Tuesday, 16 February 2010

flowers in her hair

I am up in my cosy green and white attic, surrounded by green trees with creamy blossoms. I can hear a parrot squeak gently to himself. There’s the smudge of a possum’s paw on my window.

The day is wearing a thin cloud blanket. It seems it could rain but it doesn’t smell like it, plus, the ants don’t seem threatened at all: all staying neatly in their lines. So, this morning I watered some of the vegie patch. I also planted some beans; a bush bean and a climbing bean. I had to disturb a parrot from the feeder as I walked past to water. I saw him waiting in a tree. Then I saw there were many more parrots (28s) around as they flew to a bare tree nearby. Suddenly, space beneath the day’s blanket was filled, more and more, to the point of overflowing, with the haunting squawls and squeals of black cockatoos. Endless black and white birds, their curved smooth heads still as their wings move the air about them. All above me; all around, taking up every space and abolishing every bit of silence. My ears were ringing as I gardened and kept pausing to look up and watch them swooping around, stirring the trees, endlessly squealing, shrieking. Threads of cream blossom floated around me and clumps of small posies began to scatter the ground before me. Then, later, there was a heavy, all pervasive sound. I was able to soon recognise it as silence however, when I noticed that I could hear my thoughts again.

When I’d finished gardening I gathered up some of my posies. They are from the great marri trees
and smell of red gum honey. They are now posing in a glass bowl and a glass vase. The glass is the vivid blue of Frida Kahlo’s house - the Casa Azul - and I’ve placed them so the light shines through.

I’m reading of Frida at the moment - always a wonderful and lively experience. She’s a character in Barbara Kingsolver’s latest novel ‘The Lacuna’. I’m only halfway through it, and not yet as enamoured of it as I was of ‘The Prodigal Summer’. This is a more difficult novel to write I would
think. Much of it is in the form of a diary and so it’s downfall for me is that so much is described from a distance. The best bits are: where it is more like a novel and there are long passages of dialogue, and when this dialogue is between the main character and Frida Kahlo. For example, I will leave you with a passage I just read:

Carmen Frida Kahlo de Rivera. Who could explain her to anyone, least of all herself? “You play a certain role. You have to admit that. Mexican peasant, queen of the Azteca or what. You don’t dress to blend in.”

Her gold incisors flashed: “If I don’t choose, they choose for me: Wife of the Much-Discussed Painter. The newspapers would wrap me in gauze and make me a martyred angel, or else a boring jealous wife. Above all, a victim - of Diego and life. Of disease. Look at this leg.” She yanked up the green silk to reveal her naked, lame leg. …thin as a stick because of the childhood polio, bent and scarred form the accident, years of limping and indignities uncountable.

“You’ve never seen it have you?” she asked.


“How long have you known me?”

“Nearly ten years.”

“And in that time, have you thought of me as this?”

… “No.”

She tossed the long silk skirt back down, like covering a corpse. “People will always stare at the
queer birds like you and me. We only get to choose if they’ll stare at a cripple, or a glare of light. The jewelry and everything make people go blind. The gossips will say a million things, but they never ask, ‘That Mexican-Indian-Azteca girl, why does she always wear long dresses?’”

“Being a peacock is not the only way to hide yourself, Frida. A pigeon can hide.”

“Is that what you are? A pigeon hiding in a little hole in the bricks?”

“I’m a typist. And a cook. Sometimes now I get to clean rabbit cages.”

She sighed. “What a waste of time. I thought you had chispa. A spark, or some kind of discipline. It turns out you’re a little gray pigeon.” She smoothed her skirt over her leg and pulled her shawl around her shoulders, composing herself against what she had revealed.

“I’m sorry about your leg. I’d heard different things.”

“Soli, let me tell you. The most important thing about a person is always the thing you don’t know.”