Tomorrow is my day to be with my five-year-old granddaughter, Vita Luna. Last week I read her my story about two stuffed animals that get left outside and have adventures with the other animals on the farm. Vita asked me to read it again right away, and later asked for me to read it a third time. So I had to come up with something for tomorrow. Today I wrote this story.
Every morning when Katie woke up, she had to decide what to wear. This morning, like most mornings, she went to her chest of drawers and started pulling out all of the dress and skirts that she might wear that day. Most days she wore several dresses; sometimes on top of each other. This morning it was a little warmer than the day before, so she decided to wear two summer dresses – and a tutu. She felt like dancing. She went over to the sewing table and held on to the edge of the table with her arm extended. She lifted her right leg and pointed her toe. Then she raised her right arm over her head in a graceful arch with her fingers relaxed as though there were a small balloon holding her hand up and shaping it into a beautiful upside-down bowl. One, two, three, four, went the count of the ballet master as Katie did her warm-ups at the bar –down two three, four, up six, seven, eight. She repeated the plié – then various combinations she had learned since her youth. The rest of the corps de ballet were busy warming up also. She realized she was late for make-up. She ran to the make-up table, running gracefully, of course, the way she would run across the stage. At the make-up table, two women quickly powdered her face, did her eyes, brushed her hair and put it up in the special arrangement for her character.
She could hear the players in the orchestra warming up and a slight murmur of the audience as they started filling in the hall. She loved to dance; she loved to see her name in the lights outside the theater: “Katerina.” She had changed her name from Katie to Katerina when she had gone to Russia for a year to dance with the Bolshoi Ballet Company, in the corps de ballet. But now, back in Boston, she was the principle ballerina of the company.
Good luck, her friends said as they passed her to position themselves for their entrance for the opening number. Good luck Katerina, best of luck… She closed her eyes and meditated as the audience got quiet – then she heard the applause for the conductor as she went to her podium and took her bow. That moment of silence just before the orchestra played is when Katerina always entered into her role in whatever ballet she was performing. She became only the dancer Katerina, all other parts of her life didn’t exist – she was pure dancer. When the orchestra started playing, the music went right into her body; she became the story. She had practiced enough that she would automatically take her place in the wings before her first entrance and the music would mover her gracefully on stage, leaping and twirling and landing in a beautiful pose as she interacted with the other dancers. She was the beautiful dancer everyone in the audience watched – the dancer they had imagined when they entered the theater, the dancer they imagined themselves being when they were children. Katerina held her poses and gracefully moved around the stage – her feet barely touching the floor. When she was lifted, she was so light – she was like a feather and floated down to move about, swirling, with her arms making beautiful graceful motions, causing the space to be full of swirling designs left by the trace of her arms. At the end of the performance, she took her bows and drank in the beautiful lights shinning on her. She couldn’t see the audience because of the spot lights shinning on her. The curtain started to come down and her mother said, Katie, is that better? The sun was shinning right in your eyes. Katie was having her snack at the table that had a big solar window that looked south over the farm. It was where her mother had shelves with trays of seedlings. Her mother had made cloth curtains that could be lowered to block the sun when it was too bright.
When Katie was through with her snack, she still had the music in her head, so she decided to get out some of her musical instruments. She had a toy keyboard and started to push the keys – first the white keys, then the black keys, then the white with her right hand and the black keys with her left hand. She started doing some patterns of notes and these turned into the scales and exercises she usually did to warm up every day as she practiced for her performances. Today she would be playing a recital with her grandmother who was a violinist. She needed to make sure that her fingers were warmed up, but didn’t want them to get too tired. She had her nice concert dress on and so did her grandmother. They had coordinated their dresses so that they both had complimentary colors – dark, but with some color in the designs.
Katie let her grandmother enter the stage first and followed behind as the audience clapped. Katie went to the front of the piano, watching her grandmother to know when to take a bow – then wait until the count of two before coming up. They had practiced this. She went to the piano bench and arranged her music. Her grandfather was seated next to her. He was there to turn the pages. Katie and her grandmother had played together many times, so she knew how to read her grandmother’s body language – when to get ready to play – and then when she took a deep breath and slightly lifted her violin and came down in rhythm like a conductor, they both began at the exact same time. Katie’s fingers moved quickly over the keys – first she had the melody, then the violin took over while Katie played the accompaniment. There were times that Katie played lightly and delicately, and times when the piano became excited and she played louder and faster with the violin soaring higher and higher. The first piece ended with such a flurry of notes that the last note came like an ax falling on the chopping block, splitting the log in half. Everyone in the audience was holding their breath and when that last note ended there was a silence for a second or two before everyone started to breath and clap and yell “brava,” brava,” as they stood on their feet clapping loudly. Katie came to her grandmother’s side and watched her to know when to bow. They took two bows and then went off to the wings of the theater, but the people clamored for them to come back on stage for another bow. The clapping in her ear was a very familiar sound. She could hear the rooster the loudest, and Rosetta, the tan chicken was clucking at her feet. She had to move back a bit as her mother poured out more garbage from the compost can. The chickens were all crowding around them, fighting for the food and clucking loudly. Some of the garbage fell on the backs of the chickens and other chickens picked it off of them. Katie loved the chickens. She and her mother were the ones on the farm who were responsible for feeding them, gathering the eggs, and for the meat birds, arranging for the day when they slaughtered them. That was a hard day. Sometimes they had as many as 60 chickens to slaughter, clean, and put in the freezer.
When they went back into the house, Katie decided she wanted to paint. So her mother got out her water colors and pad of paper. Katie got all of her dresses and skirts out and put them on the floor – looking at all of the colors in them. She decided on a dress that was white, but had blue, purple and yellow in it as well. Katie painted herself in the dress, but it wasn’t a still painting, it was a painting of Katie doing a slow swirling dance in the dress, with the colors swirling around until they went flowing, slowly, like a scarf or a ribbon, out into the air away from Katie, then out the window into the sky. Katie changed her dress so she had more yellow and purple on her. She painted another picture of herself in that slow swirling dance, with the colors winding their way around through the house, out the window and out into the sky. Next she put on everything pink and red and kept the white dress on as well – then painted herself dancing again with the white, pink, and red swirling around her, out the window and into the sky. By this time she had the color in the sky to paint a beautiful sunset – pink high up – white clouds – yellow and red making a bright orange sky with bright purple around the barely visible bright yellow top of the sun setting in the west.
Katie took the sunset as her pallet of colors. She added water to her brush and dripped it into the white and let little drops of white snowdrops appear underneath the treas. Then she dropped some yellow and purple that became crocuses, coming up in the edges of the fields. Katie was bringing spring to the land in her painting. There was enough yellow for Katie to paint all of the forsythia and daffodils next. The landscape was coming alive with color.
Then with a new brush, Katie took the white, pink, and a little red from her pallet and lightly sprinkled the sky with white, pink, and red specks that started floating down and covered the fruit trees – the apples, crabapples, pears and in the cities all of the ornamental cherry trees that had such bright pink flowers all over the branches.
Next Katie put on everything that had green in it – dark green to almost yellow – shirts, skirts and dresses. She needed lots of green. As she painted herself twirling with the green clothing, the green moved out from her, into the air, and out the window and covered the earth, the ground and the trees. Katie took another piece of paper and with the green that covered the earth, painted a meadow, a beautiful green meadow. From her sky pallet, Katie took the white clouds and made sheep in the meadow. Then she took the bright yellow and made a patch of yellow daffodils in the middle of the meadow. Two sheep were in the daffodils patch. Then Katie took her bright purple from the middle if the sunset and painted irises among the yellow daffodils. Of course, Katie had to paint herself at the edge of the wild flowers. She stood there, breathing in the wonderful smells of the flowers. She closed her eyes and leaned forward, moving her arms in the air like a slow windmill. As she leaned forward, she started to move, slowly at first then a little faster until she was slowly running, her arms catching and swirling the beautiful colors into a beautiful swirling pattern around her. She started turning around as she ran, swirling her hands, swirling her body, moving in a small circle in the middle of the patch of flowers in the middle of the field. As she tightened the circle into a spinning move, she gradually lowered her body, onto her knees and then lay down among all of the swirling colors and smells – still with her eyes closed so she could see the color and patterns much better. As she lay there breathing in the smells and beauty, her mother said, Katie, what beautiful pictures you have painted. You must be tired from working so hard; you fell asleep on the floor. Let’s hang the pictures up to dry and clean up the table for lunch. Katie looked at all her beautiful paintings as she cleaned up the table, remembering the flowers, the sunset, the fruit trees, and the sheep and flowers in the meadow.
It had been a busy morning, but not that different from most mornings. A little girl has many things to do every day and today was really no different from most mornings.