Thursday, November 17, 2016

... art from the ashes...

“The phoenix must burn to emerge.”
~Janet Fitch, White Oleander

On November 2 around 6:36pm, I received the most beautiful gift: a resurrected piece of art I thought I would never see again.

But let me back up, sometime in the early 1990s, my friend Sherrie Miller, who is a talented artist and my first “favorite artist”, used to sketch pieces that would end up hanging in my bedroom. I wrote poetry and had written a series of poems about Claudian the Atheist, an imaginary character whom I had created based on my first “love of my life”’s best friend’s “goth” name. His real name is Ben which is just another bit of connection to my fella who also has a best friend with the same name. As a little side note because I’m being tangential, before I realized that I even had a choice of not having children, I believed that I would name my son Claudian Dyvad. He would have hated me, I’m sure.

Anyway, my Claudian poems were about the character’s various journeys to heaven and hell. His afterlife began when Claudian’s Cessna crashed into a church to which he muttered, “God, what an ending.” I cannot recall why or if I asked but Sherrie illustrated the story around my poem. I still have the original.  Later I asked Sherrie is she would do a painting of the piece. I knew that it would be an artistic interpretation of her original sketch and the two look quite different but it was terribly significant since it was the first piece of art that I had ever commissioned from an artist.

I realize that not giving a name to my first “love of my life” is a bit annoying but I want to respect the anonymity of it all and as I shared in a previous post, I don’t want to come across as a creep considering that I’m Facebook friends with his wife. My previous post actually leads to this one. I wrote, “For years he called my mother to check in on me. I didn't know any of this until 2006 when we reconnected. My mother never said a thing.” I realize this reads a bit like The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks but the truth is he stopped calling my mother a few days before my first wedding when my mother told him that I was getting married.  My mother was not thrilled with me getting married the first time and she told me that the night before my wedding. I remember saying, “I can’t do anything about this now” when she announced that both my father and she believed I was too young. How’s that for weird parenting and timing. Everyone of that time period and many of my friends today know that she could have called off the wedding by simply saying, “X called” or “X has been calling.” But she’s a controller of secrets (a whole other story) and I never knew any of this until he told me. When we parted from that reunion, I called her and screamed at her. She muttered something about she thought it was best. Let me be clear, I don’t think I would have ended up with my first fella. We were too young and both had lots of living to do; we also appear to be happy in our current relationships. But she took away my 22-yr-old self’s choice by not disclosing the phone calls.

I could write that my first husband was awful and in many ways he was. My current fella hates him based on the stories. We were just young and without brains being fully grown, we both made poor choices.

In 1996, he burned all of my letters from my first “love of my life” and then set fire to this painting (and nearly the apartment while I was screaming that he was merely burning them into my soul). He was in a state of jealousy and believed that the character in the painting resembled the image of my former love (and to be fair, it does). 

Fast forward twenty years and Sherrie randomly sends me a digital version of the burned painting I thought I would never see again. I had no idea that she had photographed her work. I opened the message and I became a puddle of tears. Seeing this still makes me cry. I remember it burning; I remember the smell of pictures and letters and paint burning. Letters I had read a hundred times which had been kept so tidy and together with a velvet ribbon stored in a precious box went up in flames.

This doesn’t change the past but it certainly is nice to have a piece of that horrible event resurrect from the flames.

Art from the talented Sherrie Miller.


  1. Wow, what an intense story of emotional turmoil. This nearly had me crying. It amazing to think a copy still exists.

  2. What a beautiful painting!!! I am glad to hear that you were able to at least see it once more digitally. I have had similar things happen and it does tear at the heart. - Hugs