I escape to Bishops Park. It is absolutely amazing in summer. There is an upper and a lower lagoon with a forest green, metal bridge separating the two army green bodies of water. I sit and dangle my feet from the bridge catching my reflection each time as I dream of being a fish and swimming so far away.
At the end of the lower lagoon is a waterfall to the underground tunnel. The water starts out in a sleek pouring from flat surface to downward spiral. The colors transform from muddy to translucent white with shadows of turquoise on the outer edges of the cascading currents. They look like a gentle wave crashing along the Atlantic shore of sandy beaches where I will one day live my dream.
The milky fern colored lagoons are surrounded by two apple green hills which are great for sledding on the soft, powder snow in the winter, hitting the sidewalk then skidding onto the frozen body of water. We ice skate here. It is fun to glide across the frosted ice to the center island unreachable in summer.
In the summertime, the hills can be quite steep and if I am not careful, I can slip and fall. There is a huge red barn and wooden pavilion where I climb the steps and run, circling the wraparound porch and peek in the giant reflective windows. Beyond the pavilion and lagoons to the left and across the small street is this little baby bump of a hill.
2008-Studio-My imagination is in overdrive and a smile is plastered upon my face as I begin painting today. Innocence, BFF’s, and water surrounds my memories about to unfold.
1960’s- Built into the hill is three cages that the city paid to house a lion, a bear and a snake. I have to stand behind the big, tar black iron fence to see the animals.
IT IS THE COOLEST THING EVER.
The lion is always asleep. His fur is muted tones of corn husks with some chestnut browns and a little hint of sunshine streaks of gold. It reminds me of the fuzzy sea grasses I draw that tickle the bottom of my fins as I swim by in my dreams. The lion is big and scary-especially his big fudge stained teeth, but at the same time something about the way he gracefully walks in big circles around his cage growling just makes me want to hug him.
The black bear is stinky. His fur shimmers in the sunlight and he looks like someone has smudged reddish brown chalk on his fur in places. He is dark and uninviting like the basement in our home. His nails are super long and yellow with a mix of dirt, just like the basement floor.
The snake is the strangest of them all. His cage has jagged grey barked branches and green tall weeds in the bottom and boxes he uses as a home. You have to wait all day sometime to see his gold toned, smooth body lumber out of wherever he is hiding and stick his long, quick, dark pink tongue at me. I wish I could slither around like him,
ESPECIALLY WHEN I TUMBLE DOWN THE HARD WOODEN STEPS
Next to these cages to the left is a small creek. It makes a soft, gurgling noise that is peaceful. The water is always cool and when I walk in it I have to keep my shoes on or I may slip on the slime or come out with slugs on me. It is fun to picnic beside and walk down with my friends. There are always little tiny yellow buttercup flowers along the shore bank and brown spotted green frogs. This place reminds me of my mother.
SOFT, COOL, INVITING AND FILLED WITH A MYRIAD OF COLORS.
I want to be Fancy Fins
And swim away
With my mother holding my hand
The entire way
I want to dive deep
And meet some new friends
Swimming amongst the kiwi grasses
My mother can tend
For up on the outside
Big flower gardens she sows
Flowers blooming every where
From her hands they grow…
To the right of the cages and across the tiny street is a great big fenced area. The random green grass patches are surrounded by tall golden weeds and cat tails-my imaginary brushes! There are groups of trees, an old bleached out wooden home and deer, elk, moose, horse and assorted wild life. I can walk right up to that fence and stick my tongue through it, hang on it and climb it. The animals never come near the chain link fence. I can imagine myself jumping on the back of the beautiful sand colored deer and riding faster than the nightmares can attach to my dreams.
Bishops park is
It’s where I can stay
There is so much to roam
My dreams catch the wind here
My tiny boat sails
My legs run towards freedom
Here I never fail
I talk to the butterflies
I chase after the geese
I dream I’m a swan
Until I feel the release
I lie on the grass
And I talk to God
Let’s continue our walk
Through Bishops park…
Beyond is the local pool. The pool has two diving boards, a high board and a low board. It’s knee shaking to climb the high board steps and jump down into the turquoise cool water of summer. I plunge in fearless, free and ready to become a mermaid. Under the water are bright colors skirting past me in assorted quick movements. The explosions of color under the water is inviting. I want to wrap my tiny self in each one and feel the coolness each hue brings.
I arrive at the pool by 7am for my water ballet classes. The morning dip is the most fun of the day, as it is like jumping into a bed of soft cotton sheets fresh off the line, dried by the sweet kiss of the summer sun.
Water ballet is my escape. I can hold my breath for long periods of time and swim like a tarpon. I love floating on my back and sticking my feet in the air and pointing my toes to the eggshell blue sky filled with silver puffy clouds.
THIS IS THE PLACE MY, “UNDER THE STEPS” WORLD BECAME REALITY
Here I was clean
Here I felt safe.
It is where I can see the shimmery light blending with all the colors of the world and releasing Mr. Hawksbill and the mermaids. It’s where royal blue triggerfish, and lavender minnows with passion pink fins encircle my whole being, sing songs to me and make me laugh.
I am always free at Bishops Park Pool. My mom lets me run around the whole area free like a bird to spread my golden wings and fly. It is a wonderful place to grow up. It is a place of healing, a place of silence. When I need acceptance or friends, all I need do is jump on the end of one of my tubes of paint and out spurts another protector or companion. The possibilities are endless, just as my imagination is.
2008-Studio-Wanting to stay in the moment-the memory, I close my eyes and begin breathing in the scents of my childhood.
Huddled in the corner with my palette I open my eyes and am encompassed with healing splashes of turquoise. The paint rests upon my fingers, jeans and the small canvas before me. I gaze up towards what I believe to be the heavens and say to God, “I wish, I wish, I wish I was a fish so I could swim far, far away.”
1960‘s-Immediately I can feel the cool comfort of the sparkling clear aquamarine waters of our local pool. I am treading water, keeping my head afloat and concentrating on breathing in the sparkling champagne sun. The whistle blows and I swim towards waters edge. The other little girls swim along side of me. I turn to them and smile. They are my, “fish friends.” Each one of them dressed in a different hue, each one brings happiness to my life.
The whistle blows a second time as I take in a deep breath of air and begin my under the sea journey. My tiny feet act like flippers as they kick and propel me from shallow to deep end. I feel alive. I am a mermaid. My multi colored fish friends are by my side as we all dance in synchronized melodic movements.
I touch the caribbean blue wall with my outstretched hand, flip my feet over my long brown hair and shove off again with my tiny toes. I notice another swimmer beside me, gaining speed. I kick harder until a hand catches my left ankle and pulls me back and down into the deep cobalt blue of the pool. We are spinning in a circular motion so I resist the urge to flee and let my body inhale the warm waters of youth.
My eyes open and I gaze up toward the welcoming rays of Gods light. “I am coming home God,” I think to myself.
I am not afraid to die
I am not afraid to go home
I am tired of being hated
The water is my friend
And now someone here
Doesn’t like me at all
I’m just being me
In this world
But I am small
Swimming is my air
Being a mermaid
Is my dream
I’ll let my body go
And see where it ends…
Spinning, twirling as fast as a merry go round I am dizzy. My small body in it’s navy blue with white polka dot suit is lying upon the scratchy pavement. A mouth is upon mine and I can hear my water ballet coach willing me to breathe. I jump back in to my skin and vomit up water, coughing and gasping for the sweet summer air of giggles, bubblegum and summertime.
A towel is wrapped around me and I am lifted to a lounge chair. I am told to lie still. I can tell my fish friends have been crying by their sniffles and tear streaked cheeks. I am not afraid but at peace. Warm in the towel, I close my eyes and sleep. I have just begun my dream when I smell my mother. I open my eyes to the tanned, soft skin of mom. She is smiling at me through puddles of tears.
“Sheri, what happened? Are you feeling o.k.?”
I nod my head and say, “Mommy, somebody pulled my ankle, so I let go and swam to God.”
“Well, you are safe with me now dear heart, let’s go home.”
My mother carries me to the car and we drive the few blocks home. Blocks I usually skip down and jump over cracks on.
“step on a crack
And you break
Your mother’s back…”
I smile and look ay my mother. I feel hot from the sun and all I want to do is sleep. My mother takes my hand as I tip my head back upon the cherry red leather seat of my mothers “silver bullet” convertible. The wind and sun mix and the feeling of the combination remind me of the soft summer lilac scented breezes which lull me into dreams of color and light.
When I wake my chest feels heavy. Like someone is sitting on it. I roll to my side and place my feet upon the cool floor. My head spins and I feel like I am going to get sick. I lay back down and pull the covers up tight. I am cold and shivering. My mom comes in with the Dr. He looks at me, sticks a thermometer in my mouth and listens to my heartbeat with his silver stethoscope. The Dr. stands up, speaks to my mother and they leave. I pull my life size raggedy Ann and Andy close on either sides for warmth and drift to sleep.
I feel the tugging and pull of a hand as I dream of the day. I don’t know who tried to hurt me, I am just thankful I am still with my mom. I feel a cool compress upon my head and gaze into the liquid brown eyes of my mother.
My mother’s eyes were deep pools of chocolate milk. I could always see myself reflected in them each time I looked at her. Through her eyes I could see the beauty of the world. My mother’s eyes mirrored her colorful wardrobe and at times my fathers ties. There were always days when they were fogged from sadness. When this happened she would cut fresh lavender and cotton white lilacs, inhale their fragrance and I swear it would shoot out her toes and fingers and the world was alive with vibrating hues yet to be discovered.
On this cerulean blue day of my life my mother looked kiwi green. Together I was the water and she was the waving soft tendrils of the hidden seagrasses of my water world. We were a team, my mother and I-she was my great protector and I was her heart. I looked to her for love, guidance and acceptance.
SHE NEVER FAILED ME.
Soft as the ocean
Warm as the sun
Amongst them all
Volunteer For school
Teacher in church
She brought music
Art and laughter
To every life
She was blind sided
By the predator lurking
In her blood
Yet to the end
Riding the waves
On the Fin
Of a dolphin
Her spirit now glides
Across the azure waters
As her guide.
2008-Studio-I let go of the fight that day in the cobalt waters of the public pool during my water ballet testing. I was not afraid of swallowing the peaceful waters which held my wise old Mr. Hawksbill and all my fish friends. To tiny 7 year old me, God was just answering my prayer.
My strokes are pointing straight north, towards the sun. From the bottom I am whisking in pacific blue, cerulean and caribbean which blend in to kiwi, spring and lime green. They are all topped off with citron and lemonade yellow. There is an illusion of depth to light, of suffocation to air. The small 18” x 24” Mermaids of Summer painting is vibrant with soft movement. The cornflower blue and cotton candy pink blooms form musical notes of soft serenades for the three mermaids to water dance to. Their hair is long and floats in wavy stirrings reminiscent of Mr. Hawksbill’s flipper motion. The painting today is a happy release. No tears, only smiles and safety. As I step back I can see my tiny body floating from bottom to top in a freeing compilation of sweet, tender strokes. A door slams behind me and I am sent hurling down the damp dark basement steps, to the depths I have never come across in the ocean blues. The color here is stormy and raven. I grab a brush full off white paint and splatter it upon the canvas. “Stop,” I cry. “Leave me alone, don’t leave me here…”
I HEAR A CRASHING OF GLASS AND A DOOR SLAMMING BEHIND IT.