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Drawing on the Arts: The art of saying goodbye

Looking at the ocean.
Looking at the ocean. - Magdalena Randal

“That is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great.

When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep.”

Willa Cather, My Ántonia

She hit the navy-blue ocean waves hard.

“I’ve been waiting so long for you.” The sea roared as it enveloped her. The right side of her body was stinging from having scraped against the ocean liner when she fell.

It had been so easy. The railings on the promenade deck were only hip height. The last straggling passengers had retired to prepare for dinner and, in the twilight, she just heaved herself off the ship.

Floating on the glittering surface, she looked back at the huge vessel while the salty water drew all her aches away. She saw a tiny figure poised on the uppermost deck. The person looked to be waving at her. Gesturing, not franticly, as someone who’d seen a person go overboard, but as a sign of peace. Yes, the wave was one of fond farewell. She smiled up at the sky, as the pain left her.

So long she had prepared, then waited, to take the leap. Now she herself was like a little wave, a golden-haired crest in the endless ultramarine canvas of the ocean. Above her, a snowy white seagull soared through the azure sky.

The bird hovered like a mirror image of her being. Each of them drifted in parallel worlds. All of her busy, hurting existence was now a faint murmur drowned out by the plaintive cawing of the winged creature. She rested in the rhythms that were rising and falling like breath all around her.

Back on the ship, it was business as usual. The gossiping ladies who had tittered and covered their mouths to talk about her, were occupied sizing up another ‘poor soul’; The obese old men who gobbled at the dessert bars were still lumbering back and forth to the wives who waited for them at tables littered with empty bowls and plates; The captain kept steering the boat, full steam away from the woman the liner had lost.

Accompanied by the bird, watching it swoop, she began to hear music rising from the water. A violin concerto her grandmother had played for her when she was missing her friends, swelled in the woman’s mind. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o1dBg__wsuo.) The elements all around her – sea, sky and the haze of a cloud-occluded sun – were dancing now as she drifted. Then there was silence. The bird was gone. The empty firmament looked to her like the future she’d too long cluttered with her own imaginings. Out of the great expanse her own music arrived. On a trail of steam or smoke above her, the woman perceived notes which she translated into a melody.

Her tune carried her, as the score composed by dots of lingering dark fumes dissolved into passing clouds.

The air became cold. She started to shiver, sinking a little under the surface of the warm water. Her skin went from pink to white. Her lips became deep crimson and her green eyes blazed pale in the stark, diffused light of a new dawn. Hours or even days might have passed before static interrupted the music surrounding her. Then there was more silence and finally a voice pierced the quiet.

“Lassie! Take the rope.” There was a little fishing vessel next to her, rowed by a cheery looking gentleman. His eyes sparkled. He didn’t seem surprised to see her in the midst of his ocean.

“Get into the boat dearie.” He grinned. She effortlessly pulled herself up over the edge of the small ship. “We’ll get you home now.” He began to row towards a verdant island in the distance.

Leaning over the side of the vessel, the woman let her fingers be caressed by the soothing turquoise water.

“I’ve had you for too long” The sea sighed, as the little boat progressed towards the viridescent land the old man called home.

***

In the time it takes for a ripple in the ocean to ebb into another, the woman slipped out of the little boat and back into the deep navy blue sea. The bird she had known so briefly returned, landing on the waves. Together they floated like a little island nation of flesh, bones and feathers.

The kindly old gentleman, still rowing to the home he knew, watched the woman and the bird settling on the water.

Strains of a soulful song came pouring out of the skies as the woman watched a black and white rainbow forming above her; the gradients of black to grey then near white – a stunning chiaroscuro, suggested the familiar colours of the old world’s vivid arcs.

The woman’s body didn’t exist anymore. The bird’s feathers had become foam on the salty water. More music came drifting over the landscape as the scene was populated by people rising up out of the ocean. They strolled across the waters before dissolving into them, forming territories bounded only by love….

The woman’s spirit drifted upwards towards dazzling white peaks where a hawk circled.

“I’ve been waiting so long for you.” the mountain murmured as the woman’s soul brushed gently against the snow. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HDqmJEWOJRI)

Magdalena Randal is a filmmaker and artist currently living in the Maritimes.

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