Sunday, July 4, 2010

This is a two-fer as I fell asleep writing part one last night and forgot to post. Ruins it a little, giving two parts the same day, but I've fallen off of my one hundred day wagon and desperately trying to climb back on board.

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.

This is how the beloved poem of Jenny Joseph starts. Every girl hopes she'll get to be the old woman who wears purple, but let's face it. Some of us are going to be the old woman who is trying desperately to stay young, who still agonizes over looking presentable, who doesn't want to be a bother to anyone. It takes a lot of courage to be an old woman who wears purple just as it takes courage to start being the woman you aim to be while you're still young.

But why am I bringing it up? Because I met the old woman in purple. Head to toe. Hat, scarf, earrings, sweater, shoes, and with some stretch of the imagination the cloudy cataract covering her left eye was washed out indigo. 

"Those are the paintings of my friend, Angel. She'll be back around 3, she's walking her little dog. Have you ever seen her little dog? It's the cleverest thing..."

Her English was as perfect as her outfit was misguided. I asked her if she knew whether the Uvrael was the name of the artist and she looked puzzled. She didn't know.

She hollered back in Greek to the women working in the fish market next door. Both women came out eyeing the door of the shop and seven minutes passed while they debated what the name "Uvrael" meant, but the result was that it remained a mystery.

One of the fish market women had eyes that looked in completely separate directions and I was mesmerized.

"Do you suppose that it could be the archangel, Uriel?"
The lady's good eye glimmered. "Ohhh.... maybe... yes that's right, it IS the name of the angel, isn't it?"

And she nodded thoughtfully. Her eye drifted to the necklace I was wearing that day, the fruit of my mother's impeccable taste in jewelry, a turquoise pendant surrounding a circle of bone with a hole drilled in the center. A mermaid is engraved on it.

"Well that's an interesting thing." And she asked ten questions about it before she moved to my belt, a woven, Indian belt I've had since the US army handed out infected blankets.

"And look, that's the pattern of a snake. Very good. You're protected when you wear that. See?" And she held up her hand, heavy with rings, one of which was a silver snake curled around an arthritic knuckle.

She nodded to the paintings in the window of the snake. "She knows what I know. People think these paintings are Greek, but they're the same thing over and over again. A painting was done once and is forever repeated..."

We were talking in English, but this is how I knew we spoke the same language.

The conversation evolved into a bit of background on us both. She was a former tour guide and archaeologist. I was a painter and tour "assistant' from Texas.

"Would you like to come to my house? I'd like to talk to you about a book I'm writing. It needs to be in English and while my English is good, I make mistakes. Maybe you could help me."

"Well I would but I'm on my way to a meeting."

My phone rings. My meeting is delayed. What did I do? Well I listened to the universe that wanted me desperately to talk some more with this strange creature and I followed her home.