Saturday, May 12, 2007

On True Blue, Chagall, Vigo Mortensen and the Significance of Odd Encounters

As a child I squeezed out a dab of oil paint from a tube of cobalt blue: it glistened, and I cried. That dab of blue, so unexpectedly beautiful in the palm of my hand, still remains in my mind as a touchstone for every other blue: a length of fabric, a swathe of sky, the pinpoint petals of those tiny blue wildflowers at the swampy edge of Lake Bomoseen. (Once I looked up their Latin name, but I can't recall it now-- only that fragile, vivid blue.)

But no blue has ever seemed to be true blue since that encounter with that dab of a paint.
(Except the paintings of Chagall with his levitating lovers and livestock. In Chagall I've seen true blue. )

Like those paintings I love the oddly unreal encounters or near encouters that happen (or did they?) in life.

Recently Teddy, my djembe skinning son, got a sewing machine. He is a man who moves through media. At nine he was obsessed with cutting and welding steel, at ten sheep and cow skins--we actually bought one from a slaughter house for $20 which ended up festering on a rooftop. Recently he wanted something more easily acquired: fabric.

Then I remembered passing the fabric shop I used to go to as a girl with my mother-- four store fronts across and deep with a chaos of bolts of cottons, silks, courdoroys-- every conceviable kind. So I traveled over an hour by train with him and Momo back to that street in Brooklyn-- only to learn from a passerby that it had been closed for years.

I didn't believe him.

I had seen it.

I had seen it from a car one night as we drove down that street returning from a ride to Shore Road-- but in fact I hadn't.

Or had I?

Once as a boy my brother a Tom, a painter, told a nun at St.Ephrem school that ships had sailed in and were docked at the 69th Street Pier. Now because no ships docked at the rickety 69th Street pier in Bay Ridge, strong enough only to secure the crab catch cages that local fisherman moored to its rickety pilings, the nun told my dad, and my dad grilled Tom for lying. Finally he caved in and said he had lied just to end the interrogation. But even as a man he told me that as a boy he felt certain the ships had arrived.

Odd encounters intrigue me as well.

A few weeks back I woke and recalled I had brushed up against Vigo Mortensen, the actor. I figured it was really a dream about Dr. Berryhill, our family doctor in Vermont who bares a striking resemblance to Vigo-- and the dream was probably my unconcious warning me to get health insurance.

Okay, a mundane scrap of a dream.

But two days later Teddy told me that Vigo had visited the shop of Mgbana, where he skins drums, to drop off his own son's djembe.

And then a few weeks later when his son returned to pick up the djembe, Teddy handed him
WOLF and said, "My mom's a writer."

And it's that odd encounter of my son Teddy with Vigo's son that I'm enjoying thinking about.
Primarly because Teddy thought highly enough of my talent to say to the son of a great artist--
"My mom's a writer."

That odd encounter and Teddy's endorsement of my talent, has me glowing today. I'm not big on Mother's Day-- too many are nursing dying children who could be fed and cared for by a fraction of the cost of our current wars-- but that odd encounter and Teddy's words really are a great gift.

Too all my friends with kids, male and female moms: Enjoy the day!


At 6:00 PM , Blogger Sheela Wolford said...


At 12:33 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can live her life through this blog. I'm there, nodding my head as see my world happening before it starts, I'm proud for a mom who has such bright enquiring children, I'm wanting her to break through into the shining light of success.

At 9:24 AM , Anonymous Mel said...

really sweet blog - Love, Mel

At 7:23 PM , Blogger Eben Reilly said...


As always thanks for the kind support, you too Mel, and anonymous, although I have a sneaking suspicion who your are.

(Why do people post as anonymous?)

And to Vigo's son if he's out there: have you finished WOLF yet?

At 12:11 PM , Blogger Eben Reilly said...


If anyone can put Peter's book to good use, you can!

Congrats again on the sabbatical--
no greater gift than time! There's little envy,but having a summer to write without distraction, I am a bit jealous.

Look fwd. to being your first reader...


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