Edna Dott’s photography is to be read and felt. Her creative images are poetic expressions of emotions and impressions unfolding both in the heart and the mind. Photography is a lyrical expression of an interpretation, hence the colors and movement are as varied as the inner musings of the soul.
passion in the rain
Marianne opened her eyes slowly, savoring the warmth of the his breath on her shoulder, and the tightness of his embrace around her waist, even though he continued to sleep soundly. Dawn was just breaking over the ocean’s horizon and she could see the crack of light hesitantly peeking through the darkness. The lace curtains swayed gently to the morning breeze, nudging the rose petals aside. The movement reminded her of scarlet sighs somehow, a symbol of both her youth and passion, something that dissipated with each broken heart, every failed relationship, and the sound of broken dreams within her soul.
It was March 20,1944, the world was at war, and for Marianne and Jerome it had been a night full of emotions that carried them from one extreme to another, beginning with a romantic picnic on the beach at sunset. Jerome had stretched out his hand towards her hair after pouring the wine, caressing her earlobe as she served the food onto the plates. They had set aside time for each other for this weekend date weeks ago, knowing that the days and months ahead would be turbulent. The beach had always been a special place where they felt at home, a source of strength and peace, and the one spot their souls always knew the waters would lead the way for the hopes and dreams of a world without war. Somewhere between the friend chicken and apple pie Jerome broached the subject of commitment and building a future together. Not wanting to choke on her food, Marianne put the plate down gently, wiped her mouth slowly, and faced him.
“Jerome, we have been over this before. You know what we are both up against here. Between your departure for Europe with the army and my father’s insistence that I marry someone of my own faith, we don’t stand a chance until I am over 21, and even then there are no guarantees.”
“OK, I accept the point about the army, and that is indeed a huge point against our relationship, but I cannot accept the fact that you will not stand up to your father and fight for us.”
“Even if I did stand up to him, I face expulsion from the home, with the likelihood of never being allowed near my family ever again, just like my sister. My mother barely survived the first time, she would crumble if she lost me as well, her last remaining anchor. I can live without ever speaking to my father again, you know that, but my mother is something else. I will not give her up.”
“So what you are telling me is that it is your mother or me…”
“Don’t over-simplify things Jerome. It is anything but a simple choice for me, for us. No matter which way I go I remain a prisoner of circumstance and stand to lose someone I cannot live without. We are the wanderers two, you and I, the proverbial star crossed lovers that were never meant to me but are.”
“If only you hand’t been so nice to me at the hospital…”
“Would you have preferred that I left you alone to rot in a corner with your misery and drown in depression?”
“Considering that you are not willing to commit to me or our love, yes.” and he dropped his hand sorrowfully to the side, turned away, and buried his head in the palms of his hands. Only the shaking of his shoulders betrayed his emotions, and Marianne felt like the ultimate traitor, and was scare to even touch the one man she loved more than anyone else.
She gave him his space, and did not attempt to hold him back when he stood up, shoved his hands in his pockets, and walked into the water. He was a competitive swimmer and a celebrated regional champion so she knew he could not drown. Like her, he needed to be in the water to think.
The light drizzle turned into a veritable downpour, bringing the picnic to an abrupt end. Marianne grabbed all four corners of the blanket with one hand and ran towards the cabin. Jerome joined her a few minutes later, looking a little less morose than when he had ventured into the water. He stripped his trunks off, put the kettle on the stove for some tea, and wandered towards the window to watch the rain. Marianne sat quietly at the small kitchen table, committing to memory the exquisitely perfect silhouette of this man completely free of clothing. The admiration took her breath away, and she realized that their loneliness and heartache had some fill with each good rain. She walked towards him, stripping off her clothing with each step, and by the time she stood behind him and placed her around his waist, there was a hunger combined with tenderness that needed no words.
The temperature outside dropped significantly but the cabin was on fire indoors. The window fogged up and by the time they caught their breath again, Jerome grinned , took Marianne’s hand in his, and with her index finger drew on the pane. She looked up at him with the languid smile that only comes with afterglow and nodded, “Yes indeed, we heart the rain.”
“To hell with the war and the family!” he shouted and picked her and carried her over to the sofa.
Marianne opened her eyes and allowed the tears to flow freely. Every year on March 20th for the last 71 years she returned to the cabin to celebrate that moment with Jerome. It was the last time she ever saw him. The shores of Normandy claimed his life on June 6th later that year and instead of a June bride, she became a summer loner with birds.
once upon a memory
At 19, Marianne was full of life and eager to discover the world. She had just graduated from High School, landed a small job at the neighborhood café as a waitress, and held her first train ticket in her hand. She and her friends were travelling together to New York to explore the Big Apple for the first time. For the three girls it would be the first trip without a chaperone and for Marianne it was also her first train ride. In the past she had always travelled by bus, which could be exciting enough. The time would come soon enough when all of them would look back the echoes of a distant summer and mourn the death of a dream. It was 1932 and the world was changing in dark and uncertain ways.
The beauty of travelling with friends instead of family is the absence of structured and scheduled activities. Her father always insisted on having meals at the exact same time every blessed day, regardless of whether they were camping in the mountains, lounging on the beach, or walking through a museum. It drove Marianne up the wall each and every time Father would do that, because it meant Mother could never enjoy her holiday. She always had to dash off to the kitchen to prepare the food, and at the end of the trip she looked more exhausted than when they set out for a supposedly relaxing holiday. As Marianne leaned back and watched her two friends giggle incessantly over the new magazine and make-up they had just purchased for outrageous prices, she wrapped her hands around s steaming mug of hot chocolate and savored the moment. Lisa was a year younger but looked so much more sophisticated than her tender age. She had a way of combining colors in the most charming way that was never redundant. It helped that her mother worked for a fashion boutique and would always let her sneak into the staff room and flip through the latest magazines. Marianne just couldn’t imagine Lisa entering the convent and exchanging her colors for the black habit, not when she was so full of life and untamed like she was just now.
Gretchen, on the other hand, barely managed to find her shoes in the mornings and Marianne always wondered how she ever got to school on time, chaotic that she was. No matter what Gretchen did with her hair, it was always unruly and looked as though a tornado had blown through it, changed its mind and blew right through it again. Looking at her, Marianne was very grateful to have straight hair that was not fussy. The girl possessed no compass for her mind, heart or feet and did most things on the spur of the moment. Enviably enough, everything Gretchen undertook turned out brilliantly, and nobody really understood how that happened, given that on most days she stumbled her way around school, tripped over buckets and hoes at the farm, and dropped bags or knocked over glasses at an alarming rate.
Everyone had their quirks, for better or for worse, but these beautiful spirits were her best friends in life. They understood her on her weird days, embraced her during her stormy ones, and celebrated together on good days. Family was good to have, but friends like Gretchen and Lisa were far more precious to Marianne than anyone else in the world. They are the colors of my soul she thought to herself. We may not be able to hold on to our youth forever, but who cares, when we can grow old together.
She opened her eyes again and stared at the two empty chairs before her. Each year on their birthdays, the table was laid out with candles, flowers, elegant plates, and the most delicious cheese cake ever. Lisa had died in Africa 15 years ago, contracting a mysterious disease from one of her missions. Gretchen was in the clutches of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, confined to a nursing home and not allowed visitors. It broke Marianne’s heart to see Gretchen that way, and after a while she stopped visiting, preferring instead to preserve the memories at the table. Once ago they were young and strong, but life got in the way and dished out the pain and the stumbling blocks to deal with. Throughout it all, they always had each other and never reneged on their love and friendship
requiem of a future
Marianne slammed the journal shut and threw her glasses onto the desk in frustration. The poem she had been working on was not taking the form she wanted. There was too much noise in her head and unrest in her heart to be poetic, let alone romantic. She yearned for Johann to put his loving arms around her again and kiss the inspiration back into her soul. She pretended he was roaming around the gardens, giving her the peace she needed to dive into her world of images and words. “You need your soul capriccio and that is a road I cannot walk along, because it is your soul that dictates the direction, not mine. The mind and spirit are selfish when it comes to the embellishment of images, a fine line between inspiration and despair.” he had always said. She wrapped both hands around her mug of herbal tea, hoping that the warmth would inspire her, but it never came close to his embrace and much to her chagrin, the tea had gone cold already. The tenderness in her hands soon metamorphosed into aggression and she could not pinpoint why. She had experienced writers block before, and in her youth it was usually parallel to a major disaster in her personal life. But everything was running smoothly so far, and things couldn’t be better.
A movement of a shadow outside the window where her desk was placed distracted her momentarily. Ah, the large branch of the chestnut tree that protruded onto her terrace was bobbing up and down in a peculiar fashion. She squinted and tried to spot her favorite squirrels that came every morning for some peanuts, no matter what the weather. Strangely enough, she had not seen them in two days. She loved chestnut trees more than any other tree, and so did her twin brother whom she missed so much.
As children growing up on the farm they were two of hearts, inseparable and always partners in crime from the very beginning. There were not too many toys to play with, or time since they each had a set of chores to do after school. Mother was very strict about that, and would not budge even if they were sick and running a fever, but somehow Marianne and Otto always managed to squeeze in some playtime in the barn or out on the fields. It was the saving grace that kept them both sane, especially when father went on another drinking spree and became violent.
There was never any money left over for toys, so they had to make their own with whatever they could find. Autumn was their favorite season because the large chestnut trees would drop all the conkers and these could be fashioned into all kinds of imaginary characters. When Otto died, Marianne took his ashes up the hill and buried his urn beneath their favorite oak tree, where they had cowered in fear, laughed until they fell off the branches, and cried in each others arms. His death had devastated her more than any other loss she had suffered in her life. Each step towards the large tree was a requiem for a fall, a fall from grace and a falling out with life.
Marianne pushed her chair back, and moved over to the glass sliding door to let some fresh air in. It was still quite chilly outside for this time of the year but the room suddenly felt stuffy, as if she were on the verge of suffocation. Her nose caught a whiff of the magnolias from the tree in the neighboring garden and she smiled. The first dance she had ever been allowed to attend was her Senior Prom. Her date was Pietro, the son of Italian migrants who had settled in the village and opened a little fruit shop. His devastatingly good looks had every girl in the county swooning over him, but he was devoted to his ailing and demanding mother, and had little time to spare for dates. He was older than Marianne and had graduated from High School three years before her. When he came to pick her up, instead of a rose corsage he offered her a single magnolia blossom with a satin pink ribbon. The flower had been picked from their tree and the ribbon he had stolen from his sister’s dresser. It was a dream come true and her brother had whispered “Don’t let the moment slip away” as she waltzed out the door. Marianne eagerly and willingly surrendered her virginity later that night to the scent of magnolias and sweat.
There was that heady scent again, as if a little flower fairy were whispering to all her senses that change is in the wind, imminent and inevitable. Deep down she knew what that change was going to be and was ready for the eternal journey, but there were a few more things left to do.
Marianne looked out to the sea before her, stretching out a feeble, wrinkled hand that trembled with every movement as the other one held firmly onto the edge of The Boat. She wasn't sure what it was she was trying to catch, but the thought of holding on to a few sun rays in the palm of her hand for just another day seemed worth the effort. At 85, she had nothing more to wish for, and the doctor had confirmed two hours ago that there would not be too many days left to catch the sun, or be kissed by the rain, and made love to by the ocean. She had lived a full life and loved every minute of it; well, most of it. The regrets her soul harbored were few and far between, and that was a good thing. What was life without a few mistakes and regrets to learn from anyway? She had learned over the years that heartaches were growing moments, and mistakes were lessons never to be forgotten. More importantly, destiny made sure that she understood that love and loss were integral parts of her being, not unwanted stumbling blocks.
Every man, or woman, who had entered her life and slept in her bed had been there for a reason. Be it blind love or the folly of youth, perhaps she did not understand it then, but in retrospect, without the passion and the tears she would never had made it this far. The gentle ocean breeze ruffled her thin silver hair into a Beautiful Mess, her kaftan billowing gloriously in all directions and exposing the sickly, protruding ribs, but Marianne didn't care. Her feet were bare, allowing her toes to reconnect with the sand in the most intimate manner, feeling it caress the skin sensually, grounding her in the moment. Being at the ocean was always a healing process.
It was her fourth husband’s birthday today, and he would have turned 90 alongside her if his heart had been stronger. She gazed down at the tin box she had brought along that contained all of Johann’s Goodbye Letters. He never wrote her love letters while they were together, firmly believing that their presence at the breakfast table every morning was in itself a love letter, an affirmation of who they were to each other. Instead, he secretly wrote her a one farewell letter a week and hid them under the bed, knowing that he would die before her and she would need comforting from beyond.
Theirs was a mature love, finding each other late in life, and of all places, at the nursing home where they had both been abandoned by their respective children. Not one of Marianne’s six children had offered to take her into their homes after her third husband had died and left her with a pile of debts in several countries. Just as well that her accountant was an old friend and former lover who still cared for her. Once the final payment was made to the very last creditor, Marianne withdrew all her jewelry from the safety deposit box, dissolved her Swiss bank accounts, and pulled out an atlas at the library. She stared blankly at the open pages, eager to say Adieu to everyone around her and simply become a recluse. A wealthy recluse.
She had enough money to start over and reinvent herself if she wanted and As When The Storm passed. Or she could give it all away to her favorite charity. She chuckled at the thought of imitating one of her most eccentric friends in Paris who had left his entire fortune to his 12 grumpy cats and put his lawyer in charge of the cats and their estate. Then again, she could follow her heart’s desire and buy a boat to sail around the world, having a lover at every port to make her feel safe for a short while, not caring whether they spoke the same language or not.
In the end, After The Winds had ravaged her grieving heart, she chose the best nursing home money could buy in Austria and settled there. She had a granddaughter in Florence she could visit, a grandson in Hamburg she could party with if she felt the need, and an old boyfriend in just about every major city between Rome and Madrid. None of that mattered the moment she crashed unceremoniously into Johann’s electric wheelchair and spilled coffee, honey and yoghurt all over him. Mortified, she jumped back and apologized profusely while trying to wipe the liquids off the controls before she ended up electrocuting the man. He stretched out his hands and placed them gently on her shoulders.
“You are the most beautiful accident to ever happen to me, please don’t waste time cleaning up the mess, the staff can do that ten times better than you, but what they cannot do is look into my soul with those lavender eyes.”
“Oh… in what language should I look at you with?”
Johann grinned and replied “With the most wicked one your mind can come up with, and the most gentle one that your lips will speak.”
Grinning broadly, she straightened her back, smoothed her skirt back into place, and flicked off some of the croissants that had landed on his lap, “In that case, we shall go All The Way and use German for breakfast, English for lunch, Greek for dinner, Italian in bed, Russian at tea, and French in the stall. Spanish only when I’m driving.”
He threw back his head in laughter, wishing desperately he still had legs to walk. “My dear woman, you left out Dutch, Danish, and a host of other Eastern European languages, dead or alive.”
“Those depend entirely on the position and circumstance, sir. My name is Marianne, by the way.”
“I know. I felt you walk into my soul the moment you arrived.”