Sketches from the Heart of a Texas Artist: Part IV
I awoke to a scorching sun beating down on my face. Scanning the horizon, I spied a port in the distance. Being both hungry and thirsty, I adjusted my sails and headed landward.
I stepped off the boat and ventured down the pier. A man sat at the end, whittling what looked like some kind of Mayan figurine. He was tan and sinewy. Head shaven, he had handsome, chiseled features. He stared at me with a sadness in his eyes. "St. Lucia," he mumbled. I looked at him head on. It was as if he had been waiting for me. Shivers crept across my skin. "Madame Mason," I thought he said. He spoke in a slurred Creole. I stared back, confused. "Sorry," he solemnly responded, "my English is careless." He cleared his throat. "Madame de la Maison awaits you. She has answers for you." He nodded toward a thatched house down the dirt road.
I approached the crude structure and pulled aside a piece of madras fabric that had been fashioned into an entrance. Incense smoke twisted and curled through the air in a thick haze. As my eyes adjusted to the dimly lit, smoke-filled room, they fixated upon a Nefertiti-esque woman. She wore a traditional, ceremonial Jip cut from the same madras fabric as the curtain. Her madras headpiece had three peaks, indicating that she had been married once, but was either widowed or divorced. She sat calm, poised. She extended a gamine arm and motioned me forward. I cautiously crept closer, and as soon as I was close enough, I became entranced by her doe-like hazel eyes.
"Breathe." She said in the same Creole accent as the man who directed me here. "Relax." Her eyes grew more intense, but her demeanor remained calm. She nodded her head and motioned for me to sit on the ground before her. She stirred a cup of tea with her finger and took a long sip. "You're safe from the shadow while you're here." I exhaled a sigh of relief "but," she continued, "you cannot stay for long."
My eyes remained fixated on hers. I saw a violent wave swell in them. She took another sip of tea and cleared her throat. "Does this house feel familiar?" She asked. I looked around and felt no recollection. Madame de la Maison reached behind her chair and exposed a piece of art. It was a water color of a pink granite dome that glistened beneath an infinite blue sky. I recognized the dome.
"This was painted by your spirit, many decades ago. It was a past life, and the spirit has been passed on. There was a Comanche woman, born in the rolling hills of Texas. She was called Puhibitu, which is the Comanche word for ‘green’ and ‘one with nature.’ She lived with her tribe near a large, pink granite, dome-shaped rock, where her tribe would go to to hide from the settlers. One day, she and her lover took a romantic walk to the top of the rock.”
Madame de la Maison placed her elbows on her knees and leaned in toward me.
“They never reached the top together.” She pursed her lips and took another long sip of tea.
“As they ventured higher and higher, her lover explained that he was leaving. He had a journey that he had to go on and she couldn't come.” Still in a trance, I felt a familiarity in this story, the way deja vu whispers memories of the past.
“Paralyzed by heartache, Puhibitu stood halfway up the rock and watched through tear-filled eyes as her lover ventured to the top alone. Finally, she turned around and retreated back to the foothills, empty and alone. She collapsed under the shadow of a live oak, where she curled up and cried herself to sleep.”
“Not long after that, she left the hill country to explore Central America and the Caribbean. She ended up here, in St. Lucia.” The Madame extended her arms forward as if she was greeting a guest. “She resided in this house and taught painting to the local children. The pink granite rock was an image that appeared regularly in her art. It represented a sadness that never escaped her. Puhibitu never allowed herself to love again. Toward the end of her life, she returned to the hill country, ventured back to the enchanted granite dome and, one night, she curled up under the shadow of the large live oak tree. She fell asleep in the shadow and never awoke.”
The violent swell in Madame de la Maison’s eyes took on a new aura. Still intense, it began to move at a slower pace, like the calm before a storm.
“That shadow absorbed her loneliness and sadness so much that it became an energy that has remained with her spirit as it continues to take new form… as her body takes new form. Now it is with you. You cannot keep pulling out your gun and shooting it, expecting it to be gone forever. It will return. You have to learn to accept it. You have to go back to your beginning, where you were born. Once you understand where you came from, you'll begin to understand how to live in harmony with this shadow."
I stared at the Madame, still entranced. I watched the ocean in her eyes begin to calm. As her eyes settled, I fell out of my trance and grew uncomfortable. I knew where I would soon be and I knew that the shadow would be there waiting for me. She pulled back the madras curtain, motioned me out of the thicket house and down the dirt road toward the pier.