Princess, Awake.

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The castle hall, full of guests, reverberated with infant squalls. “May she always be heard,” the Queen toasted. The Fates agreed. The King frowned.

Sixteen years later, the Fates returned to grant one wish. Atropos wanted to stay a maiden. The King objected, claimed the wish for himself, and conjured a curse. “Give my daughter a long, forgetful rest and a husband to awaken her.”

The princess shouted, “No.”

The spinner and the weaver consulted, deciding together to negate the King’s curse. Starting the sentence with do not changed everything. Atropos apprenticed with the Fates. And now, there are three.

An Apple Princess

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An old woman wrapped in a cloak of stars bent over a plucky young woman’s apple pyramid. The market sang with hawking, but the farm stand was quiet. “Your fortune is written in your face.”

“Come again.”

“Don’t be coy, dear.” The old woman accepted an apple bribe. On the way home, she conjured up a prince, instructing him to expect a royal visitor bearing fruit.

Long journey short. Magic rain- an excuse to stay over. Mattresses and eiderdowns, numbering forty like thieves in the night. Young woman uncomfortably atop a pea. Most important, a plucky face deserves a happily-ever-after.

Watching from the Window: Revised

Parisian Interior by József Rippl-Rónai 1910
Photo by Monica McHenney

After a day at the easel, Rippl-Rónai relaxes with a view into the Parisian streets. He’s nearly fifty. He’s colored a blue tablecloth red. Seeing the world in patches of paint stiffened textures like corn on canvass. A new facture. Rough like the times. Fractured like a world before war.

Four years later, the Father of Modern Hungarian Art will be interned in a displaced person’s camp. Paris Interior, will be displayed in San Francisco, then lost in America until 1924. Conflict, pandemic flu. His art reflecting unrest, impatient crowds, and French Soldiers Marching. A tired, then hopeful, 1920 seems almost normal.

Watching from the Window

Painting József Rippl-Rónai 1910

Imagine the painter after a day at the easel in a room, now salon not studio. Le dejeuner cleared from the red tablecloth. He looks outside. A foreigner in Paris. Homesick for Hungary. Hopeful for himself, for his talent, and with good reason. He will become the Father of Modern Hungarian Art.

But not before he is tested. He will be interned in a displaced person’s camp as the Great War begins. Paris Interior, on exhibit in San Francisco, will be detained as enemy property, spoils. War, pandemic flu, it will be years before the world rights itself. Have faith.

If Those Three Words Were a Statue, We Could Take it Down.

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“Merciless Indian savage.” The Declaration of Independence contains these hateful words.

I did a double take when I saw the phrase emblazoned on a tee shirt in Southwest Alaska. The dark-haired girl wearing it was laughing with a friend. Her bright eyes and brilliant smile offered a refutation to the offensive words.

Contrast the clutch of fishermen on the ferry who bristled with antipathy as a Native man walked past. I stared at them, a witness. Spoke as an ally when the local clinic turned away a Native who needed emergency treatment. The founding fathers got those three words wrong.

Freecycle the Election

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Offer: Votes counted, recorded
 Wanted: Respect the process
 Wanted: Respect the poll workers
 Wanted: Respectful governance
 Offer: Divisive grandstanding
 Wanted: Cooperation, infrastructure fixes, progress on climate change, social justice, fair wages and workplace equity, election reform, Covid stimulus, policies informed by science
 Wanted: Problems solved
Offer: Solutions denied
 Taken: by “fake news”
 Offer: More of the same
 Wanted: Critical thinking
 Offer: Knee-jerk opposition  
 Taken: The path of least resistance
 Taken: in by divisive grandstanding
 Given: More of the same
 Offer: Both sides media
 Wanted: Fact based media
 Wanted: Fact based politics
 Wanted: Starting now: communicate, listen, empathize, come together. 

Degrees of Separation

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Bright peppers rojo peek from verdant plants rooted in la tierra. A pair walk past in awkward silence. ¿Cómo se dice? To describe the spicy fruit and the heat of the day, they point, fan tongues, and wipe sweaty brows in meaningful pantomime.

Limited vocabulary. Both. Hard to find a phrase that describes the immersive experience. Physical. Emotional. Mouth, eyes, throat. The searing, roasting, blistering of flesh. The fiery, pungent, sharp of taste. Sexy feelings, burning desire. As many varieties of heat as the colorful peppers picante growing in the garden where they stroll, close together, under bright sol caliente.

Rescue Gnome

Picture by Ryan Kessler

We suspect there is a magic passage under our redwood because the garden gnome who guards the tree by day disappears at night. Important forest matters require his attention. Animals trapped in fire ravaged landscapes. Small fawns and mountain lions equally threatened, equally important to the health of a recovering ecosystem. He treats them all with the utmost care.

By daybreak, our gnome has returned. We see an article in the morning paper. Ten small pumas rescued. Feet wrapped in gauze socks. You wonder how they keep from biting through. Probably the influence of our gnome. His voice is hypnotic.

The Donnie Show

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The show was conceived to unload MAGA hats. No one wears them anymore. Full hazmat suits are de rigueur.

Whatever, no one really cares. They’re all home watching the president.

A sprightly octogenarian, Donnie as his fans call him, bounds on stage. He’s surrounded by hats. Sean throws them in the air and tosses them to the audience. Donnie dramatically draws a slip of paper from a black box decorated in crux gammata, Celtic runes, exclamations, and dollar signs. For the price of a meal at a Trump restaurant, you can submit a question. But you won’t get an answer.

Needed Break

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Books stacked to the ceiling; new, old, hard cover, all colors,
smelling of cinnamon, cloves, and musty spider dust.
A woman whirling like a cyclone, her arms extending.
She brushes the walls, her eyes shut.
She chooses. The overstuffed couch swallows her and she reads.

Sips of hot tea, cold tea, cider, coffee, one after another, 
the light changing through the day from powdery gray to melancholy green,
at noon quite bright yellow and then white.
Straining, she escapes into history, imbibing the past. 
Seeking perspective, finding a foundation to understand the moment.
Respite. She girds to return to earth.