I once had a dream of waking up next to a pond. It was nighttime and everything was infused with inky shadows. The pond was circled with ropy vines and woven brambles. I couldn't really see the twisted boundary, but I knew it was there with that omnipresent sight of dreams, a deeper knowing. The surface of the water was still and glass-like, looking like polished obsidian in the dark. As I looked harder into the water, I felt dizzy and the planes of reality seemed to shift. No longer was the pond horizontal. It was now somehow upright. It had become a mirror.
I looked into the mirror, trying to find my face, but all I saw was polished black. Tourmaline, spinel, onyx, and obsidian. And then I saw tiny glowing red beads. Two at first. And then many. I could feel them tickling my skin as the little red beads danced in some intricate pattern that I could not follow or understand in its complexity. As my eyes continued to adjust, I realized, startled at first, that the little red beads were not beads after all... they were eyes.
I was covered in thousands and thousands of moths.
The tickling of their minuscule feet evolved into an extrasensory experience; feeling not just the feather-light touch of their feet, but the pumping of their gauzy wings and the weight of their fat, fuzzy bodies. A sense of revulsion was my first instinct. I wanted to frantically brush them away, freeing my skin from these creatures swarming over me.
When I was a little boy, I used to have a plastic house. I can still remember the sweet, powdery smell of the plastic baking in the Florida sun. I would spend hours in it, pretending to make food (stirring Spanish Moss around in spent margarine containers with a stick) and clean it (by rubbing it down with oil-stained rags my father used to wipe grease off lawnmower parts) and reenact what I thought it meant to own a house. This basically meant that I would scold my imaginary child for being lazy and for not cleaning and for causing me trouble upon trouble. I had piles of rocks and sticks that I liked that I would move from corner to corner of the little house with the little chair and the little rotary phone. My siblings were all older than me and I was a lonely child. I would conscript whoever would come near into my games.
One day, Hepifanio, a Mexican man who used to help my father in his landscaping business, was called over to my little plastic house. I had big brown eyes, round cheeks, a mischievous smile and was a cutie pie. It was not hard to lure my parents' friends and helpers over, to indulge the lonely child... even if only for a few minutes. One of my favorite games was to pop the plastic shutters open and slam them shut again and scream, "We're not open!" (Somehow my little house was also a business.) The day that Hepifanio came over to play, his eyes got round and a startled muffle escaped his lips. He said something I didn't understand. Hepifanio snatched me up and set me aside and pressed my shoulders hard. The force of the gesture said, "Stay." I stood there, as still as I could, which was a hard feat for a precocious child. He ran to the gold truck lightning fast and pulled out a shovel from the bed. He rushed back over and speared the shovel into the ground.
What I had not noticed was that I was not alone in the little plastic house.
My visitor was a venomous coral snake, banded red, yellow, and black. Hepifanio had plunged the shovel into the ground, separating the head from the body, and had probably saved my life that day.
I stood in front of the dark mirror, covered in moths. Instead of reacting to my initial feeling, that mix of horror and panic, I stopped. I stood still. I remembered that little plastic house and I stood still the way that I stood still for Hepifanio. I've learned that if you stopped, stood still, you wouldn't get bit. If you screamed and jumped around and swatted at the bee, the hornet, the wasp... you'd get stung. If you were quiet and still, the feral kittens would emerge from hiding and play their pouncing games. If you stood still, you could be a witness to the beauty of nature, friendly or lethal.
I marveled at the beauty of the fluttering wings. As I looked closer, down at myself and into the mirror, I could see the patterns on the moths... little skulls on mottled yellow and brown bodies. And then all at once, the moths released from my skin and took flight. They flew into what I thought was a mirror, what I thought was a pond. They passed through what I thought was a barrier and scattered into the other side of night. And I followed after them.
If you're interested in acquiring one of these hand-painted pieces that I cast in resin, CLICK HERE.