Air Kisses

Is it age? Loss of an in-house family? More free time? Whatever the reason, I find I now need, thrive on, cannot do without meditation—twice a day! My evening meditations are often fodder for dreams, and yes, they help me wind down, de-stress, sleep. In the morning, though, things are a different color: I open my eyes from these quiet times, as full of excitement as an untamed puppy. Down girl! I want to tell myself. But still, I can barely restrain the eagerness–the minute the world comes flooding back, each thing I see or touch or hear is kissable! How do you kiss a sound? How do you keep from trying?

Which reminds me of a piece of art I saw last June in a student show at the Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan. I was teaching writing there, but in the spirit of interdisciplinary connection, I took my students to an on-campus show by high school painters. We wandered the exhibit, both inspired and cowed by the versatility, the fresh ideas of these young artists. The work that snagged me from the moment I walked in, and which I tried without success to capture with my cell phone camera, was a clear, single-paned window hanging off to one side of the gallery. It was covered, top to bottom, with lipstick kisses.

I think now of the girl who did this (I found her name on a wall tag, but failed to write it down). I’m sure she’s someone like me, someone who isn’t afraid of “dirty” things—dead birds, squashed squirrels and snakes. Feathers, stranded river stones, turtle shells. No piece of life (or death) seems without its own magic. Each is worthy of examination, attention, what I called in a recent poem, “impertinent curiosity.”

So when my grown kids tell me not to let their children touch these things, it makes me sad. The warm body of a small bird that’s just died on my front steps, flight still whispering in its chest—how is this “dirty?” How can we fail to stoop, to wonder, to bury with thanks?

I see her, then, this child-woman, who was never taught that germs are everywhere, pressing her lips against the old window she’s found. Over and over, making sure the moistness of her mouth finds the glass. Doing what artists do: letting her love shine through.






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14 responses to “Air Kisses

  1. Louise, I love this so much! My room is full of birds wings, small skulls, dragonfly carcasses. They are small prayers to the beauty of life. Thank you for this lovely post.

    • louisehawes

      Oh, yeah! Another hoarder of small things! I can share this with you, Sharry — I have bee bodies, turtle shells and beetle husks on my altar. No dragonflies, though — that would be wonderful!

  2. Jan Lower

    Louise, this post is lovely. I wish I had known you were going to Interlochen (after residency I assume?) — my daughter was there while we were at VCFA in July, for her fourth summer of a Creative Writing major, first in Intermediates then in the High School Division. She had many wonderful experiences there over those four summers. I love the camp and the whole Center, it’s a magical, unforgettable place. Your story goes straight to the heart of the energy and passion that is everywhere there.

    • louisehawes

      Actually, Jan, I was at Interlochen before the rez, in June, when they hold an adult arts summer camp. And you’re right; the place is a delight! Our faculty cabin was on the lake, and the living room included a beautiful marble sculpture and a grand piano!

    • louisehawes

      Thanks, Jandy! And isn’t it ironic that the same day I posted this, as you know, I had the chance to pick up a very large SNAKE??!!! (Cautiously, I might add 🙂 )

  3. Lou, reading that post was like talking to you over a nice cuppa coffee – I can just hear you saying it! Love your passion. And by the way, speaking of interdisciplinary experiences, I can see the lines in those lips almost as if they are streets on a bird’s-eye-view map, can you? Kind of a Google-Earth-Air-Kiss!!

    • louisehawes

      Yes, Julie! Two sections of a rather busy city on either side of a lake that runs between them! I’ll save you and Nando a vacation home right on the beach! I love that your mind works like mine — makes me feel less, er, shall we say, bizarre 🙂

  4. Celia Wolpe

    Lovely, lovely, Louise. The year my mother died, my brother gently wrapped and mailed to me the tiniest of hummingbird nests that had been used year after year by a pair of wee visitors to Mom’s back patio. Mom and I watched that pair feed and care for three babes, only the size of jellybeans, each come-around season. One year, two babes had flown away. One timid child hung back. That mom did everything she could–from her airborn, fluttering, vantage point just three inches away from the baby who was clinging onto the edge of the nest– to encourage, entice, cajole, bribe, threaten That One to start its life’s adventure. No way, Jose! With relief, the third morning, it was gone. We imagined that the mom was surely at her wit’s end.
    Last summer, my two cats and I watched, with our three noses pressed to the kitchen window, a porcupine heft its lumbering self across the meadow behind my deck. The next morning, the three of us were in the meadow grass, poking around for any signs of the porcupine, a quill here, a print there. Suddenly, there it was, the creature. To my horror, now in three pieces. I sat down to examine it. I happened to flip over its foot, expecting to see a cat-like paw with long claws. There in my hand lay a foot pad exactly like a newborn human’s foot, from toes to heel so perfect. It would look like a birth certificate print of a baby’s foot if inked and pressed to paper.
    So I’m a collector, too, of fossils, stones, shells, hairs strands from my son’s first haircut, and an old tube of my mother’s lipstick. If I open it, I can still faintly smell her sweet kisses.
    Maybe those window pane kisses are portals into various dimensions of that Interlochen Childwoman’s life……being lived simultaneously….

    • louisehawes

      Oh, Nina! Talk about lovely! I can’t get your description of that porcupine’s foot out of my heart! Imagine if you’d pressed it to paper, again and again! You went with us to that exhibit, didn’t you? Do you remember the piece? It’s so good to hear from fellow collectors — yes, the hair! I have a lock from my daughter and from her daughter and hope to add one of mine to make a braid of the three generations. Thanks so much for adding your dimensions here!

  5. Nina Nelson

    “How do you kiss a sound?” I love this line so much. Just last week, I was reading my notes from Susan Fletcher’s lecture on conveying emotion and she gave “synesthesia” as an option. I had to look that word up, if for no other reason that to learn how to say it! Wanting to kiss is a sound is a perfect example.

    I can’t tell you how many times my siblings and I almost missed the school bus because we were trying to save all the drowning worms on the way to our stop after a big storm. Some of the worms were already ghosts—white, bloating and floating. Others still wiggled in the puddles, so we scooped them up and tossed them into one of the grassy fields on either side of us. We didn’t even straighten up as we walked, just stayed hunched over, scooping, saving and scanning for more

    We did the same for the baby catfish when the pond overflowed, except this time the direction was the opposite—OFF the land and INTO the water.

    Box turtles trying to cross the road got a helping hand as well.

    My kids still stop and curiously peer down at road kill on our walks or runs.

    Tuesday, on our way to the passport office, I saw a fat earthworm who’d tried to escape the rain by crawling onto the sidewalk. I think someone must have stepped on him because he had a gash in his middle. But he still looked like he had a chance, so I picked him up and threw him into the adjacent flower bed. He landed on the prickly branch of a coniferous shrub and just hung there, too weak to move. That wouldn’t do. I stepped into the flower bed, dug up some leaves and placed him snugly under them.
    My 9 year-old son came back around the corner and found me crouched in the flower bed. “Mom, what are you doing?” he asked.

    “Saving a worm,” I said wiping my hands on my jeans.

    I hope he made it.

    • Thanks, Nina! You are definitely raising ’em right! I did a whole workshop session on synesthesia two years ago, by the way. It was such fun to see letters in color and smell music!

  6. Thank you so much, Lou, for reminding us that we live in a big kissable world! xx to you!

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