Thursday, March 7, 2013


The heat of the oven is delicious on my skin.  My kitchen, with its massive antediluvian window and three outside walls, tends to be one of the coldest rooms in the house--thus leading to a near perpetual parade of fresh breads and cookies, roasts and creamy casseroles, any possible excuse I can come up with to keep the oven burning as we persevere through snow and sleet.  Warm air swirls in drafts around me, the scent of rosemary and garlic permeate the evening, doing battle with Jack Frost as he clings to the window glass.  One hip resting against the counter, the edge of the porcelain sink cool beneath my fingers....and night slowly swallows the day. 

When was the last time you actually watched, minute by minute, the evening arrive?  Dusk, with her lovely cloak of grey, gently drapes the world in silver....her darkness eclipsing the skeletal trees, shrouding the back fence, veiling the sky until the window holds nothing more than a dim reflection of the small warm kitchen and the woman within.  So still, she stands.  Auburn hair framing pale skin.  The curve of my neck, the shadow of a collar bone disappearing under white cotton, the glitter of a silver chain. 

Is that what I look like? To the trees outside?  The rising moon?  What do they see?

Every morning I face that woman, run a brush through her hair, blacken her lashes, slide color across her lips.  But do you know, we never truly see ourselves...only our reflections.  And as so much of vision is actually perception, woven with expectations, memories and hope, rather than strictly observation; I fear I see more...or possibly less, in that reflection than most.  Leviathan flaws, monstrous inadequacy, tremendous potential and crushing failure, joy and grief and thirst.  Her green eyes gaze back at me, a flat image on mirrored glass; no breath, no warmth, no blood within.

Not me...a reflection.

The other day a friend stopped by for a visit and we sat with cups of tea, feet curled beneath us on the old leather couch in the living room.  She smiled at the plants that drape from the mantle and the edge of the buffet, the bird's nest woven with dried grass and filled with painted eggs that rests on the dining room table, surrounded by river stones.  "I'd know this was your house even if it were my first time here," she said, "Just by the scent of it....I can see you everywhere, every room reflects you."

I suppose that makes sense, my home is another reflection of me.  But one of mingled proportions for others are here too.  Finger painted flowers on the wall in the kitchen, brought home with love when my eldest was merely seven, six years past now.  End tables that arrived with my husband, the pedal organ from the 1800's that he and I bought together and refurbished into a bar.....paintings signed by my grandmother, the piano from my great grandfather.  I wonder what my home says about me...what would a stranger know passing within these walls...what secrets revealed.

I can hear the boys now, downstairs.  Laughter echoing up through the vents, a new James Bond video game their latest thrill.  A co-worker told me last week when the boys came with my husband to pick me up from the office, that they walked like me.  I had no idea.  Our children divulge worlds about us, astonishingly accurate reflections of who we really are.  Our beliefs and foundations stripped bare of the veneer of speech and facade of accoutrements.  Children are the truth of us.

Night has chased away the day now.  Wine warms slowly in the glass beside me, casting fractured rays of garnet light from glare of this screen.  I wonder at the verity of my soul...the reality of me.  Am I found within the reflections?  Unmasked in their exposure?

Is there more to me?


Robbie Grey said...

It is delicious to see your words once more. I confess, I worried you'd gone away and would not come back.

Reflections are fascinating. Obviously, they are not what we see of ourselves but the phantasms others see of us. The reality might just be a little more complicated.

One day, I'll tell you the stories of me hiding and waiting, watching the shadows grow long and day turn into night....

Shelly said...

I am so glad to see you here again, my friend. Children are a reflection of our skin, our bodies, but I also think they are an even truer reflection of our hearts.

Lovely piece that will have me thinking today~

ND Mitchell said...

Wonderful to read this Chantel. So glad that you're back and on terrific form with this piece of reflective writing. Dusk is falling here in Scotland as I read this and so it hits home even more. The line "Children are the truth of us." is a beautiful truth.

The Loerzels said...

You're right, we can never see ourselves quite right in our reflection in a mirror. But, when I saw a picture of myself a friend had taken a couple weeks back, I promptly went out and bought some new eye cream.

Shea Goff said...

"Leviathan flaws, monstrous inadequacy, tremendous potential and crushing failure, joy and grief and thirst. Her green eyes gaze back at me, a flat image on mirrored glass; no breath, no warmth, no blood within."

The other day I told a friend that when we're talking and I'm telling her some story and she's laughing I feel like a ball of light. Then I look in the mirror and realize I've taken human form.

Then she laughed again.

And it started all over again.

And now here you are, back again. A great ball of light.

Anonymous said...

I think for some people there is more(you are most probably part of that "some")& for others there is even less than one might assume. Little things can awaken us(or at least, it has been so with me) to some heretofore unknown part, a nuanced part, once we get old enough(& wise enough) not to think everything is nec. a choice between 2 disparate certainties. We are powerless to stop some of it, complicit in some & overwhelmed by part of what we do see & part of what we never see but can only suspect.

And all of us, no matter what we profess, have a level of porcelain breakability. ~Mary

Freckled Philologist said...

Hello again!,
I'm commenting during a visit "home" that seems to be all about this very theme. This time the reflections; my identity, purpose are searing, razor-sharp. I'm glad for a couple of wise souls who have been here to help wipe up the bleeding. And, there's still breath and life.
Chantel, I'm so glad you're back - may your readers be another part of your reality of you. Here you bare your soul and your words resonate with countless in a pond rippling out beyond your imagination.
Feel loved and cherished today. Feel Spring's sunshine on your soul as you wake.

Brian Miller said...

it is interesting the things we collect and what they say of us...that there are touches of others makes sense to me as we become a mosaic of our experiences in life....what is truly us and what is a part of another we have picked up and where did they get it? i usually watch the day rise....the fall of day is often when i am in the car ont eh way home so i guses in some sense i watch it as well...

Buffy said...

I sometimes wonder if anything really reflects me. I've tried so hard to be....

Wow, that was awkward said...

I sit around reflecting on how hungry I am, sports, women (aka sex) and traveling. When people come over, we spread out with a beer and talk about food, sports, women and traveling. Nobody has ever said, "Brett, that artwork really says you." Instead, it's "who is ready for another?"

Chantel said...

Robbie--thanks, and I adore your stories...

Shelly--absolutely! Though, sometimes that checks me, you know?

David--I'm glad you liked it, and something lovely about you reading it a world away. :)


Shea--I cherish you, do you know that?

Mary--I believe the phrase, "porcelain breakability" captures the essence of that.

Mary--I've loved your pix on fb, so glad you're reveling in family and friends! And yes, here I am perhaps more real than I am anywhere else. How insane is that?

Brian--I'm enchanted by the idea of us being a mosaic!

Buffy--sometimes I think it's in the trying that I mess up the most.

Brett--you make me laugh, always. And yes, I am!

Jessica B said...

I typically sit quiet after reading one of your posts. I kind of feel whatever my response, it will sound trite. But, as always, I feel your depth. Thinking of you.

the best part of my day... said...

This is so authentic, Chantel. Really. It sounds like your home really is another version of you. Some people can't make a house a home. Or they don't care too.
And I'm thinking your hiatus has helped with your inspiration. Wonderful...

Mom of the Perpetually Grounded said...

Tremendously beautiful and thoughtful. Though I am a little overwhelmed at the thought of my children being the truth of me : )

Mel Heth said...

Do you ever have those moments when you look in the mirror and think, "Huh so that's my body?" Almost as though you're a spirit just looking at your humanness for a minute? Those freak me out and comfort me all in the same.

Dee said...

Dear Chantel, I hope your hiatus renewed your spirits and reflected back to you the deep down wonder of yourself.

This line you wrote today is so evocative and so true: "Children are the truth of us." That's what we see in Oscar Hammerstein's courageous song "You have to be carefully taught."

As to that reflection and who we really are. Does anyone know the essence of self? Within us, as Whitman says, is the realm of possibility and we don't know it's trove until we live into it again and again.

I remember once looking into a dressing-room mirror at Macy's and seeing this woman and not recognizing her as myself because she was nude and looked like one of the Mother Gaia figurines found in ancient Grecian tombs.

I had gained so much weight that I sagged like an ancient mother. Who was I then and who am I now? I've come to simply know that the day dawns and I rise to meet it and I look for wonder and find myself grateful for another chance to become. Peace.

Optimistic Existentialist said...

Lovely post Chantel. I hope you had a great St. Patrick's Day!

Chantel said...

Jessica--thank you, and I'm just terribly glad that you come by.

Best Part--making a home is way more work than decorating a house, I agree. How some live without such a sanctuary to fly to, I don't know.

Mom of the PG--oh my, isn't that the truth! Some days so the moment my youngest is grounded to his room for a week. Sheesh. :)

Mel--I've painted one nude in my life. It's from behind, of myself sleeping. I dreamt this dream so real...that I was watching myself sleep. It's a strange world, eh?

Dee--your gentle wisdom does my soul good, like rain and fireflies and the smell of woodsmoke.

Optimistic E--thanks and I did, top-o-the morning to ya!

Nessa Locke said...

Powerful stuff, Chantel. I love that line: "Children are the truth of us."

Slyde said...

hey, i didnt know u were back!

i missed you....!

Heaven said...

Lovely reflections ~ I like the scents and images of the minute details that comprises a moment ~

I like to believe our home and our children do mirror us, in some way ~

Chantel said...

Nessa--thanks, although that truth can be disconcerting at times, can't it?

Slyde--missed you back!

Heaven--thank you, and I think our homes and children do...sometimes so honestly it frightens me a bit.

Farid Ahmad said...

Beautiful ! Thanks for writing