Sliver of Childhood

Sometimes a faint, unyielding redolence – announced by earth and sky – preceded rain and mingled aroma of my mother’s cooking. Symphony of raindrops married sound of bubbling, delicious fare. In not too few afternoons my mother hummed some tune, my grandmother too, seated in her red and blue armchair, silvery hair calling from beneath floral headscarf. My father, sitting where lush hedge of hibiscus greeted his gaze, whistled unknown notes, perhaps thinking of what grand structures he would design for others to occupy. Or what delicate work his hands would carve in coming days, and how the wood would feel to his experienced touch. He alone seemed to understand silent eloquence of wood….

From treacherous perch of memory I see him, now whispering his secret desires, prayers, untold narratives into blocks of wood disremembering fertile earth.

In golden silence of evening, rain ending, palate satisfied, some other music ensued. Night creatures sang, hummed and buzzed their secret languages, filling me with awe at the immediacy of the world. It always seemed the very first time. Almost inaudible dripping of water, in answer to earth’s gravity, co-joined their music. Against this backdrop was conversation – always an event in my home. I would listen, not speak. Often I would crawl into my mother’s words, wrap myself in their velvet softness, finding comfort, strength, belonging. My mother’s words fashioned a complete world wherein I wandered and danced. Gazing out and up into purple wound in flesh of night, sometimes star-filled, I wondered what lay beyond mountain and sea, felt an ancient calling deep inside my yesterdays. In those times no words came. I knew what words were, yet knew not what words were. Words were sounds issuing from my lips in moments when I needed to be heard, understood, listened to. Words were nothing else. Yet words had fashioned a world.

Abandoning yellow fatigue of day, washed, powdered, dressed in soft cotton nightwear, I sometimes went flying far above mountain and sea. Those dreams were not dreams. They were events. I could soar above bitter, threatening landscapes, feel caress of wind against my cheeks and live in rich abundance of wordlessness. I could dream that I dreamt and knew in dream the conscious waking, prolong the event or even listen to my father snoring in the next room, knowing that I heard him from beneath multilayer of a conscious unconscious presence.

Rays of sunlight tearing through slivers of space in curtains hung last Christmas beckoned me from arms of slumber. Mornings after rain were cherished. Damp earth, low-hanging mist against swaying bamboos, yawning, concupiscent hibiscus petals all gestured. To saunter out into our orchard and behold a thousand, thousand orange blossoms adorning the morn was delight beyond delight – of sight and sound and scent. Now flooded with the weighty, lazy light of sun struggling to ascend Bull Head Peak, these thousand, thousand orange blossoms were orchestra, symphony and song. On blades of grasses, dewdrops, diamonds glistening at daybreak. These things swelled my breast, that day I walked beyond orchard and mountain and hibiscus and grandmother’s tomb…

Courtney A. Hogarth is a Jamaican artist resident in Beijing, who was awarded a Ph.D. in Classical Chinese Painting by the Central Academy of Fine Arts in that city.

     

Mark Lee

About Mark Lee

Editor, author and writer with career spanning print, radio, television and new media.

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