Emily, Our Living Treasure

Emily with her drawing titled “Amelia And Emily Flying Together”

This week’s post about Emily pairs with last week’s post about Amelia. They tell of the same journey across a speckless blue sky. This is a revision of a post shared almost two years ago. The way I am using “living treasure” in a slightly different from how the Japanese people use it, but I could find no better phrase to describe Emily in this post.

“I want to learn to draw,” Emily repeated more emphatically. She seemed startled at her own boldness. “You will teach me, won’t you?”

“There is nothing I would rather do,” I said.

Just like that, Emily’s Summer Drawing Camp began. We used white chalk from the workbench and some brown grocery bags for practicing with everything spread out across the garage floor. As her skills grew, she began to use small pieces of colorful pastels for her special drawings of flowers. She had always loved the garden plants.

Then one day before our lesson, Emily asked, “Is it true what you said about drawing? Does drawing really let you do things you would never be able to do any other way? You did say that.”

“Yes, that’s true. At least, I believe it’s true. Not everything is true just because you believe it, but there are some things that are true whether you believe them or not.”

She thought this over then went to where we had a stack of colored pastel papers. We saved these only for special drawing, not practice drawings. She tapped a sky-blue piece of paper with her beak and said, “I want to make a drawing of Amelia and me flying together.”

I pulled out the sheet for her. She began drawing carefully from memory without saying a word. Her concentration was intense. Her lines were sure and confident with no sketchiness in them. They began definitively, travelled across the paper definitively, and ended most definitively as well. Everything she had ever learned about drawing was in each line, and each line spoke to my heart just as surely as if it had been made of words for a poem, a poem of love.

Finally she said, “I’m ready.”

This was not what I had expected to hear, not yet. She had only drawn Amelia flying. She had not drawn herself. This was not a drawing of Amelia and Emily flying together.

What if she was too embarrassed to tell me she wasn’t sure how to draw herself because she didn’t know how she looked?

“Do you need anything else? Like maybe a mirror?” I asked.

“No the drawing part is finished. You just need to write the words of the picture for me.”

“What words would you like?”

“Make the words say ‘Amelia And Emily Flying Together’ because that is what this drawing is about.”

And so, I did. Even though it was only a drawing of Amelia flying, I wrote what she asked.

“I’m ready now,” she said. “Let’s prop it up against the workbench like we always do.”

As soon as her drawing was in place for us to look at, she stood beside it, closed her eyes, and then she opened them again. She closed her eyes for a bit longer, and then she opened them again. The third time, she closed her eyes and kept them closed.

Slowly she stretch her wings until they were fully extended. Then she spread her tail feathers.

She trembled with excitement.

Her eyes opened wide, but she wasn’t seeing the garage or me. It was as if all she saw was sky and Amelia beside her with the fields and forests and rivers below them.

She swayed from side to side as if being carried along like a kite by winds high into the sky above. She dipped. She drifted from side to side. She opened her mouth wide as if she was tasting the air in some far off place.

She looked to her right, then she began opening and closing her beak. No sound or words came out, but I knew she was calling to Amelia. She looked down towards the concrete floor of the garage and pointed to something with a wingtip. Then she looked towards her drawing and laughed aloud.

She would stand on one foot and then the other. Occasionally, she would flap her wings for balance while standing on her toe tips. She looked as if she might fall at any moment, but I was hesitant to steady her. My touch might interrupt whatever was happening. To end this magical moment seemed worse than allowing her to take a tumble.

It seemed as if Emily was in two places at the same time, but how could that be? She was in the garage with me, but she was also somewhere else far away and up high.

I am unsure how long I sat there on the garage floor watching her, but I didn’t dare speak or move. Even if had known for sure she was imagining it all, I would not have tried to stop her. She had not been so happy for the longest time. Nor had I.

Suddenly, Emily did several strong, fast wing flaps as if she was landing. She blinked her eyes, tucked her wings close to her sides, and looked at me.

“I was flying with Amelia,” she said. “Just like you said would happen.”

This was not what I had meant when I had told her drawing lets us do things we can never do any other way, but it didn’t matter.

“I know you were, Sweetie. I know. That’s why you said you were ready. That’s why you didn’t draw yourself with chalk like you drew Amelia, isn’t it?”

“It was all so beautiful, and seeing Amelia was the most beautiful part of all.” She hopped into my lap and sat down.

“But it’s good to be back home,” she said as she rested her head against me.

“It’s good to have you back home.”

I was unsure what had happened there in the garage. I only knew it would be best not to tell Emily it was not what normally happened with drawings. What if our two hearts had wanted to be close to Amelia so much we had simply imagined it all?

If only I could discover what had happened with Amelia so many miles away at this same moment in time, then I would know for sure. But I wouldn’t know until Amelia came back and if she ever came back.

You may remember a mention of Amelia being aware of a gift inside Emily but not knowing what it was in “Amelia On The Wild River.” This post explores that gift which comes from love and faith. I hope this was believable enough to carry your imagination along with Emily. Thank you for reading.

Family Photo Friday!

Family Photo Friday

In most of my other posts except for those categorized as ”Family Photo Friday,” various amounts of fiction can creep in, and I often try to treat those fictional elements as actual events. I discussed this a little in the last “Family Photo Friday” post. “Family Photo Friday” is much more about how we really are here in our own backyard.

Today’s photo was taken in about the same time period as yesterday’s story and illustration which is almost entirely fictional. In reality, Pearl was a perfect protector and caregiver for Blanche all of the time that she was sick.

This is one of the last photos I ever took of them together. It is one of my favorites, not because of the quality of the photo, but because it shows Pearl’s strength and determination as she watches over Blanche who is taking a nap in the sunlight. (The sun had just been covered by clouds when I snapped this, so there is no brilliance to their white feathers, and the fencing on their run area gets in the way.)

For me, this photo is about how we all have strength and determination within ourselves that we can call on when needed. Pearl reminds me of this every day, and I love her for it.

In Pearl’s fictional story, just as in her real-life story, she will face many obstacles and difficulties, but they change her for the better without taking away the joy she has for life and in just being herself. There has never been a chicken like Pearl, and I tell her that every chance I have.

Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated!

Family Photo Friday!

Yes, there are no chickens in today’s photo! But why was this photo selected for “Family Photo Friday”?

Sometimes these “My Life With Gracie” stories may blur the lines between reality and imagination.

When it comes to writing genres, most of these stories could be classified as “magical realism.” This genre has a realistic setting and for the most part all seems normal except there are certain things which are “magical” but are treated as ordinary occurrences. (For example, I’ve never written anything like this: I could hardly believe it when Gracie spoke to me for the first time, and I was even more amazed that Gracie could dance ballet. If I wrote like that, these stories would not be the same at all. By treating things like this as plain everyday life, it may make it easier for readers to slip into Gracie’s world.)

It is important to mention this is not “magic” in the sense of witches and wizards casting spells. For me, it is the kind of magic found when a child believes teddy bears have genuine feelings and really do talk to them. I may never have outgrown my childhood imagination, and so perhaps this is why my stories write themselves as they do.

Magical realism has been described as the intersection of two worlds: the magical world and the realistic world. There are many story possibilities which happen within this intersection.

My hope is that readers will get caught up in the imaginary elements of these stories long enough to believe anything can happen. Chickens really do dance ballet and make drawings with pieces of chalk. Then the deeper meaning of the story can be revealed.

But getting back to this Family Photo Friday picture.

There are times when the imaginary story elements move into my reality in a most unsettling manner. This is what happened one morning just this week.

It was a little after 6 AM. I had just finished getting my chickens ready for their new day. The sun had not yet come up. It was still quite dark except for the back porch light and my flashlight.

As I went back in to get ready for work, a light flipped on next door. I heard a sharp and raspy sound like laughter.

“Hah! Hah! Hah! Hah!”

I stood at my back door, turned out the light, and looked to see what it might be. This was somewhat unnerving. Except for the guy who delivers the paper, I am the only person up and outside that early in the morning.

I studied the light that was on next door which had not been on when I went outside to do my morning chicken chores. Suddenly the light turned off. it was as if someone knew I was trying to see them.

Then I noticed the silence. The early morning birds had stopped their calls as had the fall crickets.

Immediately I thought of The Bottle Cap Lady, a character from the book I’ve been working on. Had she returned? I had written about her standing in the street at the end of our driveway laughing and yelling, “Ha! Ha! Ha!” One extra “Ha!” and a slightly different spelling, and The Bottle Cap Lady really had returned.

So there you have it. An imagined portion of my book had worked its way into my backyard reality in a most unsettling way.

This brief real-life event would work it’s way back into one of the chapters in the book I’ve been working on.

And I will share that chapter tomorrow! Then perhaps you will see how there seems to be a kind of dance between my real world and my imagined world.

Do you get the eerie feeling that anything could happen inside that house?  As have written before…Right in my own backyard were more mysteries than I could find anywhere else.

Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated!