becoming magical


Fin – by Colleen McLaughlin Barlow

Colleen smiles smartly. Her eyes are brilliant, backlit blue. I love this woman. I knew her way back before she was a visual artist. Before she even had a crush on any fellow of Cambridge. Before she gained a notoriety far beyond being a cousin of Marilyn Monroe’s. She was remarkable before she was remarkable. A vibrant spirit. She sculpts whale bones, she captures the inner landscapes of the body, she collects the dead leaves of extremely rare plants, grinds them down into an ink paste and renders their form fresh: resurrection. She swings easily between those who collect data to those who collect whimsy to those who collect PhDs. Her husband is a rockstar in the world of mathematics complete with a delicious English accent. They travel the planet and bless those around them with their insight, elegant minds and generosity. And they have a castle, currently the colour of cloying lemon yellow. Colleen is off to correct that.


There are some magical people in the world. I am beginning to believe they become magical when they encounter great pain and stick a finger in its eye. They use tragedy as a catalyst for change. They become brave. There is a reason Colleen turned to art. There is a reason Martin took her to Italy to paint. There is a reason why they have the ability to travel. Nobody is born into anything but trouble. There is a burden and delicate negotiation when anyone owns any kind of castle, the colour of confection or not. All castles crumble if they are not maintained. All gifts start as a burden.

I always come away from our conversations with a widened universe. That’s also how I feel about videographer artist Keith Murray and my dear Rene Joshi Sims, among others. It does a girl good to hang out with people who have managed to tap into their genius. And we all have our own kind. I largely feel like a bit of a dumb dumb but I tap into the art of articulation. Sure, I’m on the idiot savant end of things, but articulation, I’m telling you, can save any situation short of a  burnt pot roast. I am grateful. One of my favourite people I’ve ever met was a crepe maker from France. He said, “I make the best crepes in the world. It was my goal and I have achieved it.” And I believe he is absolutely right.

My big beautiful play has closed. A magical thing. It felt good to function fully. It is disheartening to stop what I am best at and return to cleaning houses. Though, I am grateful for the simplicity of the work. And it leaves me time to recuperate. And I can write. And I have some lovely lovely minds this year to teach. I hang up my little green dress and wild ramble ringlets and say good-bye to my creative family. It’s back to t-shirts and jeans and ponytails and rubber gloves and glasses for reading. And I tell the little bits of genius that might still be waiting in me “hush hush now, wait for it, there will be another opportunity to be brave.”

(more about Colleen McLaughlin Barlow at http://www.colleenbarlow.com)


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