”
Looking back, satisfied, at his scriptures, this time straight through his lenses, Sessprin’s preacher father, now relieved replies with a bookend comment:
“He’s foreign, He’s a Templer, he’s from that country.… It’s for your own good. And — he’s too old.”
Still not looking up and continuing to make circles in her porridge, Sessprin suddenly envisions in a reflection of the morning sunlight on the surface of her gleaming gruel — an image of the wooden placard inscribed with the name of her father’s little church — and its maxim–which hang over the entrance of the church at a downward angle, so the entering parishioners can see it as they climb the steps to enter. It is suddenly engulfed in growing, bright flames, it’s inscription blackening and disappearing into the spreading stain of the smoldering wood: “Heavenly Reason: The Way of The Divine”. The letters vanish in a brilliant conflagration which spreads to the door frame and the roof tiles, quickly ensconcing the whole structure…. The roof falls in! There are no screams. The whole building just — disappears, and strangely, there is a sunrise behind it and a clear sky.
The image gives way and the apparition is gone, subsumed by the explosive morning glow of the sun in the window as Sessprin hears her mother’s voice reminding her she will miss the carriage to school where she teaches in the nearby town — if she doesn’t hurry.
Things were easier in the past — when there were buses and cars…. Now she had to leave even earlier to get to the little building where she taught that still popular foreign language.
As the sun’s angle increases and its intensity comes in over the sill, filling the room, the reflection of the church in her mind has vanished…. the dream, over, mostly.
. . .
‘It’s time to go to work,’ she murmurs, stirring in the blankets in front of the artist. “And — oh, I’m cold.’ Sessprin’s eyes open slightly, she realizes she is on the artist’s bed stand, and momentarily glimpses him holding his brush. She pulls the covers over herself more snugly. ‘I can’t… can’t marry him.’ She falls back into her slumber.
The daymare vision returns. The kitchen. The gruel. The vision in the reflection. The church in flames and covered in smoke. A wince unnoticed by Kalim flashes over her face and is as quickly gone.
‘I can’t… I cannot love… you any….’
Waking fully, now to a silent room growing darkerㅡSessprin spies Kalim’s silhouette lit by the crown of light still coming from the warmer and the dying candles; he’s where he was before — exactly where — and seems still — very still.
‘Huh?’ Strange,’ she murmurs….
He’s not moving — and wears a smile as motionless….
Four: The Heart
The maiden crow on the the perch of the nearby roof — whom our crow can see with his practiced eyes — would spy this crow as if he were bobbing up and down and slightly to and fro — in the shadowy berth between frozen, crested, snow-covered limbs — if she were looking at him.
The wind sets the branch upon which our crow is perched in an up and down and infinitesimally small rotational oscillation. It would make you or me dizzy, were we as small as the crow, however, this feathered being is, after all, an avian — an experienced flyer whose life has subsisted on his navigation, aviating and hunting skills — and he is one who has been all around this world, by himself — and with mates who taught him well, to say nothing of his parents’ tutelage….
But now, alone in this strange place — for so long — he is used to the limits of his own company, which temper him more than flight, and the ups and downs are nothing — but physical. The physical is never so great as the strength of the emotional paths we travel — on land or in the skies. Solitude has made him stronger — if at times it has set him in a course-altering mood of longing — even for a bird. And when he meditates on the relieving sound and perfection of his own cries and make his presence known.
• • •
Inside, the artist has stopped working. He’s just smiled, and almost as quickly, the descending of his cheeks begins as that mark of human happiness falls slowly off his face….
That light — its jeweled photons landing on the inside of the muse’s irises — and forming crescents in those crescent spaces — shined a luminous and life-altering earth-tone of golden brown. It travels again across space — through his studio — to his practiced pupils, and touching his rods and cones, sends signals along his optic nerves to the visual center of his cortex, and then informing his mind of the confluence of focused delight that was the experience of her — as always — in his sight… This heralds the rest of his brain and its bodily tendrils, causing a visceral reverberation from his gut to his Sternocleidomastoids — both of which clench — pulling his jaw into a retraction under the power of a wrinkling neck and jerking his head down toward his clavicles by a small but noticeable degree; in the slash if time this musing in glee had occurred, he was also saddened….
A poet would say the vision of the muse in this instance of light, color and perfection — and what it did to her eyes and her skin and her shape — and thus what this does for him and all he felt for her — ’it touched his heart,’ but that which we commit to flowery, cadenced phrases in verse, about the issues of love, never comes close to the effects this emotion has on the body and mind — which are beyond language, and so far beyond poetry, for the artist.
Kalim just knew in the first half of that moment — what he’d always known, since only minutes after speaking to Sessprin for the first time — those years ago — in the streets of the traditional art district of the ancient city — and he felt it with more resolve and explosive emotion than ever before….
In an instant, as many times before, it filled him with gratitude and joy — to be alive and to be able, and in the right place, and ‘just in time’ as it were — and was….
Then something crushed his hopes…. It was as if he had heard her in her sleep — but he had not. He just felt, someway — an incredible wave in the motion of time, and it showed him … himself, without her. And then all stopped. Everything. All sensation. All motion in the branches out the window. The breeze of the heat fan in her hair. The dust motes. Time stopped.
His breathing stopped. But no matter came of it. Now he could feel his heart beating in his chest — and it got louder and louder. His chest pounded and, and heaved — as if it were oscillating in a tight circuit. Kalim thought it was enough to throw him off balance. What was happening?
‘Am I sick?’ He wanted to call out to Sessprin. He couldn’t move.
‘I must be dying?’ And all went black…
To be continued….
© Copyright 2004~2021 C. Charles Atteniese/All rights reserved.