Thursday, December 16, 2010

What the Eyes Tell Us

The eyes have it. They cannot furrow, nor change shape, but they are the best indicator of what is in our heart. The eyes are where our tears are formed, and from our eyes we weep. Emily heightened sensitivity enables her to read eyes, to feel their spirit, and to measure their emotions. In Pages in the Wind, Emily considers what the eyes tell her about the people in her young life.

Eyes give people away, Emily thought. Her mother’s eyes are so beautiful that it is easy to get lost in their beauty, but sometimes they seem vacant. Aaron’s eyes are sweet but hard to read. Although they rarely played together, she sensed that he acknowledged her. Grandma’s eyes are gentle and peaceful. The light blue reminded her of new water flowing from a waterfall before it mixed with the murky earth. When she looked in grandma’s eyes, she felt calm and loved. Her father’s eyes are angry. They constantly move from one object to the next, judging without contemplation. His eyes never relax, and they are never soft. His probing eyes have a determined energy, a prelude to his actions. When his rage flares, she cannot look at his eyes. When he comes home, quick glances at his eyes can predict his mood. It was the best way that she could prepare for inevitable violence that she would endure. Reid’s eyes are playful and mischievous and free. They portray a confidence and joy that is infectious, and in that joy she knew that his life was free of pain. His eyes were easy to read, and held the freedom that she longed for.

I wonder how many of us have studied eyes, and reflect on what they tell us. It is all there, subtle perhaps, but there. Look long enough, and with thoughtfulness, and the soul is there. For Emily, she learns this at a young age, and her heightened sensitivity will be useful to her in coping with the difficulties that she will have to face.

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Subtle Connection - Emily and Her Brother

The connection between Emily and her brother is subtle. The childhood enjoyed by Aaron is very different from Emily’s childhood. Emily looks up to her big brother, but they spend little time together. Aaron is a mystery to Emily, nor does she question the ease in which he is allowed to move about the house. Where Emily tiptoes, Aaron runs. Where Emily whispers, Aaron shouts. There is no competition between them, no vying for their parent’s attention. It belongs to Aaron. Emily accepts their opposite roles, because that is all she knows. Still, there is a subtle connection which Emily feels but does not fully understand. In this scene from Pages in the Wind, Emily is afraid and confused while attending a funeral that she is ill-prepared for:

They were guided to seats that lined the ugly room with the sad music. Emily sat down where she was told, wrapped in confusion and feeling as if she were in a dream. Aaron was looking downward as if he could push the scene away by not looking up. Emily searched her brother, her parents, and the people standing in the room, trying to understand what was happening. She wanted to run but the man was still standing in her way, his face was so blank that she was not even sure that he was a real person.

Emily sat in her chair with her face straight ahead waiting for some understanding of her surroundings and why she was there. Her brother continued to look at the floor to avoid the scene in front of him. Emily watched him stare at the floor, and wondered if he understood what was happening. He tilted his head and looked at Emily. His eyes were filled with tears, which surprised her as she had never seen Aaron cry. He continued to look at her, with no attempt to wipe away the tears. Emily watched him and in his tearful stare she sensed that he was trying to tell her something. She continued to read his tearful eyes, until she understood what his eyes were saying. Emily gently nodded her head, and stopped trying to make sense of the scene. Aaron dropped his head again, choosing to stare at the floor and erase the scene. Emily dropped her head also, and for a time they sat in silence sharing a secret that helped Emily to withstand the tragedy that she knew was in front of her.

Although Aaron and Emily do not share the same childhood, the connection is apparent. This connection may be more significant for Aaron, who is kept from his sister by the privileges given to him by his father. Aaron observes the violence that Emily experiences. He is a passive witness to her pain, as he is endowed with privilege and presented with a life free of pain. How will this affect him? Will this affect how he sees the world?

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Loss of Emily's Grandma - A Critical Abyss

In Pages in the Wind, as young Emily prepares to leave for New York City, her grandma, the most important person in her life, is left behind. The loss of her grandma shatters Emily, because she made Emily feel safe and loved. More significant, when she was with her grandma, she felt normal and did not feel the omnipresent sting of criticism and ridicule. During the last ride to grandma’s house, she feels lost and in her creative mind tries to find an escape that will help her to cope with the reality of her young life.

The ride to grandma’s house was miserable. Her father smoked cigars and coupled with the car air conditioner, the air was stale and the stench and smoke made her eyes water and burn. She tried to roll down the window but her father shouted to roll it up. She sat in silence wondering why she was in the car, and feeling like she wanted to be someone else. She closed her eyes and imagined herself to be a young girl that lived with a bachelor uncle in a beautiful home. Her name was Anna. Anna’s uncle doted on her, took her on long walks in the sunshine, and at the end of the day, read her bedtime stories. She finally fell asleep, lost in the fantasy of being Anna. She woke up to find that she was at grandma’s house. Anna was gone, and Emily stared at the house as if she saw it for the first time. What always seemed a beautiful and inviting sight now had an air of finality and sadness. She fought the feeling for she knew that grandma would be coming out on the porch to greet them. Her mother had told grandma on the phone that they were moving to New York, and knowing that this was the last time that Emily would see her for many years made her eyes well up with tears, and her lip quiver. She bit her lip to stop the trembling, and pulled on her golden hair to redirect her emotions from sadness to physical pain. She knew that her father would be angry if he saw her cry. Grandma finally stepped out onto the porch, her weathered face seemed older with her smile gone and Emily pulled her hair harder to stop her tears.

For Emily, her grandma gave her not only unconditional love but a sense of wellness. The constant criticism of her father and indifference of her mother made her feel inferior and flawed. Her grandma gave her the feeling of acceptance and freedom to be herself. The positive role of her grandma was amplified in her young mind, and significant to her mental development. The loss of her grandma left a critical abyss, which Emily would need to fill in order to survive an intolerable childhood.

To my readers, how will she fill this void, or will she? Are the memories of her grandma, and the wellness that she felt in her presence enough to sustain her?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Losing a Lifeline

It is never easy to lose a lifeline, whether it is a job, a duty, a person. It’s that anchor that safeguards you when life becomes unbearable. The more barren the life, the more significant the lifeline. In Pages in the Wind, Emily loses her lifeline when her father is transferred to New York and she must face a life without her Grandma and without Reid. As her mother informs young Emily that they will be moving to New York, Emily cannot process the information and the loss of the two people in her life that make it bearable.

     Emily could not take in what her mother was saying. She stared at her trying to understand why her mother was saying this to her. She had always lived in San Francisco, and she knew that her parents loved the city. It never occurred to her that they would leave. She would be leaving her grandma and Reid, but taking the nightmare with her. Her mind raced trying to make sense of what her mother said.

In the weeks to follow, Emily has to face the loss of both her grandma and her Reid. They were her links to the real world. When she was with them, she did not have to pretend to be someone else. When young Emily was with her grandma and Reid, her mind could focus on reality because that was good enough. Everything else was a fantasy, for that was the only way that she could endure her father. With the loss of her lifelines, young Emily will be forced to face her reality without a buffer and without a safe haven. How she will cope with her life without them will be critical to her psyche as well as influence her future.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Emily and Imagery

Where do you go when you need to be protected? For young Emily, she uses creative imagery to cushion the reality of the abuse she endures from her father. Emily is a creative spirit, which supports her utilization of imagery in helping her to cope with life inside her house. In this passage from Pages in the Wind, she uses this imagery to create imaginary protectors:

Emily looked around at the large rooms, uninteresting and rectangular, but large. She visualized winged guards standing at every doorway to keep her safe and unharmed. She imagined their faces, stoic and determined, fierce and menacing, but the wings told their true identity only to her. If only this aching ever-present fear would go away, she thought, maybe she could figure out how to relax and not need the guards.

At times we must create a shield to protect us from trauma that is too difficult for the brain to process. The shield can serve its purpose and protect us from harm, or it can take on a life of its own and cause more harm. We see this in combat veterans, returning home after prolonged warfare and trauma. Trauma alters reality. We see with our eyes, but we perceive with our mind. If what we perceive is our reality, then reality is fluid among people and built on life experience.

Emily needs a shield to protect her from prolonged trauma. She has the gift of creativity which enables her to use her imagination to create images which help her to cope. In dealing with trauma, her escape door is her imagination. As young Emily matures, this escape door will become a trap door for which escape is treacherous and uncertain.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Role of Indifference - Emily's Mother

Emily’s mother is present in her life but not engaged. The relationship that Emily has with her mother is one of reverence and admiration, but not affection. Emily admires her and is intrigued by her but she cannot approach her. In Pages in the Wind, after a stay with her grandma, Emily watches her mother and ponders her with obvious admiration:

Emily gazed at her mother, Claire, from behind the tapestry curtains, thinking of how she would tell her mother that she wanted to stay with grandma. She fixed her eyes on her mother, as each time that she was away from her it was like seeing her for the first time. Looking at her mother, she was mesmerized by her beauty. She looked more like a movie star than a mother. Emily watched her mother talk to her grandma, and the way she listened attentively and nodded with agreement. Her mother had a way of listening and only talking when she had something to say which seemed to draw people to her. Her outer beauty was unmistakable. She had big blue eyes, smooth and flawless skin set off by dark chestnut brown hair. Her features were well defined and contoured, and her lips were full and red. She often felt lost in her mother’s beauty, choosing to sit out of reach so she could study her closely and try to emulate her. If only she could be like her mother, Emily thought, she would be loved and not live in the shame of her own ugliness.

Young Emily cannot grasp that her mother is emotionally detached. She sees her mother as regal, and her intense physical beauty charms Emily but makes her feel unapproachable. The physical and mental abuse inflicted by her father has already made her feel inferior and ugly. Her mothers’ cold nature serves only to reinforce this reflection of her. The absence of affection from her mother coupled with the worship of her mother’s outward beauty will play a key role in young Emily’s development.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Effortless Love

Sometimes love is effortless, and sometimes it is a battleground. For young Emily, in Pages in the Wind, she reverently holds onto the simple and endless love of her grandmother. Her life is a battleground in which she is unarmed, except for the simple love of her grandmother. She draws strength from this love, and uses it as an emotional shield from the pervasive brutality of her father. This is illustrated in a particular scene from Pages in the Wind, in which she must cope with a long distance move and the reality that she will not see her grandmother for a long time:

She wanted to crawl inside her Grandma’s heart for it was ample, open, and constant. She could not bear a life without her. Grandma’s heart was like a warm blanket left on a clothesline on a hot day, and brought inside to envelope her cold and shaking body until the warmth made her feel secure again. She vowed to write grandma every day until she could see her, and once again feel safe and loved.

Unfortunately, Emily will never see her grandma again. The impact on Emily will be deep and far-reaching. Whether she will be able to transcend the loss and keep the memory of this effortless love as a shield is unclear. I think that the power of effortless love is understated. It is the kind of love that you never have to question, measure, or fear that you will lose. It is constant and pure, and in its effortless presence it has the greatest strength.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Authors Notes - A Choreographed Life

Do we choreograph love? There is nothing as intoxicating as those first weeks of emerging love with the rush of adrenaline, fantasies, and anticipation. With time, the adrenaline rush wanes, and we adjust to the day-to-day reality of the relationship. Some of us will continue to chase the all-consuming passion of those first days. For Emily, in Pages in the Wind, she takes this a step further by holding tight to the fantasy in the face of opposition.

In this passage from Pages in the Wind, Emily considers Reid’s father, a notorious womanizer. She thinks about the relationship between Reid and his father, and even considers a vague connection. The connection will affect her view of Reid, and will certainly be in opposition to what she needs him to be in order to sustain her fantasy.

Emily admired Reid as he played football with the other boys. He seemed to hold his teammates in his sphere with his warm grin and whispered quips as he pointed directions at them. Reid moved effortlessly around the field, his body was strong and yet fluid. The afternoon sun was beginning to hurt her eyes which made it hard to watch her friend. She put her head down and closed her eyes, and thought about Tyrone, Reid’s father. Ty, as he was called, was over 6’5, with wavy blonde hair, and rugged skin that was always tanned. His deep blue eyes seemed to penetrate right through you, and hold you in his presence until he was ready to release you. His mannerisms were deliberate and his intensity made Emily feel slightly uneasy. It was common knowledge that his father had numerous affairs with other women. He was indiscreet in his sexual wanderings, and you could find his car parked at a woman’s house in clear view and without fear of being discovered by his wife. He was a relentless patron of strip clubs, openly flirtatious, and aggressive in his hunger for a variety of women. Emily drew a wide berth around him, avoiding him when she was in Reid’s presence. Reid had a warm relationship with his father, and she assumed that he was unaware of the rumors about his father. Father and son talked with ease, and his father encouraged Reid to push the limits of what most kids were allowed to do. He encouraged Reid to be clever and not get caught, and warned him not to bring shame on the family.

As the sun strengthened, it obscured her vision and Emily rubbed her tired eyes. As she repositioned to get a better view, it seemed that Reid was progressing forward as the other boys were receding into the background. She covered her eyes again to block the punitive sun, and reflected on Reid’s father. Reid was nothing like his father, she thought. At least she didn’t think so.

Emily needs a hero in her life to rescue her from her wicked father. Her vivid imagination has choreographed a beautiful fairytale with Reid at the center of her world. Emily is gifted with creativity, but she is also intelligent. The reality standing in front of her when thinking of Reid’s father does not fit with the role that she has created for him. As a young girl, she uses her fertile imagination to choreograph the scenes that she plays with her friend, Reid. She needs a larger-than-life hero to counteract what she faces when she leaves him and opens the door to her dreadful reality. There is a sweet innocence to young Emily’s idealism and her imagination is a welcome exodus from her father’s cruelty. As Emily develops into a young woman, will she dismiss the traits that are in opposition of her perfect man? Will she continue to choreograph her life?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Charm and Evil

I am posting this in light of what is going on in our world right now.  Charisma can be a destructive force when in the wrong hands...

It is an interesting oxymoron, that charm and evil often exist together. It takes only a short analysis of the notorious villains in history to see that their charismatic skills of persuasion were paramount in victimizing their prey. Bernie Madoff would not have been able to pillage billions from clients without a charming persona and the ability to manipulate investors with a carefully orchestrated image designed to deceive his victims. In Pages in the Wind, Captain Jacob Taylor is able to commit horrendous acts of violence against Emily free of active intervention from anyone.

His charm is illustrated in this passage from Pages in the Wind:

Her father was gregarious and the first one invited to a party, for his quick wit and engaging presence. He was often called on to be the master of ceremonies at naval functions. He was not hindered by inhibitions, and reveled at being the center of attention without looking foolish or self-serving. His co-workers admired him for his intelligence and imposing demeanor, and women found him attractive and seductive. He filled up every room that he walked into. His stride was confident, and in his company you knew that you were in the presence of a man that could have whatever he desired. It was the way he laughed with his eyes, the way he exuded confidence with every step he took, the way he seasoned his conversation with interesting anecdotes.

It must be confusing to young Emily to watch the father that purposefully hurts her to be celebrated by family and friends. She is far too young to discern the difference between the private and public man. She longs for her father's charm to be directed at her. This reinforces the perception that she is hopelessly flawed and unworthy. What will be the long term effect of seeking this approval? Will Emily be drawn to men that are similar to her father? Perhaps more disastrous, will she be prey to men that give her the love and affection that she so desperately needs?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Author's Notes: The Allure of Reid

Have you met a person that has an allure that is hard to explain, and even harder to resist?  Some people call it charisma, while others call it “magic.”  Either way, it is a powerful force that draws people into their aura.  The force in Emily’s life is Reid.  Emily does not need to use her vivid imagination to construct him – he is very real to her.  At a young age, Emily is attracted to him and drawn to his personality.  It is a friendship she feels she does not deserve, but she revels in the friendship as something that she cannot resist.  In this passage from Pages in the Wind, Emily watches Reid and describes how she sees him:

Emily found Reid playing dodge ball in the street with his friends, and sat on the curb to wait for him.  Her eyes were drawn to him, watching him control the game with his athletic skill.  She followed his movements, and the way he moved with ease to avoid the ball.  He was much taller than the other boys, but his movements were fluid and strong.  He had a slight sway to his walk, and his jawline was strong and conveyed a confidence that exuded a youthful arrogance.  As she continued to watch him, she smiled as she noticed that Reid was at the center of every scene.  She imagined that Reid was the star of the show, and everyone else was his backdrop.  She thought about how incredible he was, and how lucky she was to be his best friend.

Will Emily’s vivid imagination and her glorification of Reid blur her vision of him? Where will the irresistible force of his personality lead her?  Will she lose herself by focusing on him?  She sees him as her hero, rescuing her from a life of torment.  Will the force of his personality eclipse any chance of her developing her own will to resolve the conflict within her life?

Have you ever met someone that had an allure that is hard to explain, and even harder to resist? Where will this lead Emily? Is a charismatic personality coupled with a weak self-esteem a formula for tragedy?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Shattered Reflections - Author's Notes

As a child, Emily’s father holds her mirror, and the reflection that she sees is dark and distorted. She struggles against the reflection, which is a battle with self image. She strives to change the image that she sees reflected in that mirror. It is a conflict with no chance of success, but as a child she does not recognize this. She fights to shatter the image reflected in the mirror, by being kinder, looking better, and giving more in an effort to be worthy and reflect a good self-image.

As discussed in the last post, Connections, Emily has two positive influences in her life. Her grandmother adores her and her friend, Reid, enjoys their young friendship. Is it enough to overcome the image reflected in that mirror? Will the prolonged exposure to her father obscure the month that she spends with her Grandmother, and the time she spends with Reid? Would she have a better chance to survive that dreadful self-image if she revealed her father’s mirror with her grandmother or Reid? In her battle to shatter that image and the ugliness that she sees, why would she?

In this passage from Pages in the Wind, Emily seems unable to understand why Reid wants her as a best friend:

Emily savored every moment when she was with Reid, always in agreement with him for she knew that he was the most interesting, exciting, and strongest person that she would ever know. When she was with Reid she did not have to pretend to be someone else. He wanted to be with her although she did not understand why.

As Emily matures into a beautiful young woman, how will the continued abuse affect her emotional maturity? If she cannot reconcile the distinction between the love of her grandmother versus the hatred of her father, can she shatter the mirror? If she cannot alter the image, she is left with the distorted self-image provided by her father. When Emily falls in love, will she hand the mirror to her lover? How will this dangerous transfer of power impact her life?

Monday, July 12, 2010


Emily’s self-worth is tainted by the reflection provided by her father. In her young mind, the belief that she is defective is reinforced by the absence of abuse to her brother, and her mother’s indifference. The prevailing cruelty was inflicted by her father in private; nevertheless, her mother knew that Emily was tortured by her father. Emily was only able to escape the violence when she was out of the house, spending time with Reid, who was attentive and desired her friendship.

This is illustrated in Pages in the Wind with the following passage:

       She walked quietly around her father, and days would go by, and she would manage to avoid     her father’s physical and mental abuse. She would try to be invisible around her father, tiptoeing out of the room when he was near, listening for the sound of his footsteps, and retreating to her bedroom when he came home from work. If he didn’t see her, he couldn’t hurt her. During these times, she would go outside to enjoy the freedom of being away from that house. Her creative mind and joyful energy would emerge as she ran down the street in anticipation that her best friend, Reid, would be home.

In Emily’s young mind, she does not question her opposing worlds. She follows the path set by her parents, but she does not seem to reflect that image when she is away from them. Will Emily make that critical connection between the actions of her father and how it has impacted her life? How she makes that connection, and when she makes it – will become an integral part of her story.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Emily and Reid - Young Love or the Foundation for Tragedy?

Author's Note

In Pages in the Wind, Emily and Reid have a tender relationship based on mutual affection and needs. This relationship will become an important part of Emily’s life. Emily is drawn to Reid but her feelings for him are partially fueled by her vivid imagination and her need for a hero. The question is whether her imagination and desire for an escape from her abusive father will set her up for heartbreak. Reid is a match for her father in terms of strength, but is he really a young parallel to the father she is trying to escape?

You decide as Reid and Emily share a typical afternoon in this passage from Pages in the Wind:

Reid was mischievous and fearless, and Emily enjoyed the edginess of his personality. He loved Emily’s imagination and together they fulfilled a need in each other. Reid enjoyed walking on the edge, and testing the boundaries between right and wrong. His outgoing nature and need for excitement often got him into trouble with the adults in the neighborhood. He enjoyed pranks and was relentless in his search for new exploits. Emily easily spun fantasies to fit Reid’s love of heroism, casting him as the leading man saving the neighborhood from impending doom. Of course, every hero needs a villain and Emily would develop an elaborate tale to excite Reid and send him on a childhood adventure with Emily at this side.

Suddenly, Reid spotted a gallon of paint leaning against the side of a dumpster at the corner store. Reid grabbed the paint with the brush still sitting in the yellow paint and ran to the nearest house.

“Em, don’t you think this fence needs some paint?”

“What?” Emily replied even though she knew what he meant.

Reid laughed as he impulsively painted a large yellow face on the gate.

“Come on, let’s run!” Reid shouted to Emily.

As Emily turned to look at Reid, she felt a strong hand on the back of her shirt. She turned around to see a glaring adult, obviously irritated. Reid, far out of reach of the angry adult but within sight of Emily, turned around and retreated to face the scowling adult. Emily lined up with Reid, feeling like a criminal about to face a stream of bullets to pay for her crime. The adult directed his anger at Reid, demanding that he return the next day to re-paint the fence. Emily kept her face down, ashamed and politely listening and waited for her punishment. To her surprise, he did not address her, and turned and walked back to the house.

After they were away from the watchful eye of authority, Reid shouted about the unfairness of the punishment as he threw rocks in anger. Reid kicked the ground and shouted “how dare that asshole punish me!” He vowed to get even, as he aimed the last rock at the nearest target. Emily walked quietly with Reid, calmly agreeing with him because she knew that was what he wanted to hear. Inwardly, she didn’t understand his reaction. She wondered if she was caught in another world, where the rules were different, and the lines of right and wrong were blurred. Still, she didn’t understand his reaction. He did deface property. It wasn’t a door left open, a faucet left dripping, or a glance in the wrong direction. The punishment was not harsh; it was only an apology and fixing what he had defaced. To Emily it seemed like a gift not a punishment. She could pay back what she had witnessed, and not feel guilty. She wasn’t threatened, she wasn’t demeaned, and she wasn’t beaten. Emily glanced at Reid, relieved that he had settled down and regained his cheerful demeanor. She imagined what he would do if her father tried to hurt him. He was her hero, waiting for the time that he would confront her father for the atrocities that he had inflicted upon her. She looked down at the ground and the shadows cast by their bodies, and noticed that he leaned into her as he began to talk about what they would do the next day. She politely listened; never taking her eyes off the shadow of the boy that she knew would save her from a life of terror and helplessness.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Emily's Refuge and the Crossing of Divergent Paths

In Pages in the Wind, Emily spends a month of every summer at her Grandma’s house.  She enjoyed herself during those weeks without the task of anticipating her father’s disgust and rage.  She could leave the hyper-vigilance of a little soldier on the battlefield, and enjoy being a child.  Instead of packing the weeks with constant activity, she allowed herself to breathe and savor the ease of being present in the moment.  At home, she was rarely present in the moment because she was always anticipating the outcome of the moment.  Being at her grandma’s house, encased in security and pleasure was a welcome respite from the constant turmoil in her fearful mind.  In those weeks, instead of using her imagination to escape reality, she was free to use her imagination to enjoy being a young girl.
This was Emily’s refuge.  She enjoyed the fantasy of being a child, using her vivid imagination to create skits and plays with her cousins.  Emily was the leader, the child with the imagination that captured the minds of the other children.  She loved to dress up and pretend to be a princess, and put on disguises to comb the neighborhood as a world-traveled spy.  During the evenings she would relax on Grandma’s porch and sing to her.  Grandma was her captive audience, always appreciative and asking for several encores before Emily closed the day with a goodnight kiss, and ran upstairs to her room feeling loved, safe, and happy.  She was grateful for those days; they were like opening a chest of treasures, holding them, living them, and ultimately carefully putting them away for the next time. 
The transition from grandma’s refuge to home illustrates a dramatic shift in young Emily’s psyche:
The long drive home was quiet for Emily for her father did not allow her to talk, and he rarely ridiculed Emily when her mother was around.  Her parents chatted about adult things until Emily drifted to sleep, knowing that when she woke up she would be home.  She knew that she would have to leave the other child behind and be a different Emily, on guard to avoid the mistakes that would ignite her father’s temper.    Her child’s mind was constantly looking for the right compass to point her away from evil, toward the path of goodness and worthiness so her father would accept her as he did her brother.  In Emily’s deepest fantasy, maybe he would even love her.
I wonder what this pervasive anticipation of violence does to a young mind.  Emily is far too young to know that it is a battle that cannot be won, so she continues to fight to be someone that is worthy of her father’s approval.  She is similar to a soldier in battle, strategizing, and trying to stay safe.  Emily is a soldier without a higher cause, however, with no comrades to help her.  Her only ally is her fertile mind which she uses to cope with the unrelenting stress inflicted by her father. 
Where is the little girl that was present at her grandma’s house? In a practical sense, she is battling her father – but in a larger sense is she in a battle with herself?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Author's Notes - Antidote to Evil?

In Pages in the Wind, Emily uses her vivid imagination to escape her abusive father. Her gentle nature cannot accommodate her fathers brutality, so she clings to what she perceives as good to counteract her fathers cruelty . Emily chooses to push the damage out of her young mind, and uses her imagination as an antidote to the evil she witnesses at the hands of her father. One of Emily's antidotes is the church. After a particularly vile episode with her father, Emily goes to the Catholic Church and escapes into an array of beauty and tradition that seems to calm her:

Emily's head was throbbing with pain, and she fought hard to bear it as she told herself it would end. She looked at the floor next to her and saw clumps of her golden hair. Her patent leather purse was flung open, and her crystal rosary was lying on the floor. Humiliated, she gently picked up the rosary, and with tearful eyes she stared at it as if to gain strength from the symbol of Jesus on the cross. She picked up the rosary, held it to her cheek, and placed it back in her purse. She grabbed the stool to put the hatbox back on the shelf. Somberly, she marched back to where the family had gathered to make the drive to church.

Emily walked into the church behind her parents, ensuring that she did not have to sit beside her father. Once seated in the wooden pew, she gazed at the majestic scene around her. She watched the candles flicker in the corner of the chapel and wondered what secrets burned in the hearts of the people that lit them and prayed. Her eyes were drawn to the stained glass, and the tranquil faces created in the glass. She watched the bolts of colors from the stained glass form a prism around the walls of the church, dancing and forming light-created rainbows.  As the colors performed, she watched the colliding rainbows gain strength as each flowed into the other.  The beams of colored light framed the sacred faces of the stained glass which fascinated Emily.  She was especially fixated on the image of the Virgin Mary. Her face was serious yet radiant as she held the baby Jesus. She marveled at her long flowing hair and the eyes that held a secret that would change the world forever. As she stared at the fluid images, she felt her anxieties fade and her body relax. It was a comfort to know that there were elements in the world that were inherently beautiful. 

I wonder if we all have antidotes to the trauma or difficulties in our lives. Is the absence of an antidote a certain road to destruction? What would Emily do without her grandma, and her own vivid imagination? In Pages in the Wind, the church is a safe place for her and it feeds her creativity and need to find the purpose of her existence. Emily uses her imagination to amplify what gives her strength to offset the brutality of her father. I just wonder if it will be enough...........

As a footnote for thought, have you used antidotes in your own life to shield you from difficulties? Much like a bite from a rattlesnake needs an antidote to counteract the venom, isn't that what we do? If there were no remedy to the poison of the rattlesnake, we would probably avoid going where the rattlesnakes live. But what if we couldn't? What if we could not avoid living in the same proximity of the poison? What then?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Emily's Veil

In Pages in the Wind, Emily faces her father's abuse and handles it in her own way. She appears to be passive, or is she? 

Her father grabbed Emily by her hair and jerked her back and forth calling her stupid over and over. She shut her eyes, so she could not see her father grasp her hair that she had so neatly combed for church. Her father's anger escalated as he shook her, and her feet hit the wall as he hurled her around the room like a cheap rag doll. Emily prayed for him to stop but did not utter a word or cry out in pain, nor did she plead for him to let her go. She tightly closed her mouth, swallowing the pain in a private abyss that she could restrain. Finally, he released her little body with a final shove to the floor, and with a dismissive grunt he left the room.

Emily fought to regain her composure as she lay on the floor. She repressed her tears by pushing the pain and humiliation out of her mind. She fought valiantly to create in her mind a reason to regain her spirit because she needed it to live. She thought of her Grandma and the smell of her baked bread on Mondays. She thought of the lovely pagoda at grandma's house, and the afternoon naps on the comfortable swing as the warmth of summer lured her to a peaceful sleep. She lay on the hard floor long enough to regain the strength to be Emily again. She needed to be kind, and hopeful in order to survive. She needed to look happy. She lifted the somber veil of abuse, to find her smile as she willingly marched back to where the family had gathered to make the drive to church.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Authors Note: Who Holds Your Mirror?

Who holds your mirror?

Are perceptions reality? In Pages in the Wind, Emily is in her room getting ready for church, and an upcoming visit from her paternal grandmother:

Emily picked a sunny yellow dress out of her closet for church and in anticipation of her grandmother's visit. She brushed her blond curls, and put on her white socks with yellow tulip trim, and shiny patent leather shoes. She rushed into the living room and opened the closet, and grabbed a stool to reach the hatbox on the upper shelf. Picking a hat was ceremonious on Sundays, because as a Catholic she was expected to wear a hat to church. She made a fast pick, aware of the time, and put the straw hat on. She ran back to her room to look in the full length mirror on the back of her door. She was proud of her selection, the sunny yellow dress set off by a stiff petticoat, patent leather shoes, and a straw hat with tiny flowers. The hat framed her delicate face and big round blue eyes, rosy cheeks, and pretty smile. She hoped that her parents would be proud of the way she looked. As a final touch, she slipped on her lacy white gloves, and grabbed her hymnal in time for church. She smiled in the long mirror, proud of her appearance. Her prideful gaze in the mirror was interrupted by the loud and harsh sound of her father's voice.

"Emily, get the hell in here right now!"

She momentarily froze at the sound of her father's obviously angry voice. Aware of his command, she ran toward his voice in the direction of the living room. Her father waved his arms in her direction. She frantically accessed the situation, desperately trying to find the source of his rage.

"Did you leave the hatbox on the chair?" he shouted as he pointed in the direction of the hatbox.

Emily looked hopelessly at the hatbox, which she realized in her haste she had forgotten to put back in the closet. All she could utter was a mournful "yes."

Her father, enraged, grabbed Emily and shook her little body. "You are stupid! Can't you ever do anything right?"

I wonder, how does this encounter affect the image she saw in the mirror as she dressed for church? If Emily passes a mirror on that Sunday, what will she see? Will she even look? Would you?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Torment and Imagination - a Gateway to Creativity or Madness?

In the story, Emily handles her torment and abuse by escaping into her imagination. Her life is fraught with difficulties and every day she has to navigate around an abusive and sadistic father. Her world is difficult to bear, so she creates a world that is woven in happiness and suits her kind nature. Emily spends a lot of time drawing and writing, and creating her own bearable world as a shield to the world she has to face whenever her father is around. Emily is, by nature, a sensitive person which compounds the impact that abuse has on her. It follows a natural transition that Emily's nature is in direct contrast to her father's abusive nature and would result in the use of her imagination to protect her from harm. This begs the question, if Emily lived in a happy environment with loving parents - would her imagination flourish? If adversity fuels the imagination and creativity - how far can it reach before it crosses over into madness?

In Pages in the Wind, there is a passage in the beginning of the book that illustrates how her imagination rescues her from the torment of her father:

"It was a typical sunny day and Emily got up early before the rest of the family, and quickly dressed and walked quietly to the front porch. This was a special time of day for her. The house was silent and the world was quiet. All she could hear were the thoughts within her own mind, uninterrupted by the terrifying shouting of her father. She would sit on the porch, her favorite place and the place where Reid would always wait for her. She would have a pencil and a tablet with her during these quiet times, for Emily loved to draw. She would always draw the same thing - faces of girls. She was talented at drawing and could capture an imaginary girl in her mind, draw her face as she imagined it, and fantasize an entire life around the picture. For hours she would sketch, not missing a detail of who this girl was. She would imagine what kind of life this girl lived, and the people that surrounded the imaginary girl's life. She would draw for hours, lost in her rapid and endless imagination, until her fantasy world was interrupted by the terrifying sound of her father's voice."

So - I wonder, where will this imagination lead? Surely Emily would rather live in her imaginary world as opposed to the wicked world imposed by her father. If the mind creates thoughts and perceptions - which world is real? Will her imagined world collide with her real world? What is the impact of prolonged trauma on the young mind?

What do you think?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Reid, Emily's Best Friend

The most important person in Emily's life is her best friend, Reid. He is three years older than Emily, and lives four doors down from her. Reid is a handsome, engaging boy with an imposing stature, quite tall for his eight years. He has dark brown hair which form curls around his thick neck, and his high cheekbones, angular features, and bright blue eyes would catch the attention of even a casual companion. Reid was recognized by the neighborhood children as the boy everyone wants as a friend. If anyone needed protection, Reid was the one called. He could intimidate children much older than himself and he feared no one. He ruled the neighborhood as much with his wit as his physical demeanor.

Emily never understood why Reid picked her as his best friend. She knew that she was privileged, and never took him for granted. She revered him, and their friendship was strong and tender. When Emily was away, Reid could often be found sitting on her porch as the family car pulled into the driveway. He would wait for her patiently, greeting her with a big grin on his tanned and handsome face. Emily was acutely aware that Reid picked her as his best friend over her own brother, and the other neighborhood children. She didn't know why he picked her, but she did not linger on the question for fear that he would go away.

Reid was mischievous and Emily admired the edginess of his personality. Reid loved Emily's creativity and together they fulfilled a need in each other. Reid enjoyed her fertile imagination as she plotted out the neighborhood pranks and exploits that he enjoyed. It was with Reid that Emily felt free to be herself. Emily tailor-made fantasies to fit Reid's love of heroism, and with Reid as her leading man, they would save the neighborhood from imaginary doom. Reid was the peer-equivalent to her grandma, saving her from life of horror and helplessness.

At times Emily would fantasize that Reid was compensating for her wicked childhood, and not allowing her to endure pain outside that house. In her mind she imagined that Reid was standing up for her, and his heroic nature was there to protect her. She would imagine Reid waiting for the day that he was taller and stronger than her father, towering above him in height and mental acuity. She would see Reid standing in the kitchen with his tall and muscular body rigid with determination to free his beloved Emily. His childlike heroism was replaced with an adult resolve to rid her of the terror of her father. Reid would become a Roman warrior, handsome and larger than life, capable of anything and afraid of nothing. He was there for justice, to free Emily from the prison of pain that her father had built for her. He would take him down, yes, but for the sake of justice and for the love he felt for Emily. This elaborate fantasy fueled her spirit and helped her to survive. She was convinced that Reid was sadly aware of the savage cruelty that Emily endured every day and would someday rescue her. She believed this in spite of the fact that Emily had never uttered a single word to Reid about her grueling and secret life.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Tara, Emily's Twin Sister

Emily had an identical twin sister, Tara. From what she could piece together, the birth was a perilous one. Emily was born first, and because of birth complications, Tara was trapped without oxygen for too long and suffered brain damage. Tara was institutionalized at an early age, and Emily was not permitted to visit her. Emily had no memories of Tara, and the absence of her left an ache for her twin that was persistent and profound. Every few months, she sensed her mother would become noticeably melancholy, and Emily knew that she was visiting Tara. At a young age, Emily wanted to talk about Tara but it was a forbidden subject. She knew that her mother would likely tell her father that Emily was asking about Tara, and she feared this would unleash his frequent rage. The lack of understanding about Tara and her condition left Emily with nothing but her imagination to draw images in her mind of Tara. She never did anything without considering Tara, and the existence of Tara was ever present in her mind..............

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Emily's Grandmother and her Refuge

Emily adored her grandma, and she spent every June with her.  At the end of each school year, she flew to her Grandmother's house like a bird flying from the cold chill of winter to a warm haven.  Grandma's house was her sanctuary, her safe place where she could just be a little girl.  Her grandma was sweet, and attentive and she loved Emily.  Emily absorbed all of the goodness of her grandma.  During that month, she did what Grandma did as she watched her every move during the day, no matter how small the deed or task.  Emily bathed in her grandma's love, storing it like fuel to get her through the atmosphere of cruelty that faced her when she left the insulated adoration of her grandma, and returned home.  

Grandma's house was a wonderful backdrop in which to express her vivid imagination.  The house was old and grand, and filled with interesting nooks and crannies where Emily could play.  It had all the rich character of an eighteenth century home.  The house had arched doorways, built in cabinets made of beveled glass, a carved columnar that hid the murphy bed where Emily slept.  Walking into the house, guests were greeted in a large foyer with an enormous walnut table where her grandma displayed her baked goods.  The smells were intoxicating as fresh baked bread, apricot pastries, and lemon meringue pies lined the table.  Emily loved to run from room to room, her imagination stimulated by the intrigue of the antique carved tables, victorian paintings, and the oriental rugs.  Grandma's exquisite touch was everywhere from the floral cloisonne, to the tapestries that she designed herself.  It was magic for Emily entwined with joy, as she ruled the manor during that wonderful month.  Long hardwood hallways led to massive bedrooms with four-posted beds, and pink-tiled bathrooms with monogrammed towels.  A heavy brocade curtain set in an alcove in the library when pushed aside, led to a spiral staircase with enormous bedrooms with built-in bookcases that held all of grandma's classics from Shakespeare to the Greek tragedies. 

Stepping out of the house was like walking into a sun drenched garden from heaven.  There was a wrap-around porch in the front filled with geraniums and intricately carved benches, and cast iron tables.  The centerpiece of grandma's yard was her vast and fragrant rose garden framed with carefully laid brick.  Grandma loved her roses, and she had every color and every fragrance, importing them from Europe if they were not native to America.  Walking down the long driveway was a pagoda, an elaborate enclosure of latticework and flower boxes, with a gold and white marble floor.  The room was inviting with its overstuffed floral chairs, and the long chaise swing that beckoned you to take a long nap.  Beyond the pagoda was an iron gate, which led to a cactus garden juxtaposed with fertile fruit trees of apples, lemons, oranges, and apricots.  This was grandma's favorite part of the yard, where she harvested the ripe and plentiful fruit to make her pies and pastries. 

During those Junes, Emily took it all in, and loved with all of her senses.  She stored the visions of beauty around her, the smells of grandma's cooking, and the sweet words spoken to her by grandma.  Emily felt strong and joyful during that month.  She needed the freedom and predictability of summer to prepare for the dread of autumn when she left her grandma, and returned to a dark abyss called home, a home that for young Emily would shame the walls of hell..........

Friday, February 26, 2010

Young Emily

Her young life had not been easy but her five-year-old spirit and strength had endured through the torture that tested her for as long as she could remember.  She was a bouncy, optimistic wide-eyed child with ample blonde curls that framed her delicate face and frequent smile.  The sparkle in her blue eyes could not be dimmed in spite of a cruel, evil father and the pain of abuse that befell this little girl.  She stood it all during that miserable childhood, choosing to excuse the abuser and take it upon her tiny shoulders and remain kind and giving to the people that came in and out of her young life.

Her nature defied any other reaction.  She saw her life as happy because she wanted it to be happy.  Emily was like a beautiful painting that had been vandalized by foolish men.  Scratch the surface, throw objects at the canvas, but still the painting endured.  It endured because it was there long before evil tried to destroy it.  Emily endured because the sweet essence of her spirit was also present long before her father tried to destroy her....


Emily had an older brother, Aaron, two years older than Emily. Aaron was handsome, quick-thinking, outgoing, and bright. He had her father's dark features, and was a striking reflection of him. Although Aaron and Emily lived in the same house, they did not share the same childhood. Aaron was free to run in and out of the house, and chatter about his childish exploits and adventures. Emily's father adored him from inception. There were pictures of Aaron lining the walls of the spacious ranch style house. Emily would occasionally overhear her father boasting about his quintessential son to his friends and family. Emily took it all in, stored it as truth without mental commentary. In her heart, she knew that she just wasn't good enough. She was not Aaron, and did not share his charm and intelligence. That was her reality. Emily never tried to compete with Aaron, emulate him, or embrace her brother as a peer. Aaron, as older children sometimes do, held his superiority over her and rarely allowed her access to his idyllic childhood. The attention that her father bestowed upon Aaron was so pervasive, and his adoration so unrelenting that Aaron spent more time with his father than he did with his neighborhood friends. At times, Aaron seemed overwhelmed by his father's attention but from Emily's view, it looked like an ideal relationship and a sharp contrast to the grim alliance she endured with her father......

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Emily's mother, the elusive Claire

Emily's mother, Claire, whose influence on Emily is subtle but pervasive.............

All of this was not lost on Emily. She knew that she was a bad child because no one told her that her father was anything less than perfect. Her mother, Claire, was an intelligent and sophisticated woman. Emily was in awe of her mother, she would fix her eyes on her beauty and never want to leave. Claire had azure blue eyes, alabaster skin set off by dark chestnut hair, beautifully contoured features, and full red lips. She had a mystery about her, a quiet allure as she preferred to listen to people and study them, only making comments when she had something to say. She preferred to listen to people and talk about them, which drew people to her. She had no inclination to promote herself, and had the persona of a woman that was comfortable and confident in her breeding. She came from a wealthy European family, renowned in France, and had a breadth of experience that people strive for but rarely achieve.

Emily needed her mother and tried to stay close to her when her father was around. Her mother was scholarly and taught her proper English, and about the arts which spanned far beyond her six years. Claire did not participate in small talk with Emily, and she rarely saw her mother laugh. She had a smile which she wore when in the company of others, but when she was alone she was solemn. She was usually reading or studying, and her hunger for academics was her passion. Her mother would devote one hour a day to Emily for learning. It was not related to a traditional school, it was her mother's school. The hour that Emily spent with her mother each day in learning was interesting and the discussions were lively. Emily and her mother would discuss a book and have wonderful debates on the meaning of the story. It was a delightful hour and time would pass so quickly as Emily devoured her mother's attention and reveled in the fascination of her mother's mind. When the hour was over, her mother would fold up that side of herself and life would resume as usual. Her mother would close the book and Emily would return to her room.

Her mother never discussed the cruelty of Emily's father, and Emily didn't either. The silence was a testimony to the reality that Emily was evil. She was sure of this, for if her mother didn't stop the cruelty or talk about it, it was because Emily deserved it. All of it.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Captain Jacob Taylor, Emily's Father

As I have worked with character development, the personalities of the characters have changed little; but in thinking about how they look through the lense of a child - they have.

As children, our parents are infallible.  This likely accounts for why it takes so long for severly abused children to be recognized, and often removed from their dismal environment.  If you add charm and charisma to the mix, the child sees the person through the lense of how he interacts with others as well as how they view him.  Unfortunately, the end result in the mind of a child is the belief that there is something wrong with them.

If I take this out of the family circle, and broaden this hypothesis to other important figures in a child's life, the same rule applies.  I'm thinking of all the victims at Penn State.  It must have been confusing to see a renowned and charismatic figure in the realm of heightened authority, and wonder why this well-respected person picked him to abuse. 

The abuser is not always the boogie man waiting in the bushes.  If he was, "telling" would be so much easier.  When the abuser is an elevated figure, a person in authority and an admired person - it compounds the confusion and the damage digs deeper into the child's psyche.  This is the situation in Pages in the Wind.  Emily's father is a dynamic figure, admired and respected by many, and his attributes are outwardly apparent.  Emily is always in the audience, seeing his charismatic behavior in action. 

Growing up in that house, no one told Emily that her father was anything but righteous. He was a tall, handsome man with hazel eyes, dark wavy hair, and an infectious grin. His hazel eyes were set off by his tanned skin, which he never allowed to fade. His features were masculine and rugged with high cheekbones, an angular nose, and a square and prominent jaw. He had a style that attracted both men and women. Men were drawn to him, for he enjoyed the camaraderie of other men, and he sought a large audience of men as much as women. Men made him feel important and envied, while women made him feel desirable and sexual. He was comfortable in both large and small gatherings, and moved around the room with an ease and demeanor that would catch the eye of everyone in the room.

He was gregarious and always the first one invited to a party, for his quick wit and engaging presence. An officer in the navy, Captain Jacob Taylor was often called to serve as master of ceremonies at naval functions. Captain Taylor was never hindered by inhibitions, and reveled at being the center of attention without looking foolish or self-serving. His co-workers admired him for his intelligence and imposing demeanor, and his friends gravitated to him for his outgoing personality. It was readily apparent that women found him wildly attractive. He filled up every room that he walked into. His stride was confident, and in his presence you knew that you were with a man that could accomplish whatever he set his mind to do. He had that certain charisma that is hard to explain, but you know it when you see it. It was the way he laughed with his eyes, the way he exuded confidence in every step he took, the way he seasoned his conversation with interesting anecdotes.

I wonder if you have known people in similar environments, or if you relate to the "pull" that charismatic people have in dragging in their prey.  Does it, in fact, even reach beyond our childhood and follow us into adulthood? If we witnessed a child being abused by a nameless person, wouldn't we drag them to the nearest cop, after we did our own damage? Would we even have to think about it? Would we go through the proper chain of command, and consider damage control in terms of the abuser?

What do your feelings about it?