Bone Yard Art

I have been working on this new sculpture. What do you think? 

Does it speak to you at all? 

Well it does to me, you sillies, in the form of barking and tail wagging by Bella and Cooper who seem to somehow KNOW that when I come home with fourteen bags of groceries, that there are two brand new bones in one of the bags. Cooper has a nose for them and Bella believes everything he says except the thing about strange people coming into the house being friends. She is our real watchdog. Cooper can be bought with sweet toned words. Bella requires three forms of indentification and a letter of reference. Labs are so different than Chessies.

They both seem to know every bone by heart and when one is missing. We keep all their ‘old bones’ in milk crate in the living room and Grant and I like to make bets on how fast they will get them ALL back out after we make the human kids put them away. I know I should throw at least a few of these away but it’s so funny to watch them fight over the favorite ONE of the moment from by now about fifty options.

Grant rolls his eyes every time I come home with new bones, but it’s kind of an addiction, seeing them get all worked up and serious when they each get a brand new one: they go to it as though the world depended on them getting every bit of meat and marrow taken care of like a DOG BOSS. Then they have this weird agreement to switch half way through the process, and then change their minds and switch again after a little barter snarling. Each bone costs $3.99 meaning that the ‘sculpture’ you thought was some kind of Heather Crazy Art cost $103.74, which is more money than I will probably ever get for any of my REAL crazy art so it’s possible I could be onto something new and cool: recycled dog bone art.

Don’t copy me, it’s my idea. 

A Certain Kind of Silence

When I was in the sixth grade, our teacher Mr. Lee played the song “The Sounds of Silence” by Simon & Garfunkel for the class and asked us to write an essay about what the lyrics meant to us. Mr. Lee was my very first male teacher and I adored him. I think it’s because he was the first man in my life who wasn’t related to me to spark the possibility in my mind that I might actually be interesting. His eyes would light up when he was listening to what I had to say, coaxing out what was inside me with genuine delight: words, thoughts, dreams, worries. I imagine he had this affect on many kids. I wasn’t the only shy child who had shit to say but needed a little encouragement to speak it out loud.

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So, it stands to reason that I would want to impress Mr. Lee in all my twelve year old brilliance by getting into the heads of two legendary singer-songwriters and nailing my essay. Instead my head became so full of the desire for approval that I became paralyzed and could not generate a single thought. To this day, it haunts me, my inability back then to express what the lyrics meant to me. I have tried for years to remember if I wrote ANYTHING down on paper. I don’t think I did and the entire class discussion is a blank. I was so worried about being wrong and disappointing Mr. Lee that the whole point of the exercise was lost on me, which looking back was wonderful irony, considering the lyrics.

When the fantastic remake of the song performed by David Draiman of Disturbed went viral (it’s playing now, on repeat as I write this post) it made me realize I have unfinished business from the sixth grade that needs tending to.

Now, honestly, I’m still not completely sure how S&G wanted their lyrics to be interpreted and I don’t know that I really care. The question that Mr. Lee asked us is “what do the words mean to YOU?” Art in any form, by its very nature gives us full permission to engage on a personal level and connect ourselves in any way we choose. This is the beauty of art and also perhaps the difficulty, at least from the perspective of the artist. The interpretation is individually subjective and can be as different as night and day from one person to the next. So much depends on the baggage being attached to the art.

The song to me speaks about the painful ramifications of a certain kind of silence. What held me back from saying back then what I felt about the word ‘silence’? I had a teacher who was ready and eager to hear what I had to say. Why didn’t I speak up? Why was I afraid back then to tell about how a certain type of silence could hurt as bad as a slap in the face?  

I’m not talking about the kind of silence that happened when I was alone, either up in the arms of the chestnut tree or hanging out in the sanctuary of my bedroom. I was a pretty content kid and to this day feel the most peaceful and at ease when I am flying in silent solo.

I’m talking about the type of silence that turns your blood cold when you are in it’s midst. Walking unsuspectingly into a frigid wall of silence from someone you love without any understanding as to why. My mom was queen of the iron curtain and could go for weeks without a word to me when she was angry. Sometimes I was just an innocent victim of her internal rage at someone else, often my dad. Other times it was something I had done to receive her ostracism, though rarely did I find out exactly what I had done wrong. She would just one day be done with her silent treatment and move on as though nothing had happened. I was always so relieved when the silence ended. It felt dark and loveless.

Now, I do not mean to imply that my mom did this all the time. She was a caring, generous and creative soul who loved people so deeply that I think sometimes it physically hurt her. I like to believe that she doled out the silent treatment because it was to her better than what she wanted to do which was scream horrible obscenities at my sister and I.  I for sure was no princess. And I KNOW from experiencing motherhood six fold that children can be terrible little assholes from time to time.

Admittedly, I have tried a few times in my life to use the silent treatment with my kids. There HAVE been times that I have been so angry that silence seemed like a solution that would keep me from causing greater harm. But I can never seem to be silent longer than the time it takes to simply cool down.  Because shunning people this way feels as horrible to me as it does to be the one shunned. It is also seems completely useless. I am by nature someone who needs to speak, express, yell, listen, hear and then resolve things. You can not resolve anything with silence. In fact, conflict grows bigger and more powerful the longer silence holds it prisoner. “Silence like a cancer grows.”

To this day I can not handle that kind of silence from people. It tears me apart. And while I will probably continue to love certain people in my life who use their silence as a weapon, or maybe more fairly, as a shield, it for sure creates thick boundaries in the relationship that don’t need to be there. The lyrics “hear my words that I might teach you, take my arms that I might reach you, but my words, like silent raindrops fell” make me remember those desperate mental pleas: “Talk to me! Yell at me if you must! But please don’t ignore me!”  Because the indifferent silence is so loud in my mind that it is unbearable: booms of thunder that resonate exhausting questions timed with a heavy beating heart “Why won’t you speak to me? Why won’t you hear me? What have I DONE that you won’t love me right now?”

And so my dearly adored Mr. Lee, while I’m sure that there is so much more to the song than how a certain kind of silence can hurt like a motherfucker,  I bet you wouldn’t be in any way disappointed that the vision you planted in my brain no longer remains silent.

How the Tibetan Buddhist Monks Practically Saved My Life, Sort Of

I have been laid up for two weeks after some extensive reconstructive surgery on both sides of my left ankle. It turns out that, in addition to some shit I don’t understand, my jagged ankle bone was trying to cut one of my ligaments in half. My ankle was clearly trying to amputate itself. Ankle suicide. I don’t really blame it. It has to have been kind of rough carrying me around for so many years. I am NOT a light load. Though it has made me wonder what the hell my right ankle has been doing all this time that would create such an imbalance of strength and power. Is my right ankle a slacker? Or has it been the strong one this whole time, carrying most of the weight while my left ankle has slowly tried to kill itself?

This is not my intended topic: what causes one ankle to be mentally ill and the other one strong. Because that’s just weird.

However the subject leads quite naturally into the thing I want to talk about: Tibetan Buddhist sand mandalas.

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What, you don’t see the connection? Weird. It’s so clear to me. But I guess since you’re not inside my brain (thank God for you) I’m gonna have to explain.

Ever since I was a little girl I have immersed a lot of my time and energy into artistic activities that may not be deemed in any way practical by a lot of people. I know that my parents often raised their eyebrows and thought  “Oh lordy, what do we DO with this one?” I think that if I had shown an iota of talent in any of the things I persisted at they would have been more encouraging. Instead they kind of just “rolled with Heather’s current fancy” because I never seemed to settle onto any one thing for very long. There was always something more interesting to me just around the corner to try. And I have gotten worse as an adult, especially with this vast cyber world where you can learn about pretty much anything or be inspired by something with a 20 second search.

It’s kind of like taking a little nibble out of each piece of candy in a big box of chocolates because you don’t want to commit to just one or two because then you will get full too fast and not get to taste the other pieces.

Although that’s a bad example because I would never NOT finish a piece of chocolate. Plus it’s kind of rude if there are other people who also have rights to the box of chocolates. Just sayin.

Anyhoo, when I was a kid I dabbled in pretty much anything that called to me: perfume making, rock polishing; drawing; painting; furniture refinishing (my grandmother’s antique night stand was never the same); macrame; crocheting; singing; sewing;  piano;  paper mache (maracas with light bulbs where my favorite-dual purpose!); cross stitch; pottery; quilting; bird house making; gardening to name many.  I wasn’t really good at any of these things and it never once entered my mind that I wanted to be an artist in my future. I just loved DOING those things.

Yes, it was for sure satisfying when something turned out cool. I remember trying to draw a picture of a lion once. I must have been around 10. I kept showing my mom what I thought was my finished picture and she would say “you can do better”. This happened many times before my mother finally said “Yes! Beautiful!” And I gave it to her. She framed it and put it on a shelf and said it should be a reminder to me of what I could accomplish when I stayed focused and did my best. I found the picture in her stuff when she died and kept it. Not because it was a good picture but because it was a reminder of the joy I felt when I was making it and also the peace I felt handing it over to my mom, an offering of my love.

My children and husband no longer even bat an eye when they find me in the breezeway smashing glass or under a cloud of dust from carving soap stone with a dremel tool or stripping the plastic coating off of copper wire. The copper was for my latest endeavor, this year’s “Make Time for Kids” clock for an auction in April benefiting Casa Partners…

http://www.casapartners.org/

…I love the cause, because this group helps kids during the transition from a tough home situation to foster care. But I also love any excuse to create something that wasn’t there before. She “Goddess of Time” turned out quite gaudy and slightly over the top but pretty enough to get a little cash at the auction (I hope).

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Goddess of Time
On the day I started working on her I emerged after three or four hours of focusing on rocks and glass and copper wire and paint and my daughter took one look at me, smiled big and said “Oh mom! You’re doing art again aren’t you!” I looked at my hands all covered in epoxy and paint and held them up laughing. “How can you tell?” And she said “Your face is lit up.”

While I admit it was a little bit hard to hand her over to be on display and then auctioned off, because she and I had a lot of fun bringing her into the world, I was really quite happy to give her away and move on to the next “thing”. That’s just part of it, see?

So. Back to how my depressed ankle and Tibetan Buddhist Sand Mandala art are connected.

On day three after my surgery bummed-out-ed-ness began to spread over me, a dark gloomy haze. The nerve block they gave me from my knee down had completely worn off and the pain was like nothing I had ever experienced in my life: a vice grip lined with spikes slowly squeezing my ankle. So I turned to the pain pills the doctor prescribed which took away much of the agony but made me groggy and out of focus and weepy because I didn’t even have enough clarity to doodle with colored pens. And I thought “What’s the point ANYWAY? Everything I do is pretty much crap.” Because when I get bummed out it suddenly MATTERS that everything I create is crap. Depression, which thank goodness for me is generally situational and not chronic, is (at least in my mind) the opposite of clarity. It is like looking in the mirror when the glass is fogged up and having the audacity to call yourself ugly.

And so I turned to my iPad and Netflix and the series “House of Cards”, a well written but very dark show about the evil people and politics in the White House (perfect for my mood) and checked out completely on tv, something I rarely do for more than an hour or two let alone the THIRTY NINE HOURS it took to complete the 52 episodes produced thus far. I surrendered and thought dramatically (as is my way)  “Let it be done to me: narcotics and television, the beginning of the end of my life as a recluse who dies in her bed, with dirty hair, surrounded by Reese’s peanut butter cup wrappers and soggy half-frozen bags of peas.”

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But something happened four days into my binge: I started to feel better. And I am POSITIVE it’s all because of the Tibetan Buddhist sand mandala art that I learned about in the 33rd ‘chapter’ of House of Cards.

In the story, as part of a cultural exchange, Tibetan Buddhist monks were on public display at the White House for thirty days while they created a sand mandala. Here are a couple of links to explain this beautiful healing art in detail:

http://www.worldreligionnews.com/religion-news/buddhism/5-things-you-didnt-know-about-this-tibetan-art-form-seen-on-house-of-cards

http://www.mysticalartsoftibet.org/mandala.htm

But in a nutshell, the great leader of the group decides on a design, which is filled with specific healing symbols, the main deity (or god) being in the center. The chosen monks then re-create the drawing from memory and proceed to carefully and slowly fill in the drawing by sending millions of grains of colored sand through these tiny little funnels called chak-purs using vibrations from a small narrow steel rod. All through the process they pray, chant, meditate and sing, asking the deity for blessings and peace and enlightenment for themselves and the world. They are totally focussed on the act of creating for hours upon hours. (I hope they get potty breaks and such.)  And when they are finished, the beautiful, detailed creation is consecrated by the leader and then SWOOSH! the beautiful mandala is smeared with a small broom, DESTROYED to symbolize the impermanence of our material life. The sand is then placed into an urn where it is then usually poured into a moving body of water in another ceremony to disperse the purifying power to the world.

I had become deeply involved in watching the process of the creation so when this SWOOSH! happened on the show I sat up from my reclined position on the bed and yelled “Nooooooo!” And then flopped back down and thought “Oh! No wait.” I laid there for quite a long time, thinking about the dark questions I had asked myself earlier in the week and in other dark times in my life “Why bother? What is the point? To what purpose does it serve, especially when all I create is talentless crap?”

But see here’s the thing: we are all creations who are designed to create not criticize the creation. And when we open up our hearts to what calls to to us, be it music, art, stories, poetry, gardening, architecture, cosmetology, bee-keeping (that’s for you Sara), interior design… really I could go on and on because it is so personal, that which calls to our hearts, that which begs us to be a part of its own creation…when we answer, when we become fully absorbed in the process, engaged, meditative, focussed,  we become less concerned for ourselves and more connected to our God and His universe. And that act of answering the call becomes the very part of the world that makes it lush and beautiful and interesting and glorious. It is fantastic magic (that’s for you DG-ha!) and we owe it to ourselves and to the world to listen and act, regardless of the final outcome, for though it will indeed all be gone someday, just like the sand mandala, the act of saying YES is what creation really is and this yes is what is eternal.

The day of the sand mandala episode, my family had gone on a day trip to Montana. They returned that evening, gathered around my bed and grinning, bearing gifts: a huge piece of tangled driftwood with a dragon head in it (at least that’s what I saw);  102 railroad spikes (they counted them before me: pieces of gold before the queen); a smooth rock the size of a cantaloupe that had the most spectacular shades of rust and green and grey and blue and they all kept taking turns petting it while I held it like a baby. “We thought maybe you could make something from all this when you feel better.”

As if I could say no!

Magic Morphing

I have been working on a project for the last month or so: evolving a rough piece of soapstone into a clock for a silent auction that will benefit CASA Partners (see website below for more info). This is my first real attempt at soapstone carving. The results are yet to be determined. But I’m not too worried. Even though I am NOT an artist, I love the cathartic peace that always comes when I am in the process of “coloring”, my term for any act that involves total focus on helping bring something into the world that wasn’t there before. The results don’t matter so much as the experience during the act. There is no risk that it will go wrong. It can’t because there are no expectations except to make with all my heart and soul.

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Do you remember when you were five and colored just for the sake of coloring? Total absorption in the act of making a picture.

Meditative.

Who knew we were so good at meditating when we were five? But see, we knew better then how to be completely in the moment.

I wish I could go back and hear what was in my brain when I was five and coloring. Did the Holy Spirit, the universe, angels and ghosts whisper in my ear then like they do now when I am in the act of making? I think so. I just didn’t question as much then. Funny how I can hear the whispers so clearly when I am using power tools!

Soapstone is fascinating to work with. It has been used for thousands of years for carving because it is very soft, containing a large quantity of talc.  Remember the Mohs scale from school? It is a method of comparing hardness of minerals by seeing how easily they can scratch each other. Talc is a 1 the softest. The type of soapstone used for carving contains about 80% talc and has a Mohs rating of about a 2.5.

AND soapstone is a metamorphic rock!

That being said here is a vocabulary lesson (because I am going to get to something with this, from the whisperers today, in the dust, who helped sort out a few things).

All of this is either from Wikipedia or my old Webster’s dictionary from 1988 depending on which definition I liked better.

metamorphic: of or relating to metamorphism

metamorphism: a change in the constitution of a rock, specifically a pronounced change effected by pressure, heat and water that results in a more compact and more highly crystalline condition

metamorphosis: a change of physical form, structure or substance especially by supernatural means

meta: Greek word meaning “after” or “beyond”

morph: to gradually change into another thing usually in a way that is surprising or seems magical

Working on my project today, I had this sense that I wasn’t so much forcing this piece of rock into a shape I wanted it to be but more discovering what shape IT wanted or needed to be and helping it along, uncovering and gently discovering its shades of rust, green, gold, and delicious variations of brown. You can’t force soapstone too hard or it will break and then you are faced with accepting a result that might not have been your original vision because you didn’t see where the rock’s weakness was until it was too late. But a break can often create a result that is stronger and more stable than before. So there is that.

My delight from taking part in the metamorphosis of this bumpy, rough rock,  watching it magically turn into something completely different, has not thus far diminished despite getting covered in dust, accidently sanding a hole in my wrist with the dremel tool (because I sure as hell would not do that ON purpose) (I could have almost DIED!) and hammering my knuckles countless times.

In fact, all of the whispers I heard today through the dust and pain gifted me a slight glimpse of how God must feel watching us all, His lovely creations evolving and changing, each going through our own metamorphosis during our time on earth. Does He smile with delight when our colors are gently uncovered by His angels, ghosts, and dear friends who are able to see below our rough surfaces to our rich, colorful veins? Does He weep with us when chunks of ourselves are painfully broken off, an unintended and often brutal result of our and others’ free will? Does He sigh in relief and pleasure when our jagged edges are smoothed, loved and soothed when our hearts are opened up (often with the gentle prodding of those He sends) to the idea that the break may be just what we needed to take on our next delightful shape.

There is such magic in the making and morphing that happens in our world, yes?

Written today with S.H.O.T.T.R. in my heart. You know who you are my dearests!

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Find out about “Make Time for Kids” and other events that support Casa Partners: http://www.casapartners.org/

Breaking In To Hope

There was a place that Mary slept often, especially when it was raining or snowing. She decided to sleep there tonight and quietly shuffled her small frame up the metal grated stairs of the building with the green awnings and walked down to the end of the building where there was a dimly lit corner up against the concrete railroad bridge. It was slightly hidden from the steady traffic on the busy one-way street out front. She lay her pack down under the area that was protected by most of the rain and she begun setting up her home for the night.

She laid a dirty, ripped up yoga mat down on the concrete and pulled out a ragged blanket, an old flimsy photograph and a sketch pad and a pen. Huddled in the corner, the thin blanket covering her, she listened to the rain hit the awning, thinking about her kids. Emma and Ethan had been in foster care for over four years. The thought that they had been kept together gave her some comfort. They were six now. She had pretty much given up on the idea of ever being with them full time again. They were better off without her anyway. And the supervised visits that her state advocate setup were getting more and more painful for all of them. They were growing up without her and that was probably for the best. She couldn’t provide for them and to see the light of hope and love that once filled their eyes when they saw her being overtaken more and more  by fear and disgust had become almost unbearable to Mary. She had been thinking lately that it might be best for everyone if she stopped the visits.

She pulled out a little glass pipe from her pack and stared at it for a bit then set it next to her and reached in for her book. It contained photographs of animals of the arctic. She flipped through the book, glancing at the pipe every so often. It took over, the pipe. She was always aware of it. There was no denying that IT was the master over her.

She picked up the picture and gazed at herself holding Emily and Ethan as brand new babies. Six years had grown her babies into lovely little people. She on the other hand had lost her youth, her beauty and her soul all for the sake of inhaling smoky sin from a glass pipe. Her silky auburn curls and smooth soft skin had been replaced with smelly, stubby dreadlocks, scabs and scars. The bright, smiling white teeth in the picture replaced with a hardened decaying scowl.

Were one to truly see Mary and not pass her by in either disgust or disinterest, they would see that her molasses eyes still contained an inkling of hope; that they still saw interesting things everywhere she looked, causing a whisper of love for life to stroke her heart from time to time, especially during those brief days right at the beginning of withdrawal before her brain and body began to feel the desperation and total desolation that came from the knowledge that the cycle would more than likely continue until she died from her addiction.

If one didn’t see this in her eyes, they would see hope in her drawings. Her thick sketch pad contained pictures of her children at different ages. They were soft and warm, despite being mostly drawn with a ballpoint pen. There were scenes from the street: some violent and cold, others joyful, like a drawing of an old man of Native American ethnicity, every beautiful line in his face telling of wisdom and the knowledge of pain and joy. There were sketches of animals from her big photography book that proved she had an eye for form and a deep longing to experience these animals in person.

She flipped through the sketches. There were no blank pages left. She had filled the thick book on the front and back of every page. She had no means to express her longings. No means to distract herself from the pipe.

Glancing at the door to the office she was sitting closest to, she pondered the lock box on the door handle. There was probably a key to the door in that coded box. She’d tried numerous times over the last few years to discover the four digit code but had yet to be successful.The tenant probably changed the code often anyway. She stood up and examined the handle. It was attached to the metal door by one screw. Reaching into to her pack she found a small screwdriver that had multiple attachments. Finding the right size she worked at getting the handle to come partially off. After several minutes of forcing the tight screw she successfully pulled the lock box off the handle and then screwed the handle back onto the door.

Sitting down on her mat she tried possible codes, glancing every so often at the pipe. The pull was getting so strong and her mind was getting foggy and angry. And it was getting colder, her hands becoming numb making it hard to move the little numbers. It would just be so nice to go inside where she could get warm for just a minute or two.

There was another fifteen minutes of frustration until on a whim she entered her twins’ birthdate: 0619 and like a miracle, the compartment containing the key opened. Her heart was pounding as she glanced around to see if anyone was around. There was no one. Standing up she grabbed her pack put the lock box in it before putting it on her shoulders and entering the office. On the other side of the door was another key on a red long string with a noisy bell at the end. She pulled it out of the lock and placed it in her pack. She put the key from the lock box in her pocket and turned on the light, slowly walking into the office space, past some desks and chairs that must have been for display because they had nothing on them.

She entered into the larger part of the room and immediately saw there was a bathroom. After relieving herself in the toilet she washed her grubby hands and face with warm water and soap and then placed the liquid soap container into her pack. She sifted through the basket that contained a blow dryer and a toothbrush. She put the toothbrush in her pack along with a half tube of toothpaste. Then she noticed a little green swan made from a dollar bill. Origami. She threw it in her pack along with some toilet paper.

Out in the main area she went to the table where there was an entire green ceramic container FULL of pens. She dumped them into her pack and looked down with absolute delight to see a box filled with pads of paper. She took them all and quickly emptied a bowl of candy into her pack as well. There was a personal check on the table for $200 and she put it in her pocket thinking she might be able to sell it to someone who would know what to do with it. She pulled all the books and papers out of the container on the table and sifted through them finding nothing of interest.

She walked slowly up the stairs. They creaked loudly and it spooked her. There was a small couch. She sat on it for a minute, looking around the small area. There wasn’t much up here. She overturned all of the drawers from the small desk and the plastic bins stacked under a big table, feeling a little panicked, not sure what she was looking for. She found a few more pens and pads of paper and some chapstick, but knew she probably shouldn’t stay up here too long. It felt enclosed and unsafe. She lay down just for a moment on the small couch, savoring what it felt like to be comfortable, but then stood up and turned it upside down to see if there was anything useful under or behind it. Nothing. She crept back down the stairs and saw a purple U of W blanket on a shelf at the foot of the stairs and grabbed it, throwing it across her shoulders, heading back to the main area.

Intending to leave she headed for the door but stopped to look at a couple of pictures of children on the wall. In one picture there were six of them, all smiling big, looking happy.  It made her feel sad. She did not have a single photograph of her children except the one she had been looking at earlier and the sketches she’d made from the memory of her visits. She felt a flash of anger at this person she did not know and the children who clearly had at least one parent to love them steadily. Had she had better circumstances, her life might have ended up more like this person’s. Instead one rough, crappy thing after another led her down a brutal path to now. And she would NEVER work in a place like this. She would NEVER take pictures of her grinning children. She would NEVER be able to give them anything.

But then her eyes were drawn to the items sitting on the shelf next to the pictures. Two big, green plastic “Incredible Hulk” hands and a small jewelry box that had a colorful, gold, butterfly on the lid. She opened it up and found a rock that said “PEACE” on it and a sobriety coin that had the Serenity Prayer engraved on it. She’d seen these coins handed out at a couple of the meetings she’d been forced to attend in attempt to get her kids back. This was at the beginning when she had held more hope, more belief that you could change your life once you smoked meth.

Something flickered in her heart. She placed the peace rock and the coin in her pocket and gently wrapped the jewelry box in a pair of dirty socks from her pack and then placed it inside of one of the Hulk Hands. She pushed both of the green hands in her now very full pack and walked out the door.

Mary stopped briefly to look at where she had been sitting. The glass pipe was still there. She’d left it to go inside. Taking a deep breath, she kicked the pipe off the edge where it shattered on to the concrete twenty or so feet below. Hearing the sound of breaking glass made her heart feel like it was going to explode from need for what she had just tossed away. She picked up the sketch book and the photograph and put them hin her pack. Reaching for the animal book, she intended to do the same but instead propped it against the building wall next to her mat and ragged blanket. Taking one last look at where she had spent many of her evenings over the last four years, she stood up and walked away, her stride holding more purpose than when she’d arrived.

*

Emma and Ethan stared at the lady from the state glancing out the window fearfully to see if their mother was out there somewhere. “Your mom didn’t come today. She has decided to try really hard to get some help so that she can get back to her real self and maybe see you both more. But she wanted me to give you these. She handed the Hulk Hands to Ethan and the butterfly jewelry box to Emma. They held their gifts gently in their hands, turning them over and over as though they could somehow see their mother in them. “She is going to give it her best shot you guys.” Gazing at these strong and proud children who had their mother’s eyes, the woman saw a flash of hope that hadn’t been there before. Time would tell.

*

On Monday morning the tenant of the space spoke with the police officer sent to look at the mess that had been left. “It’s upsetting, yes. And I was kind of spooked. But there wasn’t really anything of great dollar value taken. They are just things, so really I shouldn’t be thrown so off base by this. The person who’d written me the check has canceled it, so that’s all taken care of. But I feel sad over the origami swan: someone special made that for me. And the Hulk Hands and the Jewelry Box, they were given to me by a couple of my children. My mom’s sobriety coin, well it was important because for a while there she had hope. Hope keeps us going, yes? Who ever was here, took interesting things. And they left a book of wonderful animal photographs. So that makes THEM interesting to ME. Maybe my things have given them a little bit of hope. I’m going to wish for that.”