Share the joy

I open the door with a sigh.
The unfinished hardwood floor
of my bedroom
is clear of clutter.
A basket full of laundry
rests by my bed
with a lingering scent of lavender.
My desk is covered in odds and ends
crumpled papers, a CD, a brush, a few cups
but it would only take a minute or two
to clear it all away.
My altar stands at the center of the room
with a black altar cloth
covered by a handful of colorful candles
and an amber chalice
and an athame with blue and green hilt
and incense, and water, and salt.

On most days
my bedroom makes a fine sanctuary
but today
these familiar walls
feel too solid against my touch
and vertical lines of wood paneling
remind me of cold iron bars.

Something tightens in my chest
and I want to yell
to howl, to scream, to cry
to fly into frenzy
tossing aside my altar
smashing my desk to pieces
throwing my chair through the window
tearing down the walls
with my bare hands.
I pace
and I rock in place
and I grimace in silence
and I lay my head down with a sigh.

When I open my eyes
I see sculpted stone arches
rising all around me.
I see a black marble floor
with brilliant golden veins
flowing down endless hallways.
The walls are lined with
empty white marble pedestals
and empty oaken picture frames
each illuminated by an unseen light.

I spin around slowly
drinking in my surroundings
and when I look
to the center of the room
it becomes clear
why I’m here.

Blank canvas and full palettes.
Marble blocks and sets of chisels.
Tools to turn an empty hall
into a museum of my own making

In my waking life
I had never laid eyes on such tools
but here and now
the smooth wood of paintbrush and palette
feels light and limber in my hands.
I lavish the canvas
with stroke after stroke
and in a matter of minutes
the face of a woman is revealed.
Golden brown hair
cascading down round pink cheeks
flowing over soft white shoulders
with brilliant blue eyes
shining over soft lips
lifted in a sly smirk.
I step back from the canvas
and for a moment
I’m breathless, speechless
my heart skipping a beat
at the sight of her.
Then I step forward
and pick up the canvas
with a light touch
carrying it over to
a frame on the wall.

This is only the beginning.

I turn to the tools
at the center of the room
with a spring in my step
and a fire in my eyes.
My hands fly faster than before
and in a matter of moments
another face is revealed.
Soft blond hair
cascading down smooth peach cheeks
flowing over strong shoulders
with bright blue eyes
twinkling over laughing lips.
I step back again
and my eyes widen
and my heartbeat quickens
as I look into her eyes
and feel her presence.

Another painting for another wall
and yet I move without pause
to the next canvas.
A woman with dark brown hair
just long enough to kiss her shoulders
framing deep brown eyes
and thin pink lips
spread in a soft smile.
Another woman with dark brown hair
but hers is long and wavy
cascading over strong white shoulders
framing warm brown eyes
and a slight smile
mysterious as Mona Lisa.

I leap from canvas to canvas
palettes strewn about me
a brush in each hand
painting two portraits at once
without missing the slightest detail.
With dozens of paintings complete
I go back to my earlier portraits
with blank canvas in hand
painting my subjects from different angles
in different lights, with different expressions
trying to capture their character
in splashes of oil on canvas.

But soon, two dimensions are not enough.
I pick up a chisel and tap at the marble
carving three dimensional sculptures
of each of my subjects.

The first woman stands
clad in leather armor
with one hand wielding a sword
lashing at unseen foes
the other hand holding a bandage
binding a broken arm.

Another woman stands
in T-shirt and jeans
a guitar slung over her shoulder
a chalice of wine in her hand
her lips spread in a broad smile
her voice raised in song.

The next sits cross-legged
her eyes closed in meditation
her lips lifted in a slight smile
her hands pressed together
in front of her heart.

But soon
even sculpture is not enough.

I return to canvas and oils
pacing and rocking in place.
After a moment’s pause
I leap at the canvas again
painting a sunset
in the blink of an eye.
Each of my subjects
has their own wing of the museum now
and I fill each pedestal and frame
with paintings and sculptures.
A table full of dog-eared books
and sketches of fantasy characters.
A lone figure on a sharp mountain peak
standing in tree pose
bathed in the peaches and purples
of the rising sun.
A woman seen from behind
cup off coffee in one hand
cigarette in the other
pouring over piles of textbooks
on the table.

Eventually, my supplies are exhausted
and I stand at the center of the museum
surrounded by paintings and sculptures.
I spin around slowly
basking in the colors, the shapes
the lifelike portraits
the iconic images
the tangible presence of these women.
For a moment
I feel drunk in their presence
and spin around faster and faster
lifting my hands in the air
throwing my head back in laughter.
But soon, I slow to a stop
and realize that there’s still
something missing.

I pause in place
and as my heartbeat slows
I feel the touch of cold marble
against my bare feet.

Cold, hard, still marble.

I look around
and though the sweeping arcs
of oil on canvas and sculpted stone
imply movement and animation
everything around me is motionless.
The portraits are colorful
but two dimensional
and the sculptures are lifelike
but cold and colorless.

I take several slow, stilted steps
toward my first painting
a familiar face
with brilliant blue eyes
and golden brown hair.
The image is warm and soft
but I run my fingers across her cheek
and feel the cold, stiff, jagged touch
of oil on canvas.

She isn’t here.
None of them are here.
I am surrounded by
bits of oil and canvas
and sculpted stone.

Something tightens in my chest
and I want to yell
to howl, to scream, to cry
to fly into frenzy
tossing aside the portraits
smashing the sculptures to pieces
snapping the paintbrushes and chisels
with my bare hands.
I pace
and I rock in place
and I grimace in silence
and I lay my head down with a sigh.

When I open my eyes
I’m in my bedroom.
The unfinished hardwood floor
is still clear of clutter
my laundry is still in its basket
and the desk is still covered with
crumpled papers, a CD, a brush, a few cups.

But now a golden beam of sunlight
is pouring through my window
brightening the hues of my hardwood floor
and the candles on my altar.
I lift myself out of bed
and my muscles ache
as though I really have
spent the whole night
painting and sculpting.
I shake my head
with a smile and a sigh
and head outside
to meet the dawn of a new day.


My name is Treesong. I'm a father, husband, author, talk radio host, and Real Life Superhero. I live in Carbondale, Southern Illinois where I write books and volunteer for the Illinois Initiative. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Patreon to stay up-to-date on my latest cli-fi releases and Real Life Superhero adventures. Sign up for my newsletter to receive free cli-fi in your inbox.

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My name is Treesong. I'm a father, author, talk radio host, and Real Life Superhero. I live in Carbondale, Southern Illinois. I write novels, short stories, and poetry, mostly about the climate.

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