(from a dream I had the night before an art opening. I used it as my artist’s statement.)
I asked the man who stood beside the child and held her hand, what he called her. Both of them were muffled in canvas clothing; rough, shapeless clothing worn to soft and muted earth tones. He seemed to be wearing what had been a military uniform, one fit to blend him into a summer forest in a temperate zone. And temperate and mild he had become, it seemed to me, even as the uniform he wore had lost its strength of color so that he now stood out like a pillar in this winter forest, among these bare trees. I wondered if there had been something of that mildness in him all along, even in the days of carrying a rifle up and down the mountains.
“I call her, Found along the long march home, with winter in her eyes,” he answered.
Somehow I knew that neither of them sensed a threat in me. I knelt and took the girl’s hand, her left hand, and held it between mine. Her hand was cold, so cold!
“Do you want to go home?” I asked her.
She was small, barely half his size, if that. She was bundled in scraps of canvas rudely sewn together with bits of string and soft wire. She wore a rope, worn and silky, as a tie around her waist. A hat made of bird wings and moss covered her head and trailed down her neck. I looked into her eyes and immediately wished I had not. I have never seen such eyes! The crystal clear cornea was a liquid skin stretched across a place where weight meant nothing, time meant nothing, and the something that was there was as far away as the moon. In her eyes floated everything – earth, moon, trees, even this man beside her, and me.
She turned her head slightly to look at her friend. As she shifted her gaze snow flurries rose from the bottoms of her eyes the same way they do in side a glass sphere containing a winter scene. I could see the snow drifting in liquid suspension and I wondered if perhaps I had stumbled upon the spirit of winter.
“Sweetheart,” I said to her and she shifted her eyes back to me. “Are you cold?”
She shook her head.
“Are you warm?”
Again she shook her head.
I released her hand and it rested in the air for a moment before she raised it to the man who had named her, Found. There was a spot of color in her palm and he cradled her hand in her own and began to rub the color in. A blush of rose appeared and spread to her limbs, her face, her cheeks and the silent woods echoed with the sound of a beating heart coming back to life. Her tears came then and spilled from her eyes, instead of into them.
I was mesmerized. I don’t know how long he rubbed that spot of color in her palm, or how long she wept. The man thanked me and said he would take her home now. She was sobbing and clutching at his coat. He lifted her into his arms and she threw hers around his neck. Her tears darkened the collar of his old, worn overcoat. He adjusted her weight and as he was turning to go back up the mountain in search of the road home, he saw me staring at my hand in disbelief.
“Don’t worry,” he said. “It’s a gift.”