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Image by Drew Beamer


The trip to Turkey was still very fresh in her mind. She initially objected when her friends suggested that the itinerary include a communal dip in one of Pamukkale’s mystical thermal pools. But, as Jadis lowered herself into that cloudy liquid, she couldn’t deny the delicious sensation of squelching, squirming limestone between her toes.  She submerged herself slowly, fully clothed apart from her shoes which she’d placed to one side. 


She soaked there fully for an hour before reluctantly clambering out and trudging, slip-slop in her water-logged gear, up the path to their shared hire car. As she was absent-mindedly squeezing water from random bits of her clothing, something caught her eye. Chalky water droplets from her denim jacket appeared to be dancing. At the very least, they were defying gravity. Without thinking, Jadis reached out with her fingers and coaxed the suspended milky beads into abstract patterns right there, using the air as a canvas. She continued painting the magical canvas for a few more minutes and the most marvelous feeling of calm washed throughout her entire body. 


In the following weeks and months after returning home, Jadis focused her energy on crafting her unique dancing-water paintings, eagerly anticipating the serenity that followed. As long as she had access to water, coloured chalk or ink, and the freedom to move her upper body, she could summon great tinted swathes of airborne liquid and, in an instant, squash any apprehensions she might be feeling. She experimented, mixing various hues and levels of opaqueness, but it was when she daubed and streaked the air with cobalt blue that her sense of tranquility was unmatched. Jadis would lose herself for days creating ephemeral art by weaving fluid blue plumes. 


One unexpectedly stormy night, just as Jadis was getting into the zone, the hovering ink seemed to spawn a life of its own. A tsunami of blue suddenly thundered about her, threatening, smothering, holding her hostage. Long-forgotten demons burst forwards, snarling and snapping at her hands, neck, shoulders, belly. Unable to continue painting, she hid her head, shielding her face with her hair, mouthing a half-whispered prayer. 


She huddled in that position for what seemed like an eternity. Thinking in slow motion, an emerging reality dawned on her: nothing would change unless she took action. Opening her eyes was a small but important first step. She stared straight into the eyes of the monster of her own making. Even as dread continued to claw at her throat, she fought the urge to cower and pulled herself up to her full height. Inhaling slowly and projecting an air of calm she did not feel, she watched in utter disbelief as the big blue bully dissolved into mist, disappearing as quickly as it had risen. And she could breathe again.


Since then, Jadis weaves tiny strands of sapphire filaments daily, threading them precisely, adorning her face and head. Although her delicate cobalt jewelry is impermanent, it’s nonetheless an enduring reminder of her power and courage. Anxiety is always lurking around a nearby corner, but she knows her doubts might also be the seeds of something magical, something transcendent, something beautiful.  

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My Coal Field

Stars blink above the opening bars, revealing an empty expanse of twilight.  Before long, we’re joined by a comforting companion. It’s a bass guitar and seems to be leading us somewhere, but we can’t trust it yet. Occasional bolts of beautiful light from a piano illuminate our path. The chords bring relief that melts into raindrops as a thread of manic melancholy bleeds into our collective consciousness. 


The layers of sounds are building apace, driving us forward: dirty guitars, fuzzed, growing and growling. They’re swirling, piercing. And before we have time to worry about the cloying blanket that threatens to smother us, a Chinese flute lightens our load and releases the burden. Sun breaks through, and the folksy chatter of an acoustic guitar reassures us that friends are nearby. Sounds like they are chatting around a honky-tonk piano because, admittedly, a lot is going on. 


The music flashes and for a moment, we’re blind, lost in the field. Notes are fluttering and floating high above. Before we get too comfortable though, beware of the sinister synthesizer that lurks just beneath the melody. Or maybe it is the melody.


Did you notice the diamonds strewn all over this coal field? It’s just a matter of being patient, you’ll see. The path is widening now, a crescendo is building and, without warning, we hear a human voice, but it’s a rhythm of fragmented words, naming instruments in counterpoint to the ever-swelling music: “Grand piano; reed and pipe” and so it goes. It’s the start of a list that is as familiar as the alphabet to those of us whose formative music-listening years were in the early ‘70s. 


The voice continues: “Two slightly distorted guitars” and my anticipation is almost crushing. It’s been decades since I’ve immersed myself in music like this. “Man-dolin,” we hear the word enunciated in excited tones, and I know we’re almost there. Wait for it. 


My ears stand to attention like an alert foxhound. The voice gifts us the penultimate introduction of yet another guitar – a full twenty-two minutes to navigate to this point. Although the journey is our destination, it feels like we’ve finally arrived.  


I smile as I hear the words that map the terrain: “Tubular Bells!” And those bells sound bloody glorious. Magnificent, they shine in the dark and dance with the hammers for a full 32 bars. I relish every moment of wading through my coal field once more, holding my breath and embracing the echoes, the colours, and the textures. 


A tribute to Mike Oldfield’s ground-breaking 26-minute track: “Tubular Bells (Part I)” 1973

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