I heard her call to me all day. To lay down my pain and suffering on top of her. And allow her to create something beautiful from it. She spoke in a small whisper until I got closer to where her voice could pull me in. It didn’t matter that I didn’t know what to do. I just had to do it. And do it on top of her. She told me what I had to do. Unlike any other voice in my life, when she speaks I listen, right away. She told me to show myself and all who are watching that she and I are part of something way bigger than the eyes can see, and hands can feel.
Paris was such an intimate experience for me. I felt like I was home for the first time in my life. I honestly wished I could’ve stayed longer, but trust me I’ll be back soon enough. My spirit felt so at peace. I took this trip alone because I didn’t want to wait any longer for anyone to go with me. And I wanted this experience to be mine, as intimately as possible. This was my soul searching, self discovering, redefining my independence, gift to myself. And to do so alone and completely fearless was such a beautiful accomplishment. It truly feels amazing to have taken such a major step “into the arena” like Brene Brown says when choosing to DARE GREATLY.
Honestly the first time I saw this after I deciding this painting was complete, I thought to myself: “this looks alot like the place spongebob and patrick accidentally traveled to when they fell asleep on the bus.” I wanted to call this “Voiceless creatures beneath us” but as I started putting the pieces together on how I felt creating this piece I realized that these creatures I was afraid to admit were within me. And it shocks me, most times, the things that come out of me when I finally decide to create something. I definitely didn’t expect to paint this but sometimes whatever it is you just have to get it out. And I no longer want to be afraid of the darkness inside of me. I realize it will always be a part of me no matter the vast of goodness there is within me. They share the same space, making me exactly who I am and who I’m proud to be.
I felt I needed to listen.
Sitting at the window in an unfolded wooden chair, I felt the cool morning air of a Brooklyn Sunday morning. And I smelled freedom from the breeze as it brushed my empty canvas and caressed my nostrils.
I felt my soul speaking to my hands as they chose each individual color. I heard them playing telephone, and watched as they intermingled. I reenacted their colorful conversation through a plethora of motions with half a dozen brushes.
I chose to agree with their unorthodox directions and allowed the canvas to share with me of all its visions. And I watched it evolve into what it was meant to become. I became aware of the portal — as it opened the window and showed me my soul.
By listening– really listening.
My first time zip lining felt like staring my biggest fear directly in the eyes, with its grip around my soul.
I had just gotten off the plane in Atlanta, Georgia in the month of June. I was really excited because Georgia is my favorite place to be since majority of my cousins live there. However my oldest cousin decided that it would be a great idea to put me back up in the air but this time in the trees. She paid for me to venture through this tree top obstacle courses and zip lining. I go there and see what looks like a “survival of the fittest”, nature obstacle course with people in harnesses and wobbly, wooden blocks hovering in between trees meant for people to climb from tree to tree. In addition to wooden steps, held together by rope, intended for people to cross over. This felt like the day I was meant to die because of my “slight” fear of heights. However, I do love challenges especially if it means getting the chance to face my fears. Now this fear of mine does not include fear of riding roller coasters because I love them, along with the view and the rush of excitement; I’m pretty much an adrenaline junkie. But this is only because I am strapped into a secure contraption; sort of like a car in my mind. As for a harness, the only thing keeping me up in the air is rope, so this is when my actual fear of falling comes into play.
The entire obstacle course resembled a forest scene from that “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” movie. As I’m getting set up with the harness, gloves and helmet, I’m praying in my head for protection because this really felt like a dream becoming a nightmare. But since I’m not a punk and I love thrilling adventures, I’m not backing down. I remember how my hands were shaking after taking the first step onto one of those wobbly wooden blocks, having to step one foot at a time as I tightly grip the ropes for dear life. The real fear didn’t come in until I actual reached a tree. The first one was probably 30 feet high and every time I completed an obstacle course I had to climb up the wooden blocks that were hammered into the tree trunk and zip line across to the next tree. The gliding from tree to tree was my favorite part, but definitely not the climbing. That is when my actual fear would kick in, because if I ever looked down, at the brown dirt covered in green leaves far beneath my feet, it would be curtains for me.
But it wasn’t over until I conquered the final obstacle. And this wasn’t just any obstacle that I have been receiving blisters for over the course of 2 hours. Compared to the previous obstacles this one was certainly not for children. What stood before me was a 70 foot tall tree that I was meant to climb and zip line down from the top and across an entire lake to the other side. The fear I felt cannot be described. I still can feel it accumulating in my abdomen and tightening my throat. It really felt like death before me. I was crying on the inside and on the outside as I took my first couple steps up and refused to look down. My hands were numb from gripping the wooden blocks so tight I couldn’t feel anything but the fear generating in my chest. The fear of falling took over my insides but I could not allow it to take over my mind, because I wouldn’t be able to move. I just had to keep climbing until I got to the top. My breathing became shortened and I had to pause a few steps from the top, convincing myself the pride I would feel after having accomplished this unfathomable task. The last step I took onto the wooden canopy summoned a shower of relief throughout my body.
And the view was spectacular.
I was immensely proud of myself while holding on for dear life. Still daring not to look down, I saw the pristine blue lake before me surrounded by a congregation of tall green trees, overseen by a clear blue sky with nothing but sun and a simple breeze to provide tranquility. But the journey was not over, I still had to zip line across the lake. As I prepared myself, I took a deep breath and took off. At first I closed my eyes in prayer, afraid the rope would snap and that I would drown. But halfway across the lake with the wind blowing profusely against my face and through my hair I courageously opened my eyes. It was an incredible feeling, seeing everything rush towards me like that and amassing this astounding view all at once.
The moment my feet touched the earth again, I knew there was nothing I couldn’t accomplish.
I hear the wind blowing in my ears. So forceful though softly brushes against my cheeks. Drowning out the innocent laughter of children around me I can recall the horns of taxis and pedestrian heels treading the pavement. The bell from the church nearby tolls fives times. Reminding me that it’s five p.m. Prepubescent feet swiftly stepping in tireless patterns followed by faint adult voices, as they engage in conversation with one another. And again the wind returns, silencing irrelevant noise, infusing me with serenity. The trees almost speak to me in melody, what it sees.
Tilting my head back, I open my eyes and take in the sky. Clear and blue with only green blocking my view. Between the spaces of the leaves on the trees, I get a full view of the sun without a single cloud in sight. Just the way I like it. Bringing my head back down to the center, the sidewalk is now at eye level. This metal fence in front of me is a barrier between me and strangers of the street. A silver sports car racing stop lights gets pulled over by flashing red and blue lights.
The smell of burnt rubber invades my nostrils. But it fades as I inhale the sweet aroma of Miss Dior, surprisingly after a man in a suit passes by her scent became stronger as if she still lingered on his collar. The closer I get to the trees I notice it rained earlier. The faded smell of freshly washed leaves had not yet evaporated in the sun. Strollers being pushed on the sidewalk bring an intoxicating yet familiar new baby smell. As I tilt my head back again, pointing my nose to the sky the aroma of oven baked pizza fills my lungs. To where I can almost taste it.
I never liked chewing gum as much as actually chewing food. It’s almost like a decoy. I can’t swallow it because it’s supposedly bad to do. Such a tease. But the taste is what always get me to come back. The sweet fruity taste of this gum reminds me of a blissful getaway on a tropical island. Which is probably the name of this gum I’ve been chewing for almost two hours. Tropical mango. Go figure, my favorite fruit. This ordinary, orange, rectangle has now become a masticated latex of sapodilla in my oral orifice. I always love the tingly feeling in the back of my jaw that I get at first bite.
I grab the metal chains on both sides of my arms, and pump my feet to get higher. Keeping me above the ground, I adjust my bottom on this rectangular seat, like a toddler rocking in a highchair. This space feels smaller than I remember but I adjust myself to be comfortable enough. The wind returns but now feels colder and hits me so violently like a snowball to the face. My head still tilted back as I feel invincible. I, who was afraid of heights, am now swinging higher than everyone else. I am not afraid to swing too high, where I feel connected to everything.
It usually sucks, having your birthday land in the beginning of the school year instead of the summertime. On his 12th birthday Jackson woke up this September morning feeling happy yet somehow incomplete. The smell of freshly made pancakes, which his father had just finished making, wakes him what up from a dream he was having about his mother.
Jackson gets up out of bed and proceeds to get washed up and ready for school.
Running downstairs to sit at the table for breakfast, comes in his dad wearing an apron around his waist and a big smile on his face.
“Gooooood morning birthday boy” says his father while placing a big plate of pancakes with rainbow sprinkles and a candle in the middle, directly in front of him on the table.
“Dad you didn’t have to-”
“Happy Birthday son”, his dad says as he kisses him on the forehead. “Now make a wish”.
Jackson smirks at his dad, then closes his eyes to make a wish as he blows out his candle.
“So how’s it feel to be 12 my man?”
Jackson looks back at his dad with an unbothered look on his face.
“It feels the same” he says nonchalantly
“Oh yea?” says his father as puts the dirty pans in the sink “Not even a little different?”
Eating his breakfast, Jackson looks up and continues.
“I mean…” taking a breath from chewing. “I guess feel a little taller” he says with a mouthful of pancakes.
“AYEE, there we go.” Says his father, “I knew something would feel different. Being twelve is a big deal, it’s a whole new ball game.”
Jackson getting up from the table. “Whatever you say dad” .
Taking Jackson’s empty plate to put it in the sink, glancing over at his son watching him fix his hair into a neat afro, then back to the dishes.
“Trust me” his father says, as he walks over to Jackson. “Your life begins to change at this age, and all for the better”
“Thanks Dad. I sure hope so” says Jackson.
His father hands him his backpack from off the banister of the staircase and watches him throw it over his shoulders at the door and quickly glancing at Jackson’s sparrow shaped birthmark behind his left ear.
“Have a great day son”
“Thanks dad, love you” Jackson says as he opens the door.
“Love you more” says his father, watching him leave the house for school.
As Jackson walks to the bus stop he begins to feel much better knowing he has entered a new chapter in his life where good things are yet to come. Or so his father says. After walking a few more blocks, he finally makes it to the bus stop, but a new thought has now entered his mind. His mother. He wishes his mother was around to see him grow up but Jackson only has a vague memory of her from when he was a baby. The bus finally comes and the thought escapes his mind but still lingers. Sitting near the window, he looks outside and continues to think more about the mother he never really knew. A few minutes pass by and Jackson develops a strange feeling as though someone has been watching him.
He starts looking around, but no one seems to be paying him any attention.
Within a few moments a woman in her mid-thirties approaches him from behind and touches him gently on the shoulder.
Jackson turns around and sees the woman.
“Hello” she says softly.
“Hi” answered Jackson.
“Is today your birthday” asked the woman.
“Uh yeah… How did you know that?” questioned Jackson.
The bus begins to slow down as it approaches the upcoming stop. She begins to gather her things and get up to leave the bus and it comes to a stop.
“You always looked just like your grandfather” she said with a soft voice.
“Wait you knew my grandfather? Hold a sec, who are you?” Trying to analyze her face as they both stare at each other.
The woman, smiles and strokes her thumb against his birthmark. “Don’t worry bout’ me, you’re doing just fine without me” the woman says as she gets up from her seat and walks closer to the bus exit.
“Wait, don’t leave.” Jackson pleaded as he too get up from his seat to stop her.
“Please! Wait miss, how do you know so much about me?” Jackson yells as he rushes off the bus behind her.
The bus drives by, leaving Jackson and the woman standing face to face on the sidewalk.
“Well… I guess now we got time to catch up”
She stretches her hand out for Jackson to hold
Jackson looks around at the empty street then back at the strange woman standing there with her hand out and friendly smile on her face.
He takes her hand and proceeds to walk with her into an alley leading to an almost forgotten part of town.
I want to be able to breathe again
Do the things I love the most
To finally go easy on myself and mean it
I want to love with no boundaries
To dance ever so carelessly
To be freely me.
I want to always write and be happy
I want to free my imagination and
Live there peacefully
I want to fully become my journey.
And to exhale with joy.
I believe everything starts with a conversation. And the desire to have one.
What do I mean by that? I mean anything and everything. Every topic. Every reason. Every thought, plan and idea. It all starts with a simple conversation, and then the domino effect begins.
Why are you here? Why have you made this decision? What brought you here? Is this really what you should be doing? Are you doing what you love? What exactly are you doing? What are you doing wrong? What are you doing right? Are you doing something? Is there a purpose in what you’re doing? Is there a reason, is there a goal, is there desire? Is there passion? Do you even know what passion is? Do you have passion?
I may be getting away for myself here…
But I am convinced everything starts with an important conversation you have with yourself:
“Do I know I am worthy?”
Then everything, starting with your perspective changes.
And you begin to wonder:
“Maybe everything starts with a question.”