To the man that glared
at my husband and I
as we walked by holding hands:
that you can view an act of love
with such hatred in your eyes.
To the woman that stared
at my husband and I
as we shared a private moment:
that you can view an act of communication
with shock and dismay.
To the mother that turned to look
at my husband and I
and made sure to turn her children the other way:
that you are teaching your children fear
when they should be taught to love.
When I say I’m sorry,
I’m not apologizing for holding hands
with my husband,
for sharing a moment of love and support.
When I say that I’m sorry,
it’s because I feel sorry for you,
and the fact that you choose hatred and fear
instead of love and acceptance.
I could take a moment to teach you,
to talk to you about kindness,
but I’m sorry (not sorry),
I just don’t have the time
to talk to those that aren’t even
willing to hear.
Stories aren’t fiction. Stories are fabric. They’re the white sheets we drape over our ghosts so we can see them. —ROSCOE AVANGER, Sweet Mallow
Zoey is running towards something.
The only problem is, she isn’t sure what she is running towards. She arrives on Mallow Island, South Carolina to claim her deceased mother’s condo at a building called The Dellawisp. With time to spare before she starts college, she has come to The Dellawisp to form some kind of connection with her mother, though she’s gone from this world.
There are four other condos and the inhabitants are just as unique as the turquoise birds that flutter outside the building from which The Dellawisp takes its name. There’s Charlotte, a henna artist who seems to be running from something. Mack, a chef whose food brings joy to many, but not to him. Frasier, an enigmatic gentleman who seems to know more than he says and Lucy a woman who sees much but hides more.
When Zoey arrives at the Dellawisp with her invisible bird Pigeon, someone at building dies. In trying to make sense of the death and why they passed on, she will get to know her neighbours and a little bit of each of their stories. Ultimately, Zoey will learn a bit of her own story and how she would like it to be told.
Unseen to her are the ghosts that inhabit the Dellawisp. They know the most of all for they see everything, but like all ghosts they remain silent. However, jut because they remain silent doesn’t mean the ghosts have nothing to say…
Don’t you love that moment when you finish that perfect book, and you sit there knowing that it will be a long time until you read something just as good? That’s the feeling that I had with Other Birds by Sarah Addison Allen.
I tried to make this one last, I truly did. I’ve been waiting so long for a novel from Sarah Addison Allen. Her last book, First Frost, was published in 2015. After her mother passed away, things became quiet and though I searched for a new novel by Allen, her pen remained still. I supposed it’s only natural then that grief is a theme that runs throughout Other Birds.
Each of the characters is grieving in a different way, some for the family they never had, others for the family that they’ve lost. Though this book deals with death, grief, loss and every emotion that those entail, the book never feels heavy. Allen moves you through the different lives that fill this book and tells their stories with a deft and knowing hand.
This is a Sarah Addison Allen book after all, and Other Birds is magical realism at its finest. In this book you will ghosts, invisible birds, visits from the afterlife and ghosts. You will also find real people, multiple storylines that somehow all intertwine together (yes, even those from the afterlife) and so much heart. There is a little bit of mystery involved as well.
The characters are so very real, so alive and they live beyond the page. I finished this book a few days ago and I know that the characters that fill Other Birds will live on within me now. I too have been grieving something and after reading this beautiful jewel of a book, I was able to let some of it go.
I have loved and re-read every single book by Sarah Addison Allen, but Other Birds is by far my favourite. Thankfully, it was also worth waiting for. Do yourself a favour and fall in love with the magic all around you and read this book.
The sky is a green so deep
that it reminds me
of the ocean when
a storm hits. I wonder
if the sky will swallow us
and what will be left after.
When I look at his face,
I see the same emotions
that have filled me up
to the point where it feels
like I will break.
They are running under his skin
and his eyes are filled with worry
just as mine are filled with fear.
We both listen to the wind
as it begins to scream around us,
voicing what the world feels
but has been unable to articulate.
I carry an open wound within me,
one that keeps being torn open
with each passing day
and each new horror the world provides.
We cower further inside,
trying to find protection and solace
as the winds increase
and I wonder that it can make
such a sound, one that defies
what words mean
but perfectly describes
what is happening.
On the television,
we watch the stories
of war that is taking place,
people being gunned down,
children dying for no reason
except that one man owned a gun.
The news we hear doesn’t bring comfort,
only a world filled
with gunfire and bloodshed.
With each day,
the wind that is whipping around us
increases until, with a loud snap,
the world is filled with water.
I watch as the green of the skies
fills the air and the clouds themselves
become a liquid darkness.
The heavens are weeping.
I wonder if the world itself
is crying for the innocence
that it has lost or for what
it has become.
We are holding hands
when the power goes out.
All I can hear is the water
as it lashes at the windows,
the sound of our breathing
and the tattoo of our hearts
seeming to keep time
with the rain.
I’ve always been an artist in some way.
When I was a kid, I would write short stories and try to draw pictures and illustrations to go with the text. I have countless sketchbooks that I filled with pencil drawings or line drawings made with ink.
When I was in my twenties, I started working with charcoal, cante and pastels and working on canvases. I had a brief foray into oil paint and did some mixed media pieces. Eventually an art night led me to start working with acrylic paint and after a couple of paint nights, I wanted to see what I could do on my own. I wanted to create my own pieces and see where my brush would take me.
Although I’ve sold quite a few of those abstract pieces of art that I did with acrylic paint, the idea of showing my art anywhere was always kind of frightening. I had once experience with an art show that was not positive. When I went to see my pieces in the show, they had been shoved into the back of a dark room and no one could even see them.
It was a leap of faith creating a Facebook page just for my art and following that with a page on my website. I have no problem putting my books out there into the world. However, my art is different. With books, someone has a few pages to connect with the story. With art, a viewer has to connect right away with the image I’ve painted on the canvas.
I’ve been learning to paint with the pallet knife for a few months now and have been having a lovely time doing it. I’ve learned about myself as an artist, stretched beyond what I thought I was capable of and have become comfortable attacking the canvas with paint and seeing what I can create. I enjoy painting so much more now (when I’m not being hard on myself!).
The art show on November 6th was an amazing experience.
It was held at Flowers by Maggie and the shop was a lovely home to our art. The exhibit featured three other artists and it was so wonderful to see all of our different styles in the room. We had quite a flow of people come in and the only real lull in the day came towards the end. We were so busy, and it was a lovely way to spend the day.
More than anything, it was a joy to talk to people about my art. I got asked about my technique, how I get the inspiration was for my pieces and how it differed from writing in terms of it being a creative outlet. I was lucky enough to sell two pieces of my art and the day gave me the inspiration to paint more.
There was a part of me that felt like an imposter for the first few minutes. My internal voice kept telling me that no one would think I was an artist, and I would be laughed out of the shop. It shouldn’t have been a surprise that my internal critic showed up, he tends to play the same tricks when I’m writing.
Thankfully, I sold a piece within moments of the exhibit opening and that put all doubts about my place in the gallery and my skill as an artist to rest. In the end I realized that I approach art the same way I approach writing. I always write the story that I would want to read, and I suppose I paint the canvas that I would hang in my home. The fact that people reacted so positively about my art was the icing on the cake.
I am an artist through and through, whether with words or with paint. It was a gift to be able to share this day with my three other gifted artists and to realize that this was a world that I fit within. My first art show taught me a lot about myself, and I walked away with a very important lesson learned: It was the canvases sold that was important, but the connection I made with so many people that mattered.It will be something that I will remember every time I approach the canvas.
With thanks to my teacher Sylvia for the incredible gift that she’s given me. Thanks also go out to my fellow artists that I shared the day with March and Abby. It was a beautiful day because of all of you and you made my first show a joy. Thank you to Maggie, your store was the perfect canvas for the day.
Thank you to everyone who came by to see me and to take in all the art that was at the show. You honoured all of us by coming. I can hardly wait until the next show in the Spring!
Click below to check out photos of me, Sylvia, Marg and Abby and my art!
I’m sitting on a marble bench
and the headset I’m wearing
brings a voice into my head.
Its tones are familiar,
the timber of its words
feeling like a caress.
“If you turn to look at the canvas on your left, you’ll notice the primal aspects of the piece.”
Turning to look,
I take in the dark shadows of a man
who has obviously raised his fist.
The mans shadow falls along the figure
of a child. When I look at this child,
I recognize myself
“You’ll notice that the artist brings the viewer into the very moment they learned fear.”
I remember those moments,
there are too many to count,
instances of abuse that were framed
as fatherly discipline.
The voice directs me to another piece of art.
“If you look at the painting on the right, you’ll notice that the artist embraced the abstract.”
I look upon a canvass that looks
as if it were made of shattered glass.
There are letters that are scratched
into the surface, as if with a nail,
spelling out the word FREAK.
I see my face in the glass
looking back at myself,
broken into pieces and I try
to pull them back together.
“In this piece, the artist shows us one of the moments where he learned to hate himself. I do wonder though, is the artist the freak? Or the one that thought him to be one?”
I want to yell at the voice,
tear the headphones from my ears.
I remember the man who called me freak,
surprised that I can recall his voice
so clearly in my head.
How long have I been holding on to this?
“Now, if you look to the piece in the middle, you’ll notice that the artist has embraced colour.”
I look at the centre painting and recoil.
In the painting, I am on an island looking lost
within myself. I can see the blue waters
that are choppy and violent as they eat away
at the sand. There are trees the surround me
and the leaves look like they are made of flesh.
In the corner of the canvas, I can see a man in the shadows,
forcing the water to take more of the island.
Soon, I will have nothing to stand on and will drown.
“We have to wonder at the artist’s isolation. Did other man do this to him? Or did the artist let the shadow man pull him away from everyone?”
Remembering the trauma he put me through,
to the point where I doubted my own sanity,
almost losing myself to the darkness of the trees,
I pull the headphones from my ears and the silence
of the gallery is almost deafening.
Turning away from this trio of paintings,
I am struck by a fourth. Within it,
there is light that is parting the clouds,
filling the canvas with a warmth
that is missing from the other three.
I can hear the wind and it sings to me.
Upon the wind, I can hear the voice
that calls to me softly,
speaking in the unknown language of the heart.
There is a path within the painting.
Wondering where it leads to,
I stand and leave the headset on the marble bench,
walking away from all the pain
that I have carried for so long.
When I reach the canvas,
I stretch out my hand and touch the glass
that covers it. The glass shimmers
and I can hear the wind more clearly,
feel the sun shining down on my face.
I take a step forward into the painting.
Standing on the path, I know that the only way
is forward. I take one step and then another,
not knowing where this path will lead,
but knowing that I will find
a new direction within