Saturday, May 24, 2014

Painting walls

It has no doors, no windows, no left or right. Its height is irrelevant and its strength is assumed. It exists in carefully constructed layers of stone and brick and mortar.

And Paint.

Paint to make it appealing, paint to make it accepted. Paint to make it home.

It has no pride or ornaments. No posters or plants. Its only accessory is the faded outline of where a door ought to be, a door that became a window and a window that became the remnants of a changed mind.

It is a fortress and a confessional, a guard tower and a scar.

It protects within its domain the castaways: grief, anger, tears . . . memories. They gather together in their collective pain and wisdom until a day that they might be claimed. They wait as days pass into weeks and weeks into years, staying safe behind that wall, comforted by its magnitude and secure in its embrace. Not a prison, but a home. The barricade protects as much as it confines.

There are worn edges and crumbling stone. Old layers must bear the weight of new ones and yet somehow the strength to exist persists in a continuous loop. The only sign of strain - a single beam leaning into a weakened brick like an old friend lending an arm.  It supports the weight with the familiarity of an elderly couple slowly dancing to silent music, and in that moment decades of trust embrace in the wonder of their own accomplishment.

The wall is welcoming, it does not judge or persecute. Its borderless edges extend like a statue in an invitation of mercy. A softened face molded within the pattern of stone accepts each new guest with respect and discretion. They are not to be forgotten or minimized, merely moved to a safe and private place, for individually they are powerful but collectively they are enveloping.

The days come and the days go, and the wall’s casted shadow makes its daily trek. It glides like a gentle tide arriving on shore, making a game with feet that dance backwards just out of reach.  The defects in the wall’s fa├žade gradually hide behind the expanding dusk, as cracks and dust fade into a silhouette of strength. In those shadows a new arrival takes its place, ready for its escort. Sadness, fatigue and determination lock arms, a huddle to allow the arrival of new memories, new challenges, new joy and new pain.

When morning light arrives it supervises the receding shadow as it marches home, a dutiful soldier carrying a load. The only witness a lone pair of feet quietly standing while the light and dark exchange places. Goodbyes are briefly shared as sunlight pushes forward, routine unchanged, and years of footprints reveal themselves along the wall like a family reunion of memories: some old, some new, some barely visible from their spot in desolate alcoves.

When the shadow meets the wall it slips out of sight and sets its passenger on the other side. There is no pomp or backwards glance. No embrace or tears.

There is only paint.

A hand reaches out and fingers silently graze the cool stone, appreciating the irregularities in the brick, the chips in the cement. Some would see a defect, a weakness, a blemish; a sign that the wall is old and damaged.  But I see courage and strength. I see conviction. I see purpose.

Unrestrained vulnerability gazes at the time worn mark where a window should be and for just a brief moment considers the possibility.  But memories stay safe for another day, and the repair work begs its turn.

I dip my brush and begin to paint.



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