Gypsies and Pixie Dust

92_1Gypsies and Pixie Dust By Jacqueline Cioffa

I exist therefore I am, mistakes and imperfections one and all. I don’t want to be considered an artist. I want to be thought of as a student of art. I want to ingest the human condition, live and breathe it. I want to eradicate all traces of ego and relate. I want to roam the globe and hear the stories, while not missing out on the neighbor hood tales right next door. I am a traveler and connoisseur of fortune and mishap. I am a believer in fate and love and a hopeless romantic at heart. I have fallen in love many times over; sometimes reciprocated while others not. I am a gypsy leaping joyously headfirst into the new and unknown forever anxious for a fresh start.

So much of our lives are spent in the world of what if, instead of the place that is right now. I am present, I am now and I am looking up towards the sky and watching as the pixie dust falls. For today I will repeat that statement over and over, every time my mind starts to wander to a different road. I am present, I am now and I am looking up to the sky. Watch for it, you might miss it if you’re not looking up towards the heavens as the pixie dust falls.

I miss my friend. She was 90 years young and taught me many life lessons. I started visiting her out of duty and obligation and continued out of delight. She once said to me, “I wish I had known you when I was younger, we would’ve been great friends.” And I replied, “You know me now.” I only realized the weight and validity of that statement by her passing and what it truly meant. To spend time with another being and listen to their choices, the many paths and winding roads. 

I love all kinds of travels, roads carved out by dirt and gravel, uphill wood and branch covered trails, 6 lane freeways that go nowhere in particular, route 66 and the generation beat and all that trip meant.  I adore white finite sandy beaches with no end in sight, and enjoy the lazy comfort of a trip taken in old woman’s living room filled with black and white pictures and endless stories of a life well spent. 

There were many days when I didn’t want to get on the train and make the hour-long commute to her tiny modest east village apartment.  She’d tell me about her life in Italy, the seven brothers and sisters and the father who worked for the rail.  How much she loved them and how there was always food on their table and laughter in that house in spite of war.  She told me how scared and sad she was when she left home and made the trip to America with this new husband towards a fresh start.  She’d remember with remorse how she’d stay with an abusive Italian old school man who came back from America to Italy to fetch her offering dreams of a promised land.  She sighed as she remembered his gambling and the cancer that would ravage him and caring for him and the mess she endured out of duty for 50 years long. 

She’d ask me every week, “why didn’t I have a boyfriend for I was such a pretty tall girl?” Then she’d smile and shake her head saying it was better and smart.  She’d tell me to wait for someone who had dignity and honor and settle for no less. And I listened and nodded my head, a smile on my face. I believed her when she spoke to me, for I could see the pixie dust and the angels flying all around.

She could hardly speak without a tear as she showed me a picture of her dead son and the pain would creep up as if she was discovering this story for the first time.  I’d watch her face, the lines sketched deeply over time and listen to her travels and I’d love her all over again. I knew the journey downtown was worth it. And our voyages were forever melded and meshed and she was no longer a little old lady that was alone. She was a storyteller who was deeply loved and admired and respected and an old woman who had 9o years, but was forever young in my heart. When I would leave her apartment she would give me a hug and say, “Get home safe.” And I felt giddy and well and loved. I was a journeyman who’s life had a purpose. She made me miss my mother who is still here, but far away enough.

You don’t really have to go anywhere to be a traveler if you stay alert. Sometimes others make the journey for you. I remember curling up under a crocheted blanket with my mother on our cozy couch in wintertime. I was five and we would magically cover our heads and end up in Ireland.  The land of County Cork and the Blarney stone and dumb Irish luck. The land where her father left the only home he knew at eight and crossed the seas towards a new beginning. He would live stoically and walk tall throughout life.  He would make a family that would prosper and procreate and live on. His would be a life filled with honor and purpose and the quiet elegance of simplicity in a rural American town.  It would be a small village, a no place in particular, but his journey would be filled with substance galore.

Stories have been the essence of my life. Since I was old enough to recall I’ve been asking my mom about her stories so I could get the tales right. I would travel back in time with her to her youth and the trip made sense. That’s how I’d grow into the gypsy with a love for words and new undiscovered lands in her heart.  

I’d travel the globe.  I’d walk the Champs Elysee in Paris savoring a chocolate crepe.  I’d smell the age of the earth rise up from her streets and admire the Seine by its yellow lights and the dark. I’d fall in love with Chagall and the Pompidou and grow to appreciate Brie and Sunday afternoons and La Tour Eiffel from the park. I’d scour flea markets in search of the perfect vintage leather coat.  I’d fall out of love with a man and cry real tears and learn to hate the person lying next to me. I’d wish I was anywhere but Paris with this lover who had outstayed his welcome and squashed my zest for adventure with every beat of his soured heart. The days would become long and the streets would appear dirty and food would lose all flavor as I lost my appetite. Summer would feel like an old maid and I would silently pray for wintertime when he would pack his bags and leave me for good.

A finality that would lead to a different kind of voyage, a much needed repose from an outdated life.

Spring in Paris would magically reappear much like the Easter bunny and I’d fall head over heels in love with a different kind of man. He’d make music in the rain and Paris would come to life again. His would be a short visit, but long enough to renew my broken heart.  Paris would appear pretty again and she was soft like talc and every bridge oozed new found sex appeal.  Sometimes love appears for a mere mille- second, yet your journey is changed forever and your lives are intertwined. You remain not together, no. However bittersweet the visit, the gleam of admiration in his eye and his presence in your world is felt. His trip makes your trip valid and you feel the sparkles and except the magic and gladly move on.

Steadfastly, you recognize your good fortune and tuck it away in your hope chest and you walk straight and tall. There are many beaches to visit and stars to count and fish and sea turtles to swim with. There are wooden bridges to be crossed and mountains to trek. There are fears to be faced head on. There are dreams to be realized and cards to be dealt and bags to be packed and unpacked.

My good fortune has always been the ability to see myself through others. The voyages I have taken would lead to life changing lessons, affirmations, a needed hug, an unexpected caress, and a knowing nod.  There would be trips made out of duty, filled with sorrow and grief.  Perhaps those were the hardest kind. Yet, they were definitely the most rewarding. They showed me the kind of stuff I was made of.  I was able to face death and sorrow and not be ripped apart. I would find the strength to continue on the trek.

I’ve loved all sorts of travel. Trips to exotic lands in first class, the ripped leather seat of a beat up bus on my way back home, a road traveled so frequently I know every sign, every rest stop along the way.  I love the endless possibility of a new road, but as I grow older I learn that I am a deep lover of the familiar journey and all the comfort she holds.

A shared look, a glimmer of hope, pixie dust and perpetual movement. I exist now. I am present doing nothing in particular. I am ok with that. I am full. I am a traveler, a student of art, and a lover of the human condition. I want to be pliable; I want to bend like the next road I find myself upon. I want to savor the journey; I need to remind myself to look up. Remember to keep looking up.  It’s there, the pixie dust. I know it is, I’ve seen it. It’s the infinite possibility that a battered old duffle bag holds hanging in my closet whispering my name.

Originally published via Frame Lines the magazine 

Gypsies and Pixie Dust by Jacqueline Cioffa

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Training Wheels and Little Blond Curls #StolenMoments

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From time to time you’ll see Stolen Moments show up on the blog. Words forgotten and misplaced, poetry, anticipatory memories, prose, joy and sorrow, pensive emotion, random and not so random thoughts scribbled in tattered notebooks. To not forget but remember the precious, fleeting stolen moments in time. I’m a writer trying recapture on paper how it feels to be alive.

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Training Wheels and Little Blond Curls

Jacqueline Cioffa 1998

Oh little girl

Stop for a minute

Let me enjoy your youth

Your radiance

The sheer innocence of fearlessness

Can I ride with you just one more time?

On your bike with training wheels

Let me float free on your back

As you learn to glide without safety wings

Don’t fret and don’t be afraid

Your youth will never leave you

She’ll grow on with you

As you and I both grow up

Don’t quit five minutes before the miracle.

I’m tired.

Wiped, discouraged, caput, worn down, exhausted.

I am not winning this mammoth battle with the mind. I can no longer distinguish between mania and anxiety, thoughts race ahead anyway without definition. Oxygen depleted and unrelenting physical pain does not let up.

No, no, no, no way. There’s no way I can keep up with this living thing. I am not strong enough.

Am I?

Just when I think I have used and abused every single resource left with no reserve, a timely reminder appears.

It’s not about me, it never was. This life is not mine to begin with. I am circular memories, sand granules stolen backwards in time.

Precious quartz that most assuredly slips through my fingers returning to earth how it began.

So what if I can’t see clearly when the angels can?

So what if I can’t see clearly when the angels can?

“Your time stamp is 2:22 which in angel numerology means, “Don’t quit before your miracle occurs!” 

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“Newly planted ideas are beginning to grow into reality. Keep watering and nurturing them, and soon they will push through the soil.”

I believe in angels, pixie dust, numbers, crystals, and dark/ light matters we cannot see or comprehend.

To dream wearing a featherweight light suit of armor while speckles of  gold, violet, teal, fuchsia and indigo angel dust flutters abound.

"One becomes enamored by the sounds, smells and tastes."

“The vast landscape was never ours to begin with, we are all tenants of the same good earth. Surrounded by the enchanting tourist attractions, one forgets. One becomes enamored by the sounds, smells and tastes. Time? Time mattered less.” – Jacqueline Cioffa

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I am somebody’s child, you know. Jacqueline Cioffa #mentalillness  

I never cared much about looking back when I was young.

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I could not wait to leave this house, this town get out and experience stuff. You know the obstinate dreamer looking for bold adventure. It worked. I ran. I ran fast and far, and kept running. That’s the funny thing about developing a serious illness, you are forced to re-prioritize. Becoming insane in the middle of Manhattan did not bode well for me or the strangers that crossed my path. The fancy friends eventually grew tired and gave up on listening to the paranoia, illusions of grandeur or understanding the enticement of pretty pink and shiny purple horses or the flickering lights of the carousel. Ones you can’t dismount or runaway from or dismiss, like the mania and depression you can’t out run. Round and round you go, in perpetuity. There are worse things than glaring evil stares when dancing alone in a Radio Shack in Harlem. There are even worse things than sitting on the floor in the middle of Rite Aid, Gatorade in hand, sobbing because you don’t know where you are, why the room is spinning or if you’re going to hurl from the strobe light storm happening inside your brain. There are even worse, more horrific things than why you’re all alone sitting on the cold, dirty floor. You are sure there are. You watch the news, bad shit happens. This bad to you, you’re not so sure.

Mortifying, that’s what mental illness is. Ruthless, ugly, hide your face in shame from the judgmental, fearful stares. The noise level in NYC is just too high. You can’t stand when passerbys brush against you, the subway screeches to a halt, or the taxis whizzing past. The bright yellow hurts your eyes. You can’t see. You can’t hear. You cannot process the incessant, relentless buzz, hums and whirring noise.

S.T.O.P.

I am somebody’s child, you know.

I am somebody’s child, same as you.

I used to love the Carousel screaming and running towards it, arms flailing like the happy carefree girl I once was.

What I can’t figure out is what the hell I’m supposed to do? Now. With this.

Some people are addicted to the mania jonesing for the next high, the visions, euphoria.

No, no, no.

Not me. I’ll take the black hole depression and blasé every single time. It’s quieter and peaceful alone in the dark. Except for being skinny, that part of the mania I’ll keep.

There’s only one thought to trust, one way to save yourself.

Maybe, maybe if you go back you might find your way.

Safe passage awaits.

Home.

Maybe I’ll breathe easier there.

Maybe the familiar, childhood home might save me.

Probably not. It’s my best shot.

You see, I don’t care if I live or if I die. I know that sounds harsh, exaggerated, self-indulgent but it’s not.

I only care how I live and where I’ll die.

I’ve been asking my mom about her mother as far back as I can remember, cataloging the information in a deep, pooling reservoir of serenity where I could reach in calling on the stories to be soothed.

I have tidal waves of memories, and ripple effects of love stored in my brain.

My grandmother, May, died in her sleep before we could meet. Fifty-three is too young to leave, she was barely getting started I bet.

I know some things about her. She liked to fish and the solitude of being on the water. We have that in common.

She drank a Manhattan every night after work. She was a baker’s daughter, my mom still makes her molasses cookie recipe at Christmastime. She loved her husband who’d get sick, (like me) and then better but never quite the same.

“Don’t bother your father,” the phrase handed down to her own daughter.

May worked in a plumbing shop with him, raising her children to be responsible, gentile and hardworking.

It was a simple, honest life.

She liked to dance, but didn’t go out often.

She loved gardening, planting roses and peony  bushes.

Did you know it takes peonies a full year to bloom? 

Maybe May knew while planting the seed, her heart full of family.

An invisible string from the heavens touching mine, her orb a sweet- scented blushing pink.

Maybe she knew, probably not.

She’d adored diamonds like me, wore an outrageous sparkling solitaire with facets that shimmer and catch the light on my finger. I only wear the precious heirloom on special occasions or when I’m morosely blue. It makes me feel pretty inside, close to her.

“You never told me I looked like her,” drilling my mother with yet another ten-thousandth question.

She nodded, “it makes me sad and happy at the same time.”

Home, a place one doesn’t fully outgrow and never truly leaves behind.

But home, this home however much I am the failure for needing to return is where I would like to live and how I would hope to die.

Not necessarily the physical dwelling, but the contentment feeling and serenity of a happy place inside.

Surrounded by love. Less alone.

Unencumbered by the weight of heavy living.

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“Legacy can feel heavy, sad or even sweet-smelling at times. I am the gatekeeper of this home, but not the original keeper of the key.”

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“The chaos comes with you,” simply stated my friend. -The Red Bench excerpt by Jacqueline Cioffa

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“As an artist do I need constant flux to create? How will I find words in the woods surrounded by trees and rotten cornfields? How will I find anything besides dying, wet leaves?

I cannot escape the volume in my head, the constant churning. The Jesus fucking Christ, turn it down chatter. I have been told to be patient. Wait for the drugs, the quieting veil, and the lavender calm to smooth out the ringing. My mind is full of death and black spots I’m sure, much like a stroke patient after a spell.

   “The chaos comes with you,” simply stated my friend. He was right. I am here, here am I. Sick and tired, tired and bullshit sick.

The blank paper waits and my hands navigate the keys and the thoughts go where they may.”

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-excerpt from “The Red Bench” by Jacqueline Cioffa

"Raw genius is rarely loud or pretentious." Jacqueline Cioffa #maryellenmark

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Mary Ellen Mark

In modeling you go on countless go-sees, maybe twenty a day. Most forgotten before you hit the bottom stair. I remember being nervous, awestruck walking into the brilliant photographer’s studio apartment, she had ‘requested’ to see me. Mary Ellen Mark wore no makeup, trademark braids and a gentle demeanor not to be mistaken for meekness. Raw genius is rarely loud or pretentious. I didn’t book the job, but remain an admirer of the sublime talent, gritty breathtaking portraits, and the woman.

Mary Ellen Mark, thank you. That was an unforgettable day.
“A photographer known for her incredible humanist photography, passed away Monday in New York City. A rep confirmed the news Tuesday morning. She was 75.”

Mary Ellen Mark : 801C-001-01XManhattan, New York, USA  1996Portrait by Michael O'Brien
Mary Ellen Mark : 801C-001-01XManhattan, New York, USA 1996Portrait by Michael O’Brien

http://www.maryellenmark.com/index.html

Images ©Mary Ellen Mark photography

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Ward 81 Book – Mary Ellen Mark  #amazon

http://www.amazon.com/Mary-Ellen-Mark-Ward-81/dp/8862080557

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Roots and Wings

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Roots and Wings

God isn’t looking for me

That’s okay

He’s busy

Lots of heartache going on

Too much trouble all around

People don’t see people can’t see people don’t wanna see people

My god have you seen the news?

I can’t believe what’s going on

Ain’t new ain’t nothing but old news

Still it’s an awful lot of hurt to swallow and go down

I’m no better

Than you and you and him and her and us

God can’t keep up with what’s happening

Best mind my business and do some digging

Get to the bottom of this

I’m going to lay down roots earth angels will do the rest

Carry the wings

When your troubles feel too heavy never you mind

He gave us roots and wings

Work your garden pull turn the soil wipe the sweat from your brow

God isn’t looking for me

But I’m looking for him

Feels good

To know something beautiful grows

Deep

Where you can’t see it

You know it’s there you feel

Something grows

Beautiful

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