Wednesday, January 12, 2011

How Does a Woman Discover the Artist Buried Inside Her?

Seeing Red is here! Buy your copy today! And please join us at a flamenco-book-art party at The Book House, in Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany, New York, on Sunday, February 6th, at 3 p.m., when Seeing Red author Claudia Ricci joins flamenco guitarist Maria Zemantauski (whose CD "Seeing Red" inspired the book!) and visual artist Kellie Meisl (whose astonishing image "Shattered Cups" graces the cover of the book). Come have a glass of sangría and toast this unique "collaborARTive" event -- a celebration of three women working hard to support each other's art!

How does a woman discover the artist buried inside her? How does she come to realize, finally, that she has the power to make herself happy? In "Seeing Red," Ronda Cari spends half a lifetime searching for true love, and then she discovers it, in the magic of her own dancing!

To start, total darkness. Ronda driving her sons to basketball practice beneath a splatter of glittering stars.

Ronda eyeing Orion, her hunter, hovering overhead in the inky winter darkness.

The sparkling points that are his shoulders, hips and waist.

If only, she thinks, he had legs. Arms to embrace her.

A face.

Shining eyes, an aquiline nose. Full warm lips.

At this moment, driving east, she notices the belt: how the stars tip downward, pointing right to the yellow lines snaking ahead in the glow of headlights.

Aligned this way, Orion pulls her. The car stays forward, following the curve of the road.

Behind, in the back seat, the boys are bickering as always, this time in a nasty dispute over who skiis black diamonds at Jiminy Peak with more ease. Ronda is holding her breath, intent on not listening.

Silence. Roughly 30 seconds. With one hand on the steering wheel, she repositions the van back on the highway. With the other hand, she gropes for the CD player. Hits it to start. Instantly there arises the clap and agonizing howl of her beloved flamenco. Besides Orion, the Spanish music is her only solace as she chauffeurs the kids endlessly over the frozen hills of Berkshire County.

Once upon a time, in some other life, Ronda believes that she was a dancer in a tiny enclave in Andalucía.

The village sat on a dry hillside, its brilliant white houses capped by tile roofs and surrounded by red geraniums. In that life, Ronda was petite and shapely. Happy living in the arid landscape of southern Spain, dancing her way from Granada to Sevilla, Malaga to Cadiz. She had an easy smile and tiny feet and a blaze of blue-black hair and all of it whipped around her like a soft black shawl.

Orion was there, too, hovering in the vast Andalucía sky, his starry shoulders sparkling down on her own.


She shudders. All thoughts are half formed. All thoughts call up memories that make her uneasy and twist at her heart. For years, she gave into so much silly nostalgia. But all it got her was more deeply hurt. More nervous. So upset she saw a psychiatrist. So now, she keeps safe. She doesn’t go too deep. She does the smart thing. She lets the past stay that way. Floating there, somewhere in the mist. She keeps the doors to the attic shut tight. She never goes near the musty boxes with the old baby sweaters, the infant clothes, dusty toys. She knows better than to look at photos or videos of the boys.

She wipes away a single tear rolling down her cheek. In this cold, it threatens to freeze. She pulls out a Kleenex. Sniffles. If Ben Sr. saw her now, he’d tease: “Wow, it sure isn’t easy being a woman, is it?” She’d say, “Ben, please.” He’d shrug, hug her shoulders, pull her tightly to his chest, kiss the top of her head. He loves her. He does the best he can to show it. She knows that better than the maiden name, Cari, which she foolishly let him talk her into giving up. There is no doubt in her mind that if she were to walk out on Ben, he would probably drop dead two days later. After all, it’s not like he could chase down another coed the way he did her. Not at his age, and in his outrageous condition.

Clouds have begun to gather. They form small white ponds that patch the dark sky. Her eyes rise.

Soon Orion
will retire for the night. Frightening, that thought. That even before she returns home, the hunter might disappear. Fighting tears, she pulls the car into the furthest, darkest corner of the parking lot. In seconds, she’s out the door. Keys rattling, she shuffles further into the darkness.

To start, she pulls upright, her back straight and tall. Chest high, arms wide. Hips cocked. Eyes locked on Orion, especially his tilted shoulders. Throwing her gloves down, she holds her key chain castanets, hears the wood crackle in the cold night air. Wheezing slightly, she hums. Out comes the wail, her favorite tango from Camaron’s triple CD, the one Ben ordered from Spain for her birthday. “La ah lo ah lo ah lo ah lo…Flores crecen en el campo…Rosa Maria, Rosa Maria…Rosa Ma riiiiia.”

As she sings, her eyes flood. Weeping, clapping, she lifts her boots in turn, her heels circling the snow packed ice block that is the parking lot. “Olé, olé,” she cries out loud, half wishing she had a crowd. Twirling, she’s got the skirt of her long wide black coat swirling in her wake. Before long, she is feeling the rhythm, the euphoria. And her eyes are dry. They fly up. Orion is still riding in the night sky overhead.

Her back arching slightly, she lifts one arm. Tries the apple pull, the twist that has come to be her obsession.

This time, the fruit falls freely from the tree. Gleeful, she makes a fist, cups it to her chest. It happened exactly the way the Spanish bailaora kept saying it would. “Mira, señora Fallon, just relax. One day, it will happen. Just like that,” the elegant lady promised, snapping her long expressive fingers. “Some things you cannot hurry. You must wait until the idea forms in your body and not your head.”

A smile spreads across Ronda’s face. She bows. The wind blows. Frozen, she scoops her gloves up, yanks them over her ice bitten hands. Shuffling back to the van, she slips inside. Starts the car and then the CD. She steers the van in a wide circle and heads out into the starry night. In two hours, she will be back to pick up the boys.

And then it hits her. Every night, she travels. Guided by the stars, she drives the boys over cold winter roads, forever arriving at new destinations. Never staying in any one location for longer than a few songs. She sets one hand on the dashboard of the Dodge. Pats it. “My caravan,” she whispers. “And me, the gypsy.”

She reaches over. Turns the volume on the flamenco as high as it will go. The music wails. She aches and wanders on, driving extra slow.


No comments: