Total Pageviews

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Musings on A Butterscotch Beauty...

Musings on A Butterscotch Beauty

The first time I see her two words come to mind: butterscotch and beauty. Arrayed in complimentary shades of cerulean hues, she is indisputably that. A butterscotch beauty. Cell to ear, absorbed, she is listening to someone---her lover, perhaps, or a dear friend, maybe---as I study her with the eavesdropping eye of my camera and a writer's insatiable curiosity. I am posted up on the opposite side of the courtyard, where I have gone in order to better appreciate the view.

She is a photograph I can no more leave without than I can depart without my beloved golden scarf. So I stare, deciding how I'll best approach her, and before I can execute a quick plan, another woman, stoic and looming, emerges out of the crowd and hovers possessively at her side. Like scent, she doesn't linger, her intent, probably, to mark her lady territorially, and then vanish.

On the other side of the bricked wall behind BB is a grassy carpet of Smooth Jazz Festival revellers, swaying and bobbing in the early-October sun. Enthusiastic, they vibe in spite of the heat and singing insects and nibbing grass, patiently casing the outdoor stage off in the distance for any sign of Bony Jones and his musicians.

Passing revellers block my view of her from time to time, but I don't mind. My enjoyment stems from observing BB listen to whomever with every fiber of her being---the act intimate and surreptitious yet public. She, the lucky listener and I are ensconced in secrecy amidst softly falling afternoon shadows.

The sentry of a woman returns. Again, BB continues listening, although her body tightens about her purse and phone. She looks up once, acknowledging the other woman's presence wordlessly. She motions to the concession window, and loosens her body, giving it section by section, to the impenetrable wall. Behind large dark shades and her artsy purse, she peers downward at her turquoise, gem-studded Indian shoes.

Between us, jazzed and jazzy festival-goers mill. Yet unbeknownst to anyone, she woos my curiosity, becomes the curio of my lens.

Iconoclastic, she has perfected a gypsy polish that intrigues me, prompting me to step outside of my anonymity and stroll up to that soft-looking, red-smeared smile...just to see firsthand, if it is as stunning and inviting as it appears from across the walkway. Now inches from her face, I sense the power in BB's smile, which is awakening sleeping twitters in my belly. I shift my weight from one Roman sandal-clad foot to the other. Take in the light-weight earrings. Though nondescript, they communicate how thoughtfully she has dressed for the day, for the occasion. A-line, sky-blue dress, long matching head scarf, one bracelet, plain but pretty, a silver watch, that blue-jean purse, and bare legs ending in decorative slippers.

Es una mujer exquisita. She is an exquisite woman.

I sip her for a few seconds, persistent about sampling whatever I can of her sweetness. Is there something in the way she smiles, in the way she purses her mouth that showers me with memories of my mother? Had my mother lived, she might have been this BB's contemporary. The egg-shell blue dress echoes Jackie Onassis and hints of Audrey Hepburn. Minus the mane of wiry, mile-long black hair and excessively thin frame, she might have been a buttery Diana Ross.
But then again...she isn't so far from me, until I do not fathom her attractive. I do. A question plays on the corners of my lips before floating between us and passing her to me in a silky instance. She is somewhat amused. Possibly embarrassed. Her eyes widen when I do not give her a break, and my pleasant openness pays off. Her hesitation recedes gradually, and when it does, she graciously nods her consent.

Luscious red and looking exceedingly kissable, her mouth, like a wave, wavers, then blossoms warily into an almost grin, then a half smile, and finally it is fit for the runway, the Silver Screen, the boardroom, or the leading fashionista magazines, but, gracias a la Diosa, my camera's smile finder goes to work doing what it does. Not to be outdone, my imagination follows, doing what it does, framing snapshot images of what she'd look like, "desnuda," cornflower-blue dress draped across the back of a chair, with her scarf now hanging loose over her erect nipples.

A spaghetti straw threatens to slip from her shoulder. Unconcerned, she lets it go unnoticed, immersed as she is in flirting with the ravenous eye of my camera. The "I'm not a model" and "I've got a tan" and sweet little girl whims flutter off on stray breezes. In my invitation for her to play at modeling on the runway of the patio, she realizes she is as free, unencumbered and adventuresome as her poses will allow.

So she teases me. Flashes a "You know you like it, huh?" come-on, and just as mercurially, withdraws in a series of closed-mouth pouts. I move about. Craving out distance between us, hoping to gift-wrap her privacy, thinking if I do, she'll give me more...and she does.

BB's enigmatic charm can't be squelched, not even by thick, whitish-grey shadows that drift down and around her like a lover's hand on the delicate straps of her dress, tugging them down to reveal a flat chest. My bet: she never could boast much in the way of breasts. Not even during childbirths, if she has known any. Her tummy doesn't give her away either. Flat, softly rounded at the bottom, feminine, it slopes appealingly from under her nonexistent breasts down toward her dancer's legs. Yes! That may be who she was, more than likely, years ago, when she was fifteen or eighteen. A dancer. An Alvin Ailey dancer. Commanding the stage, other dancers, the audience, her woman on a theatre row, front and center.

Seems to me she holds back, in spurts, the more I shoot. The more the camera flashes. The more passers-by notice our cinematic foreplay. I wonder if she ponders why this younger woman is photographing her. "I hope I'm coming through as attractive," I imagine her self-judgments. "If I smile too wide and free, my smile may confiscate my face, and she will know that I know little of modeling!"

Her daintily delicate lower view is equally as hot, to me, as the top. So my camera does as it wishes, unapologetic, and memorializes BB from every angle except from the rear view landscape. The moment I back-up, expanding her stage, although unsuspecting extras in the photo shoot never stop moving on their way from here to there, I know time ticks. Her sentry will be returning shortly; therefore, I aim, focus and snap quicker. She pirouettes to the left, then to the right, but she never turns in a complete circle. Guarded, she poses as though to keep something sacred from this smiling, exacting photographer, short and frisky, slipping and dipping, seeking the most advantageous angle.
That, too, doesn't matter. I know she's slim-hipped, much like me. I have never showcased the bodacious, pronounced, bouncy, show-me-what-you-got, basketball booty. Se la vie! Over the years, I have learned to call sexy to me without one. Hmmmm. Mastering a slick, sexy, stunning glide in heels, in stilettos, that leaves the object of my desire spellbound, executing double-takes, has been my forte. Para seguro, I know it's all about self-confidence. And self-love. Feel me?

I like this long angle view. Her poses are sweetly subdued. Despite the fact that ours is "a click and flash" relationship, flaring and fading within minutes, I am elated I encountered her. No, we did not exchange names nor e-mails. That, too, is okay, also. Strangely, I feel as if I know her, and me cherishing her pictures here is good enough for me.
I did present her with the option of me sending her the pics via e-mail, but she declined.
To me, she exudes a classic sexuality, memorable and divine. I appreciate that she did not dye the edges of her hairline, the small curls coming spiralling and mixed with blond and silver along the fold of the scarf tied 60's stylish. If one's face is gently softening, as Mother Nature is kind enough to allow us to experience this occurrence gradually, why is it so hard to imagine gazing at oneself minus the harshness of brash brown, reckless red and berating black?
What is it about aging that makes people, especially women, dig our heels into the dirt and hold stringently onto thirty, mentally and physically, even when our bodies are comfortably complying to forty like a squeezable bare breast in a Spandex top without the insult of a too-small bra sending extra softness to protrude unappealing over the bra's edge? Why do we chafe when folks comment, in an ironic tone, how we are "kinda pretty" for fifty? And why do we catch a case at others sharing their opinions on how we should look, behave, speak and dress at a certain age?
We are the only ones whose opinions why wrestle with drivel?

As for me, damnit, I am not a cougar. I am and want a full-grown lioness, who is comfortable in the knowledge I no longer dye my locs, fleeing sprigs of grey rejoicing about my temples. After all, can too many years of dying color one's brain? Yes, I know my body; I no longer stomp the hell out of those machines at Bally's, although I do exercise. And sure as shooting, there is no way I can overlook, giggles, my sight is changing, as in, "Forget passing me those glasses. Hand me the magnifying lens, sweetheart."
But believe's all good gravy in the wagon trainy, let me tell you. As my Grandfather Willie D. Moss was known for saying, "If you ain't aging, you are dead, and if I have my druthers, I'd rather be aging."
For the record, I love TheGoldenGoddess, and she loves me! I will remember my time with the Butterscotch Beauty, and for the moments she illuminated my view finder, I think she enjoyed me, too. How do I know? After I thanked her for allowing me to photograph her and vouchsafed how beautiful I thought she was, she embraced me, pulling me into her perfumed bosom. Then she owned that I had made her day and murmured a "Thank you" so redolent with sincerity, I might have passed out if I knew she'd have been fast enough to catch me before I kissed brick.

I am older than my mother would have been had she lived. She made her transitioned at the flippant age of 42. It will have been 10 years come this January 11th, and I yet miss her. That may be a thing one rarely gets over---the death of one's mother. I know on a cellular level she would have aged gracefully, not wildly, as I am prone to do. With all the other little wildflowers standing in neat rows and leaning in union in the direction of the wild, I am usually that drunk-on-life blossom, petals bobbing in the breeze, stem snaking, roots jitter-bugging, just living it up right where I am planted, glancing out across the field, wondering what it would be like to pop up in the neighboring garden.
That's alright, too. It takes all types of vegetation a field to make!

I'm not strange. I'm me; no other person I can be. No other person would I want to be. I can discern my Butterscotch Beauty is cut from s similar cloth. Confident in her seasoned skin, sexy in her ripeness. Desirable to many.
Of this life, I want to live and let live and love and be loved. I want to always know the Oneness of all souls. I want to risk it all, throwing what I deem I can't lose into the face of the wind. As Alicia Keys sings, "I want the freedom to sure looks good to me." I want to leap onto the back of my fears and wrestle them to the ground, brazenly, exhibiting the prowess of my Unca Eddie's brood when they came to visit us in my Waterbury, Connecticut, childhood. I want to rush onto a figurative field of lions and, trembling, experience what it feels like to defy even the king of beasts, when I know within my soul the king of kings...
Yeah, where I am, I am a Woman Warrior, heading out towards that field, the weaponry of my craft strapped to my chest. Yeah, it sure feels good to me.

Be emboldened. Live a Golden Life.
El 27 de octubre, 2009

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Good-bye, Lil D...and Greggory..Two Nephews in One Year

A handsome, sporty young man, he was. Intelligent and warm. He was my debonair nephew, my only son's cousin, the last son of Avery Sarden's aunt, Shari Sarden. He was born and raised in Detroit, knew the streets, mean and hard, like the back of his hand in the darkest night. Yet he was love and loved. His beautiful, spirited mother, Shari, raised him both alone and with the loving support of her village of a family, the Sarden Family.

He died this week, shot in the back. He was nineteen. The family knew him as Lil D. As a baby and small boy, he was short and thick, a miniature bruiser, adorable. He was huggable, lovable. He made you want to squeeze him and kiss his chubby cheeks.

As a young man, he cultivated an inimitable swag, just sugar sharp, as Southerners might say. In his world, he moved with confidence. He danced with style and grace. I will miss his easy, ready smile, his willingness to embrace friends and family.

According to Avery, Lil D had spoken of relocating to the South with his mother, after his brother's death. But for whatever reason, he remained in Detroit and the streets claimed surely as night the day will wring.

Although I have known now for several hours, a large part of me cannot believe he is gone, like his older brother, Greg, who died in the service, in the U.S. Marine Corp. A gifted poet, charming, engaging, handsome, family-oriented, ambitious and fun-loving, Greggory Dowdell, Jr. was a honeysuckle breeze on a sunny Detroit day. Courageous, he served two tours in Iraq prior to his Home going and was about to serve another tour. His position, as a decorated sharp shooter, he died in a Marine-maneuver accident in California earlier this year.

My family and I traveled to Detroit to stand with the my son's Auntie Shari and the Sarden Family back around Memorial Day. Greg was about Avery's age, 22 years old. He was the first of my son's cousins to die. I remember him as a little boy, gorgeous and fast, with a brush haircut, always racing, zipping up the sidewalk beside and in front of Little Avery, when we visited. Since those glory days and divorce and the passage of time, I had only heard of Greg's magnanimous adventures from this one and that one. I was proud, despite absentia. So when he fell, I stopped the merry-go-round of my world and went to stand in a show of love and solidarity with Avery, Shanice Smith, and my grand baby, Nazir Sarden. In two cars, we traveled with Aunt Debra and Avery's cousin DeLaina Sarden, his Uncle DeLaine's daughter.

Now, with Lil D's leave-taking, I will travel North and stand with the Sarden Family, alongside Avery, Shanice and Lil Naz, as an act of love and togetherness. For when all differences and circumstances are spread across the table like empty plates after the repast, we are one. We are family, and that is what families do.

Below is a picture of Greg. I couldn't help but snap a picture of him in my private, viewing moment with him before the funeral. Although his remains looked nothing like the vibrant Greggory of my memory, one thing is for certain: the U.S. Marines gave him a hero's send-off, complete with slow, saluting marches to the coffin that lasted throughout the service, a distinguished former-Marine who delivered a memorable tribute, and the sorrowful shooting tribute at graveside. Through it all, Shari was a rock, holding up like the young queen that she is. How were we to know that she would bow under another adieu to her second and final son within a four-month period?

I thank Shari for allowing me to speak on program, sharing Greg's obituary with the gathering and reading some of his poignant poems. Near his casket were huge frames of pictures chronicling Greg's youth. I was in some of those pictures. Our paths had crossed for a time, like mine and Lil D's, and I am blessed and the richer for the crossings.

In the photo below, Lil D smiles beside his Uncle Lindsey. The smile on his face is that of a boy. His uncle was someone he admired, someone to whom he listened, even when others thought he didn't. It is all in the smile, in the eyes, two portals to the soul that never fabricate.
There is a time we must come, and a time we must go. The two are set in stone. We need not fret about them. All we are called to do is to make choices each moment of our lives between our birth and our death.

Each life is precious, no matter what the choices. Judgment is not ours to mete. Greg and Lil D are two lights in the tapestry of stars in my night...they burned different ways...and then were summoned back into the heavens...from which they came.
God is forever at the helm of our days, so it rains inside my heart today, heavier than the rain that fell in the night, last night, when the heart-wrenching news came. But the day sparkles outside my windows this morning, and I know sorrow does not last always...
We love you always, both of you........
The Golden Goddess
October 7, 2009

He Came To Play His Part
“For the Bookmark”

When he entered this world
He came to play his part
First, sweetly claiming his mother’s heart
No thoughts to when he’d depart
For those dates:
When he came
And when he left
The angels maintained and sang the glad tidings
While he managed the rest
Filling his days with the life he loved best…

From baby to boy to young man
He was who he was
Handsome, smooth, genuine, sweet
No one else could in his shoes stand
He was the teen with the easy smile, the ready laugh, his presence a treat
Rarely blue,
Vibrant, he insisted on living up to the name he knew
Mister D,
A precious passage he traversed
From thick baby Lil D to tall, slender Mister D, a darling to the ladies…

To see him float across a dance floor
Was to bow to enchanted lore
Some have it, some don’t
He mastered it. Call it swag or cool. As a rule, he was the door to Good Times
And at our core
We know that nothing he relished was a chore
Because he lived the revelry of his nineteen years,
To those who held him near….

Indeed, he came to play his part
Made the choices he made
For whatever reasons, his lessons were his to impart
He taught them well
In the love, camaraderie, affection and brotherhood which tells
How much he will be missed
Yes, only Spirit knows why he came
Why this year he had to go
Plus all the answers to the questions we long to know
Yet some things were between him and God
So his Mother, Grandmother and the entire family bow
To the indisputable knowing of a Higher Power
That came to comfort him in his final hour….
Claudia Sarden
October 12, 2009

Let Not My Living Be In Vain
(for D.S.)

Let not my living be in vain
I found joy in most everything
So no, I do not complain
God is in charge of me and all things.

Tear drops can wash away your pain
Tis true, yet I don’t want you feeling blue
Go stand outside in the rain
Until my memory baptizes you.

Let not my living be in vain
Use my leaving as a reminder to live your dreams
Listen! I hear the roar of a coming train
Why not meet it with hope, faith and the joy life brings?

Don’t pine I left yesterday
Just gather ye rosebuds as ye may
Who you know came to stay?
Me…I’m too busy praisin’ the Lord I passed this way.
So don’t come or call
Tryin’ to figure out what went down
The message on my answering machine is meant for all
Find a way to love somebody and help him build on solid ground.

To my boys,
Hold yo’ head up and make peace with yourselves
And stop treatin’ one another like Tonka toys
Do something positive with yo’ time. You ain’t twelve.

To my sweet lady,
I know it seems shady
I won’t be physically there to hold you and whisper how much I care
But I love you. And remember, in Spirit, I’m always there.

I love everybody, from Mama to the last person in the back pew.
Got no judgments now, but that ain’t news.
So don’t judge how I’m speakin’
My Auntie Claudia’s tweekin’ these lines
And this is how she spits her poems most of the time.
All I want you to remember, from January to December is “Love is Divine.”
© Auntie Claudia Sarden October 12, 2009

I Will Remember You
(For Master Derek Sarden)

I will remember you in late-summer sunsets
In the pink and grey streaks that
Paint the Detroit morning skies
With no tears to sit in my eyes
Loving you was much too much a blessing
Not to choose the happy moment of the lesson
Every second is our gift, our recollection.

I will remember you in a group of teenagers
When I see you in the slick stride
And “What you lookin’ at eyes?” when I offer a word of advice
My intent to encourage and overlook Fear’s need kindness to ice
Loving you was much too much a blessing
Not to choose the happy moment of the lesson
Every second is our gift, our recollection.

I will remember you in a stranger’s flash of a smile
When in that moment, we realize we are one in Spirit
The cherished times we safeguard in your Mama’s albums and picture frames
And the golden memories of you and your cousins immersed in backyard games
Surely loving you was much too much a blessing
Not to choose the happy moment of the lesson
Every second is a gift, our recollection.

I will remember you on your Mama’s lap
Chubby legs keeping up a rat-a-tap-tap
Greg standing beside you, a big boy, the ever-protective brother
Both of you, Mister D and Greg, loving beyond love your beautiful mother
You, who adored the uncles and delighted in the aunties, was too much a blessing
Not to choose the happy moments of the lesson
Thank you, God, for our gifts, our recollections.

I will remember you, this you’ll see
For you, now Spirit, will never be far, far away
Whenever I close my eyes, there you’ll be
Returning healthy, whole, complete, even more vivid than yesterday
It’s true. Loving you was much too much a blessing
Not to choose the happy moments of the lesson
Every second is your gift, your recollection.
© Claudia Sarden October 12, 2009

Monday, October 5, 2009

A Celebration of Self and Photography: Before and Behind the Lens

I have always loved and celebrated myself...even during those times when I thought I didn't. Whatever it is, it is a human thing. I doubt animals traverse a period when they doubt their self worth, their beauty, their intelligence. Perhaps we move through such periods to climb towards the higher ground of a self-love so deep we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that if we can love ourselves, in all of our complexities, then we KNOW with an unshakable certainty that we love others.

When I focus my camera on others, I celebrate the beauty of creation, of God's handiwork. I remember the words of a photographer who once told me, "Photography is all about the study of light." The more I venture into photography, the more I know this is true.

Sometimes I play with my pictures and crop them in unusual ways and add colors and highlight the parts of myself or my subject that allows the mind to open to lush's like seeing an old situation in a new way, in a fresh light.

In this pic, I am experimenting with color and focus. So what? Why not turn a picture on its head, as the day pivots us from an up-right position at times, and we wind up bottom's up, wallet spewing cash, our hearts pouring love, or senses short circuited! I know I can fly or swim in this one! Can you see it in my smile? In my pose?

Here, I can hear Jennifer Hudson singing her hit, "Spotlight." Playing up the contrasts in our lives pinpoints realities we might never have contemplated. Red is richer when sitting alongside grey, and yet the grey is sensual and soft of its own accord, inviting us into softened lines and gentle edges. I am engulfed in sensuality here, too. In the pose. In the smile. My body language is playful and womanish, as Alice Walker might say!

The human body is exquisite...from all angles...making the walking away a sensual delight.

There is something about a woman's back that bespeaks a delicacy, sensuality, a poignant revelry, a treasure chest of charms. I love this pic because it paints the effect of time on all things...erasing lines once sharp and straight and crisply firm, the difference between Mother Nature biting into the tight red skin of a fresh Georgia apple and her tongue tasting the sweetly silky fuzz of a peach, ripe in morning light, on a counter, in an orange bowl, metamorphic in its unforgettable sugar.

I adore myself when I am smiling, as Zora
Neale Hurston loved herself when she was
laughing. A magic comes over me when I smile.
All my troubles disappear. So much so, I fathom I had no troubles to start with, for smiling changes my perception on myself and the world.
I thank the Goddess for giving us the ability to smile.

I am the Lady in Pink, shimmering with an inner essence of gratitude and love. Truly I am living my life, as Jill sings, like it is golden; thus, I am the Golden Goddess. Yes, I am a woman of five decades and one year here. Yet in the same breath and sweep of my laptop's keys, I am a girl of one decade and six years, playing with the lens, screaming, "Yaaayyaaaa! Let's do this, okaaaay!"

There now, my back is back!

Girls hold up half the sky...even in the water! There is nothing as sweet as friendship. It is an elixir we all sorely need and must not do without, or we become recluses, fighting to get out of our silences.

Green. The color of life. Possibility. The future. Cash money. The rush in your heart when you run out across a field of grass and wildflowers. Then again, it is also the hue of boldness, of fearlessness. I am getting my swag on here. If Shakira can shake her groove thang and wrap her curves in shimmering flash and baubles and pause the pulse of countries around the world, surely, por supuesto, si, I can shorten my stature and ease into a pose of sensual repose...

Again, I play with focus and sketch muscles and honor colors.

There is something about Black & White that mesmerizes, much like soft and hard, dark and light, meek and bodacious, that stimulates campfires. Hmmm. Contrast is alive and well in the Universe...

Water is one of Nature's most beautiful backdrops as long as it isn't unruly and pooling inside our homes and hearts. This morning as I write this blog and post these pictures, I am captivated with the music of the rain, yet I pray it does not pose problems for those who must encounter it up close and personal in a few short hours.

I feel almost like Spider Woman in this one, scaling the pool's wall, mastering the power of will and gravity. The colors I've splashed here add to my glee of photography and self revelry!

We are all rushing...sometimes...with very little time to stop and watch the world rush along its merry way.
I am captured in time, feeling, in the fabulous now, and I feel what it feels like to note the passing of time, like sand in an hourglass, wave by wave.

Think Diana Ross and the line, "Upside Down and Round and Round."
I call this one "Blue Blanket."

No, I have never taken a photography class. Yet I love taking photographs.
Upon me, my passion confers its own degree. I bow to it; I have known it for years. With my camera in my hands, whether I am before or behind its lens, I am alive, same as I am with a pen and paper or with my chubby grand son on my lap, clapping and overjoyed because we are sharing a moment.
"The Celebration of Self and Photography" emanates from my soul like the rays of a rising midnight sun. I am illuminated with an unspeakable joy. I know that I am on my correct life path, and O oo ooo...I say, Bring it, Life! I accept the gift basket of blessings the Divine offers me in this moment.
The Golden Goddess
On A Rainy Night in Georgia
October 2009