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Monday, September 27, 2010

I Heart Art

For as long as I live, I will never forget the moment I walked into the Grande Galerie of the Louvre museum in Paris, France.  There was a palpable energy in the air of that magnificent place.  It was alive and electric, a hum that seemed to reverberate through the palatial halls.  I felt it course through me, from my fingertips to my sneaker-clad toes.  Maybe it was the rich history found within the paint and the brush strokes on those canvases, that gave tangibility to the energy in the air.  Maybe it came from being surrounded by works of art that emanated absolute creative brilliance.  Or maybe the energy was originating from one lone masterpiece--mysteriously beautiful and luminescent, shielded behind panes of glass, guarded by several middle aged men in navy blazers... Leonardo Da Vinci's, "Mona Lisa."

The Mona Lisa is quite lovely in person.  In fact, she took my breath away.  She made the hairs on my arms stand on end.  The sight of her made me want to cry, I was so moved.  I stood before her in that crowded, vibrant gallery--barely moving, barely breathing--and let the awe I felt wash over me.  It was incredible.

I love art and have always enjoyed art history.  My interest increased after visiting several museums across Europe, and especially after seeing Da Vinci's extraordinary work.  I was hooked!  I took art history courses while attending Utah State University.  I read art books, journals, and periodicals while working on campus in the Serials department of the library.  I attended art shows whenever I could.  I purchased prints and framed them.  I tried to surround myself with art.

Now, ten years later, I am surrounded by a different kind of art.  Prints of famous artwork used to adorn my refrigerator, but have now been replaced by "paint with water" pages and construction paper preschool crafts.  These works came to fruition at the hands of a budding young artist--one I am particularly fond of.  She works primarily in crayon and Crayola markers.  She is notably talented, despite her lack of experience or education.  The potential is there.  I can see the potential for greatness.

I have laundry to do.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Four Years

My baby girl is four years old today.  As I prepare to celebrate with pink cupcakes and princess castles, I can not help but think back to the moment of her birth--the awe and joy I felt when I heard her cry for the first time.  Easily one of the greatest moments of my life.  I vividly remember my thoughts as a nurse placed her in my arms, only minutes old:  "She is beautiful.  I can't believe she's mine."

Lilly was born at 1:03 in the morning.  I remember how quiet Cottonwood hospital was and how that stillness felt like reverence.  The halls were empty.  The nurses spoke in hushed voices.  The lights were dimmed to a soft, creamy glow.  Windows to the outside revealed nothing but a black canvas.  It was peaceful.

After I was settled in my room, and after James had returned from giving Lilly her first bath in the nursery, we sat in silence; the two of us exhausted, but calm and happy.  It wasn't long before I heard a gentle knock at the door, then heard it open.  I heard the wheels of a bassinet on the hard floor, and knew a nurse was bringing my daughter to me.

I am certain I will never forget the sight of her.  She was tightly swaddled in a standard hospital baby blanket--like a little "burrito" baby--and all I could really see of her was her tiny head.  She had so much black hair!  My eyes immediately went to the bright pink bow stuck on her head.  Pink.  It invoked images of princesses, Barbie dream cars, fingernail polish, and satin dresses.  It was the perfect shade of pink.

Four years later, Lilly is wearing "perfect shade of pink" pajamas the night before her birthday.  The house is quiet and peaceful, like that hospital was, and the only light on is a star-shaped nightlight in Lilly's bedroom.  I tuck her into her princess sheets, and briefly recall the image of that tightly swaddled, newborn baby.  As I say goodnight and turn to leave, she whispers a question to me she has asked every night for a week, "Is tomorrow my birthday?"

"Yes, Lilly.  It's tomorrow.  Tomorrow is your birthday."

She grins happily at me, says, "That's good," and rolls over on her pillow.  I start to close her door behind me, but decide to leave it open just a crack.  I stand in the hallway, peeking in at her.  As I watch her fall asleep I think, "She is beautiful.  I can't believe she's mine."

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

"Chicken Bra"

My daughter, Lilly, loves to lend a helping hand in the kitchen. She laboriously drags a chair from our dinner table across the sandstone-colored tile floor in my kitchen, to the small counter space by the sink. She climbs up on the chair, and then stands at attention--ready to take culinary direction from me, "Mama Betty Crocker." She is my right hand, my assistant. She is the perfect sous-chef.

One Sunday night, I decided to make "Autumn Stew" for dinner. (A fantastic and savory concoction of chicken, celery, carrots, onion, bay leaf, and thyme. Two pinches of allspice and a cup of apple juice added to the broth is what makes a "non-seasonal" stew autumnal.) Lilly was by my side, as usual. She patiently stood on her chair that was pulled up to the counter, and waited for me to chop all the vegetables--the salt and pepper shakers in her little, four year old hands. Her job was to season the vegetables, then dump them into the pan of olive oil.

"Mom, what are we making?," she asked.

I explained to her that we were making soup. I described the process to her, showed her the various ingredients we would be adding to the pot, told her the wonderful names of all the seasonings, and even had her smell the Allspice.

"You can add the Italian seasoning to the chicken, if you want," I said to Lilly as I began to saute the onions. "I'll let you pour the chicken broth into the pot too. You can help me stir everything together."

She grinned at me and happily said, "Okay."

The onion sizzled and the oil jumped and danced around in the pan--for a moment, those were the only sounds in my cozy kitchen. Lilly and I stood in silence, enjoying the warm aromas of vegetables and spices cooking on the stove top, enjoying the nearness of each other--her soft arm leaning against mine, her breath on my shoulder, my hands helping her hands with the spatula. My little sous-chef.

Suddenly, she turned to me, as if startled by a thought in her head. I saw perplexity on her face and in her bright eyes as she looked up and asked, "Chicken bra?! Mom! What the heck is chicken bra?!"