Volume 13, Issue 35 ~ September 1 - 7, 2005

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Bay Reflections

Little Girl Found
by Audrey Y. Scharmen

She attends a weekly art class at a Senior Center where she produces portraits in pastels, a wonderful medium of chalk in lovely colors that, when rendered on rough paper, resembles delicate watercolor.

Her classmates ask why she always paints the same subjects: little girls doing various things, holding an armload of ducklings, grasping a struggling calico cat or snuggling a great Cochin hen with a fluffy tutu of golden feathers. The classmates murmur that all the portraits resemble her. She should try something else as well, such as landscape or still life, they say. But she continues to recreate from photographs of her little grand-girls. “Perhaps I am searching for something,” she murmurs.

She once was that small person, and she has tried often to contact her in meditation, at night when sleep is slow to come, or while daydreaming in a hammock on a perfect summer day. The child lurks within, so why can she not be summoned, she wonders.

She remembers her in summer as a skinny kid walking to the last day of school, toting an enormous bouquet of flowers for her teacher. She is sobbing because the iris all have broken necks and the blowsy roses are dripping petals rapidly.

She sees her gathering grasshoppers on the riverbank to sell to fishermen, dropping the bugs into a green Mason jar and whining because they are spitting brown juice on her clean dress.

Or perhaps she is readying her firecrackers for the big day having hoarded them for weeks in a box beneath her bed where she has hidden them from her brothers. She counts carefully the lady-fingers and sorts black tablets that will become curly charcoal snakes when lighted with a match, fragile things that crumble in a slight breeze and soil her hands. Her passion for neatness always has been a point of derision from her siblings, long before it acquired an acronym and a cure.

So now she has discovered the chalk and set out on an odyssey. It is the velvety soft kind her brothers once used to scribble on the sidewalks. She never joined in. She paints happily and recklessly with the messy stuff, which gets under her nails and on her face. But she doesn’t even care. Her OCD is in remission, and she has finally summoned the little girl in the process. Subtle traces of her are in each rendition.

She sits among them as she writes and they stare down from dusty frames, all big-eyed little women with Mona Lisa smiles. Not a marketable painting in the lot. No matter. They have served a purpose.

Scharmen, of Lusby, has taken first prizes two years running in the Maryland, Delaware, D.C. Press Association editorial competition for her reflections in Bay Weekly, where she has written for each of our 13 years. She last reflected on Earth Day, This Day on April 21.

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