Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Still life with a painter's palette

There are some nights when the fireflies blink with extra verve. Evocatively. She stands in the doorway and watches the dusk. And she asks.

So on those nights, the nights that hold the magic of fireflies and special mommy-daughter moments, we pull out the colors. For why should the twinkling be limited to the far side of the screen door?

August 4, 2009
Still life with a full spectrum of pigment


St. Luke is my honorary patron saint. To the extent that a Jewish girl can choose for herself a patron saint, St. Luke speaks to my soul. In the Middle Ages and Renaissance, painters, physicians and pharmacists were all members of the same guild: The Guild of St. Luke. Their arts shared the same alchemy: plants and rocks ground into minerals, into pigment, into medications. Into sustenance for the body and for the spirit. I think of St. Luke whenever I feel wealthy with an abundance of color options.

E doesn't yet know about Luke or any other saint, but her soul surely carries a reverence for color and that reverence within her is among the inextricable links that she and I share.

So tonight we painted her nails and I want you to know about the equation E has devised. She has 10 fingers + 10 toes = 20 nails = opportunity for 20 different colors.

Portrait of her left foot against my thigh.

She selects her colors with care. She lines them up in fives, deliberates, rearranges. She meditates on composition. And only after careful consideration do we paint.

I love her filthy foot, crusted with sweat and dirt from exercising a child's birthright - playing hard in the summer sun. I love her bejeweled toes: radiant with Caribbean Frost, Luxury Lime Creme, Purple Potion, Skin Tight Denim Creme and Virtuous Violet. I love that she is learning to consider her surroundings with an artist's practiced eye.

For myself, I almost never polish my fingernails. I work too much with my hands and the effect never lasts. But for my girl, I will reverently open ten vials, apply ten lacquers, and embellish her hands just as I embellish her feet.

It is a ritual between us and it is, in its own way, sacred. So at her behest when I was asked to indulge this evening, as well, I could not demure. It would show disrespect to our ritual, and to her invitation that I should not only offer the rites, I should partake of them alongside her.

I believe one of the things I do well with the girls is teach them to seek beauty in the world. And tonight E reminded me of my own lesson. Our teachings refract through their eyes.


It's just the clear glitter but the child is right: why shouldn't a mama sparkle, too? Pin It