Thea’s Evening

Thea signed her name in green in the lower right hand corner, put the brush to join the others in the muddy water jar, and wiped her hands on her paint-smeared sweats. That last move didn’t get her hands clean but at least got rid of most of what would otherwise be transferred to anything else she touched. By the end of a session, especially if she was finishing a painting, she tended to use her hands more than the brush. Somehow she needed that direct contact with the color, paper and images. Her fingers by now knew what they wanted and the brush had become an annoying intermediary. She liked the softness of the result and the process made for some satisfying surprises. Not that the whole painting wasn’t a surprise.

Part of her loosening up technique over the last year or so was to wash the brush only rarely, just sticking it in the next color that called from the palette or the drawer of squeezed looking tubes. It meant she sometimes got several colors coming through even though the most recent dip had been into say….alizarin crimson. Those serendipitous streaks often turned out to be what she liked best later, highlighting an upwelling from her psyche that her conscious mind reaching for the red would never have dared do. Not that she wasn’t capable of mixing a good skin color when she needed it, her own burnt umber and teeny bit of white or the pinky yellows most “white” people sported. She could also depict a foot or a jaguar when one was called for.

Often she went into the painting with no idea of what she was heading for, though she might have the previous night’s dream in the back of her mind or a nagging image of an animal or place. She allowed the shapes that appeared to dictate the images and then she elaborated on those. “Rorschach painting” a friend named it. When she got stuck she let a color call her. Mostly she tried to keep her mind with its critical eye and thoughtful commentary out of the way of what was wanting to come through.

Now, having declared the painting done (a decision the painting itself might yet revoke), she stood back and looked at what had emerged. The lovely light of the morning was long gone and the room was in shadow, the sun now low out the western window. “Magic Time” if she’d been paying attention, but Thea was fixated on the images spotlighted before her. Not her favorite light to paint by but good enough when the fever was on her. Normally she would have stopped painting hours ago and gone for a walk or fixed a nice supper or even curled up with a book. She was reading a lot these days. But this painting had hold of her in a special way and she had labored over its birth on and off all day.

The image of the woman had morphed. Gone wild. She was now many-armed like the Hindu goddess, Kali Ma. Four hands to chop and four to comfort. She who knew when to cut the umbilical cord. Somehow Kali’s usual four arms hadn’t seemed enough for the tasks at hand. Never mind that the nature of those tasks was still a mystery…. There was now a definite spidery quality to her…. Subtle lines with silver and purple edges spun out of her solar plexus. These had been “mistakes.” Thea remembered trying to paint a web after she’d seen the gray haired spinning woman turning into Grandmother Spider. Now she realized they were more like Maypole ribbons without the bright colors. A good pagan fertility image. She wondered what it meant in this context. The “ribbons” weren’t attached to the circle of people who danced just below them though some of the dancers seemed to be reaching for them.

The spider-woman was still in a cave like she was under or inside the Mountain, but the profile of the Mountain was clearer now. Thea hadn’t realized she’d internalized that shape so well. It was clearly this Mountain. Rearing up from the skyline was a fuzzy green dragon, one of the last things to go in hence the green of her signature. A beacon fire shone on the west slope. A beacon to whom? A beacon of warning or a beacon of calling? She imagined other beacons on other mountains lighting the way for…. for what?

“Celestial messengers.” Silence for a breath. Then…. “You and the others.”

The words formed clearly in her head, not audibly but like she saw them scripted in her mind’s eye. “Huh? That was different.” Suddenly drained, she sat down heavily on the wooden chair she’d started out in but hadn’t used for the last hour or so at least.

The dragon seemed protective…. “Keeping unwanted forces at bay.” Now the words in her mind appeared in bold type as well as in italics. The next ones came in purple…. “Grandmother Spider and the Sitka light the beacons that call you here.” She had the feeling that the “you” was collective rather than just herself….

“Phew. I’m tired and hungry. Best go heat up last night’s pea soup and toast that polenta bread from the bakery. It’s been a hella day. Maybe make a little hummus.” The legumes sounded good. Breaking a rule, she left the brushes for later and headed downstairs. Gato rose and stretched on the couch in the classic chakravakasana yoga pose – and began mewling for dinner.

“Wash hands. Change into a cozy flannel caftan. The purple one. Do a standing forward bend and then a back bend.” Thea’s mind instructed and her body, though slow, followed through. She barely took note of the moon rising in the trees and the owl hooting just outside. “At least right now it is my mind,” she grumped. “Not words all italicized and colorful. Thought you was gettin’ batty there for a minute, Girl.”