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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Crowns and Fingerprints

   This happened 40 years ago ... while I was in kindergarten. Boy, did I hate kindergarten. It was in the early seventies, and at this school I had my first run in with gender roles. The teachers being less fanatic at it than the children!
   Before I went to kindergarten I had always played with my brother and my back door neighbours: three brothers. Even the girl next door had a brother and they played with my brother and me, the four of us. So I was used to playing with boys and doing boys games. Watch me play soccer!

   At kindergarten I joined the boys to play with the cars. Guess what? These urchins scolded me and sent me away to the "dolls corner" . That was the area for girls. Girls were not supposed to play with boys, nor with cars.
   Lucky for me there was a dirty old bear in the dolls corner that the other girls didn't want to play with, because I did not want to play with the dolls.  I hated those all-too-sweet faces with the unnaturally pursed lips (was I being sharp on mouths at that time already?) And now that I had started to go to kindergarten,  I hated those faces even more. Because I noticed when the blond girls in my class, the ones with the angelic faces, ratted on me, I was convicted! No defence. The blondie was always telling the truth, and I was never believed**.

   One day 'Dolf' and his friends decided to make paper crowns and sashes. -I don't really remember if the boy's name was Dolf or if I called him that, because he had a T-shirt with a dolphin on it.-  Anyway, the boys asked the the teacher to give them paper (cut to size) and I asked for it too. They quickly drew into a tight circle around a table shutting me out. I heard Dolf whisper he was going to make the best one ever, because he was going to decorate his crown and sash with animals. And I noticed he had taken some of the animal shapes, precut templates, from the cabinet. -Apparently we used to decorate them with geometrical figures, probably precut circles, stars and squares?-

    I decided to outperform little Dolfie. Took some of the animal patterns and instead of going for the colouring pencils, I took scissors, glue and transparent paper.  I remember red and dark blue. Not being able to close up ranks on my own, I squeezed myself in between two cabinets,  my back to the classroom.
   Normally, I was pretty slow (still am), but I worked hard to get my crown and sash finished at the same time as those boys did.  Just as I was glueing the two ends of my sash together, the teacher asked the attention of the class. She pointed at the crowns and sashes of the boys, while they were wearing them. Dolf's was the last one shown. He was even allowed to stand on a chair, because his was soooo beautiful: he had drawn animals on it and coloured them. He  was gloating!
  And then, tadaa! Like a devil out of a box, I  jumped from my hidy hole and showed a crown and sash with translucent animals (I was smart enough to glue the coloured paper on the backsides to let the shape come out better).  The teacher held them close to the lamp to show it and declared my creation the best one. I don't know if I gloated, I must have.  I only recall enjoying Dolfie's p.... off face. Hah, girls could be better than boys!
(Me, vindictive?)

   Why did I think of that ancient victory?  Well, maybe it wasn't even the victory that came up, more the hard work, solo, squeezed in between those cabinets. Working on a self-proclaimed challenge.  I obviously haven't changed much.
   I'm currently spending A LOT of time squeezed in, in my attic (which serves as my living room, kitchen, bedroom and studio) and cut scenes from my favourite films and TV series. I have set up a quite movie database for this and  I plan to put these clips together from a viewpoint I expressed in my blogs Winks,  Twitches and Spoken Words and What's in the name?  I call my project 'Actor's Fingerprints' and I have absolutely no idea how it will turn out. Will I press the delete button in the end or do I jump out of my attic (not through the window of course) shouting 'Tadaa!' ?
   Only time will tell. I have 190 cuts already and over 40 'titles' left to plough through.

** Yes, you suppose right, I am not blond, my hair is what the dutch would call  'the milkman's dog's hair'.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

... there are no small lives? - pt 2-

So actors with supporting roles and extra's can help build up the team, towing the entire play to a higher level. Is that what is meant with 'no small actors' ?

   What about this boy, who desperately wanted to be Joseph in the school's nativity play?  Alas one of his classmates got the much desired role. All there was left was the role of an innkeeper. Or he could say no to the entire play. There's always a choice, you know.
    His teacher gave him some time to make up his mind, the part of the innkeeper did not need much rehearsing anyway. After a few days the boy announced he'd take the role and he appeared faithfully at every practise.
At first there was little enthousiasm, but he suddenly changed a few days before the 'grand performance' . The teacher complimented herself on being able to help this boy accept his humble fate so well.
    And now it was the evening of the school's Christmas celebration. The hall was filled with parents, brothers, sisters and grandparents. Watching Joseph and Mary struggling on, desperately knocking at the last door of all the taverns of Bethlehem. Our boy openend the door of this inn and Joseph stammered  "Dear sir, do you have a room, for my wife is pregnant and ..."  "Of course my dear Joseph," the innkeeper beamed, "I have saved my best room for you!"   An ominous silene fell over Bethlehem and the school hall. Mary hid her face in her robe, Joseph grew pale around the nose, and swallowed hard. Then Joseph straightened himself and turned to his wife. "Wait here darling."   He went inside, returning only a moment later.  "These rooms are no good Mary. Let's go find ourselves a stable."

   How often do we feel cheated out of the role we dreamed up? Receiving a much smaller part in this play called "Life on Earth".  And how do you respond to that? What do you settle for?
    Do you participate in a team effort to put up a great show and support the main cast -whoever they may be- ?   Reward: without having planned it, the Review turns out to be positive about you.
    Or do you put all your energy in that short performance you are allowed, even if it were only to please yourself? Rewarded an upturned thumb of the Great Director, because you at least managed to shake the others out of their numbness? And you thoroughly enjoyed the moment you were on stage.
    Or do you behave like our little boy. Try to rewrite the play by yourself, knocking on opportunity's door instead of waiting for it. The boy did not receive a plume from his teacher, but his antic lives on as an anecdote that is absolutely worth telling.  He didn't ruin the play, it takes a lot more than one hairpin turn to ruin Life on Earth. Sometimes hairpin turns save us.

   Or do I look at life from a false perspective? Is there more than one play going on? A Broadway production that is being repeated a zillion times, with different people playing the main roles in different ways. And we are not just actors, we are directors, playwrights,  props managers and audience all in one life.

The cast extra's inServant of Two Master Yes I'm on it too.

   In my 'up days' I have the Zillion Performances Perspective and I am truly happy with all these different functions and my role(s).
   But on other days ... I feel horribly cheated. I feel like declining my role in that One Big Play. That one big Yoke, or should I say Joke? Why can't I find my spectacles on those days? Put them on to change to a happier perspective ?
   Don't think I never tried to work myself out of the shaft I fall into.
-  I've tried being like the innkeeper, but I ran into a smart Joseph. Dead end street.
-  I'd go for enthousiasm, but sometimes it is lacking and there's no supermarket that has it in stock on the shelves.
-  Going for the team effort is not always an option. In some groups I miss a sense of belonging. And faking it is a deadly choice: it means alienating you from yourself.

   When I get depressed, I am no better than a ball.  Once I'm going down, I'm not able to change direction. I just have to hit the bottom of the shaft, before I can bounce out of it.
  But then ... it is at the bottom of this horrid shaft where I've found the small scraps of diamond and gold that I carry with me.
  You know these tiny particles are good enough for me.  I'm using them in  my art, my humour, my habit to let cats loose among pigeons.
And I'm trying to share that with others -during my 'up days'-,  hoping to create up days for others as well.
   What do you do with your Part in Life ?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

There are no small parts... - pt 1-

    Enjoying the luxury of not having to go to any job yet, I was sauntering down my favorite lane a few days ago. There I ran into Madame LeBoeuf. Madame LeBoeuf was my supporting role in Eugene Ionesco's 'Rhinoceros'.
I especially remembered a rehearsal when the other actors were all a bit down and out. They were summing up their lines without interest, almost dragging me along in their boredom. But Madame LeBoeuf was soon to run upstairs into the office of Berenger...
    With such a small part, you rarely get the chance to actually be playing and I didn't want my moment to be spoiled.  I decided not to wallow in the prevailing lack of lust, but to be the lump under the carpet: irritatingly energetic between the apathetic. I mimicked running upstairs like I'd never done before and panted as if I had been chased by hordes of rhinocerosses instead of one. 
    I ended my part with an enormous leap into the stairwell and and took to my seat, since I had no more lines left. Then I saw what I had done: my enthousiasm had been contageous, the others were acting again and the director put his thumb up at me. It was the first time I realised that  -even though my part was small- I could have an impact on the people around me.

    So when I heard, several years later, that an amateur theater group was looking for cast extra's I said 'Yes!'.  It was for Servant of Two Masters (Carlo Goldoni) and it was to be a staged as a costume drama. All the extra's got a rough sketch of their character and furthermore were free to improvise during the second act in which is a road scene. Our director turned it into a lively square, with his 12 extra's going impro.

The main cast of Servant of Two Masters
   Alas, there was only one performance and the atmosphere was really weird that night.  Actually: it all started in the afternoon, during the last rehearsal.
   During this dry run one of the actors fell into the orchestral pit. The fallen actor was the person who kept the whole group together as one, cast and extra's. The accident had shocked us all. What we feared was true: some ribs were broken. But the actress decided to perform in spite of it. As the painkillers began doing their work, the company started to feel relieved and concentrated again on their 'premiere'.  

   The audience was for a considerable part made up of members of competing theatre groups. One of them was going to stage 'Servant of Two Masters' a few months later. It was as if the audience had practised too. In not laughing.  During the first act, the extra's were waiting, all dressed up, in a room where we could listen to what was happening on stage. We heard the witty lines of Truffaldino, and each joke was followed by this ominous silence of the audience. Truffaldino's voice started to sound pretty insecure. We all placed our chairs in a circle and listened to the progression of the first act with sinking mood.
   Except for one: our guitar player  had no experience with being on stage in a play. He was nervous as hell and kept tottering through the room, tripping again and again over the ribbons tied to his instrument. He even left our backstage room. One of the actors, not on stage, begged us to please stay inside, when our guitarman tripped again, causing nervous laughter from some of the others.  The -supposed- widow in our group, in an imposing black dress, reprimanded our poor guitar player and pointed at the empty chair in the circle. The troubadour sat down so promptly and meakly  that the widow was stunned by her own boldness. But this interaction was a turning point: we all slipped into our roles and prepared ourselves for a literally 'supporting' act.

    One of the critics had his own interpretation of small parts and small actors. He wrote that the only acting he had seen, was done by the extra's. True, we made quite a scene, but I still resent that remark. The actors gave a good performance and deserved a lot better than that. Even without considering the circumstances.
Maybe the smallest actors were in the audience that night?

 To be continued ...

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Announcement: There are no small parts ...

I like to announce my blog plans, just to keep myself going. Maybe it works as a cliffhanger for you?
Just be patient and check my blog in a few days!

Yes, this one will be about the famous quotation   "There are no small parts, only small actors"

Actually, it is written by a very small actress:

I was the smallest kid in my class, yet my teacher*  decided to put me in the back row. My friend Peter is just turning around to tell me he's got the jitters because his line is coming up. That should give you an idea of where I might stand.

(* = with whom I used to quarrel a lot, would that have been of any influence?)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Not really stirring things up

   When people ask me if I can ride horseback, I get uncontrollable cramps. In my cheeks. Somehow I just have to laugh about the recollection of that one horse riding trip I made. Not that anything special happened, I didn't even fall off. So, if you are looking for excitement, you'd better skip this blog.

   It was september 1997, in the region of Cuzco in Peru. My former partner  -a native Peruvian-  and I  were advised to check out some of the smaller archeological sites,  Sacsayhuaman, Qenko, Puca Pucara and Tambo Machay, by means of  an organised tour: on horse back, together with a few other tourists.  "This is a lovely ride through beautiful countryside, and generally takes around four hours with time at each site."  as the brochures tell you. Correct, no comment.

   The 'other tourists' turned out to be a group of 4 Japanese friends, in their late teens or early twenties? They couldn't speak english nor spanish.
  They were already mounting their appointed horses when my partner and I arrived.  For my partner, a large mare was being saddled, while my horse, a lighter riding horse, was ready and waiting.  It was a sorrel called "Fuego" (Fire).  I tried to make eye contact but the animal only glared at me, rather bored. Most likely because I was tourist number so and so and he knew he'd be gone from home for another four hours.
   I mounted it, or should I say him? I could reach the stirrups, but only with my legs almost stretched. Which is not for me!  When I sit, I want to have my feet at the same level as my  seat. Or as close to it as possible. So I dismounted and started to shorten the stirrups. I had just finished with the one on the right, when the guide came by and ordered me into the saddle (at that time I was pretty easy to order around, I guess). He was running late already, so no time for unimportant things like that.  Off we went. I felt rather lopsided, with one bent and one stretched leg. On a horse that at first didn't want to budge. It took a few slaps from the guide to make him move. Not the treatment I would have chosen, but who am I to change the rough andean culture single handed ? With my companions way ahead of me?

   Finally Fuego decided to follow his stablemates at a distance, trotting spiritlessly. I had a hard time urging him on. As I caught up with the others, I was wondering how this horse ever deserved the name Fuego. Just at that moment the sorrel, in an answer to my question?, started to fart... The Japanese guys turned on cue, looking bewildered at me. How do you say in japanese that it was the horse and not you? I still see them shaking with laughter. Now I laugh too, but I don't remember doing it so loud at the time.
   This situation -in it's entirety- kept repeating itself until the third site. There I decided to skip looking at the ruins and adjust the left stirrup instead.  Smart move, I got a better grasp on my smouldering friend and it was about time.  After remounting our horses at the next, final, site, Fuego decided it was time to lead the group at a happy gallop back home. Ignoring the gringa on his back, who was uttering directions in all kinds of tonalities, just as he had done from the start.
   Was it my imagination, or did it whisper "goodbye and good ridden" to me? Nah. Must have been "good riddance".

  Can I ride a horse? I don't know. But I know I can stay in the saddle.

Another acquaintance I made in the Andes [wood-burning]

Friday, August 12, 2011

Winks, Twitches and Spoken Words

    Some people go so far as to state that the eyes are the doors to the soul. If that's true, I'm glad that when God closes a door, somewhere He opens a window.

   Should I get myself ready for an obligatory feeling of mortification, when I say that eyes aren't all that big to me? Of course I recognise a frown, a squint or the little wrinkles that appear when someone's teasing me. But in general I think eyes are just like marbles: little round things with a coloured layer. The main thing that I see mirrored in them is myself.

   After I've established the colour of the iris of the person I'm talking to, my attention always moves a few inches lower. And there it stays for a long time. A person's mouth fascinates me. Not just the shape, but also the articulation, the muscle tone in the lips, the assymetry in the movements. How does it show anger or a laugh? What about someone's lips curving upward, like angel wings, into a smile ?   Or what I like best: a subtle twitch at the corner of the mouth, preferably on one side only.  The dead give away that this person shares my sense of humour.

  If eyes are the doors to the soul, then the mouth is at least a french window.

   And what about a persons hands? I don't mean the shape, though palmistry is the -supposed-  science of telling one's character based on the shape of ones hand.   No, I mean, how well are they taken care of, how are they used?  Do they participate in the speakers debate or do they dance a little jig of their own?
Are the hands open and relaxed, or clenched? What do they touch, how do they do that? Or are they tucked so deeply into the pockets of a coat or jeans, that you may assume this person is ready to migrate?
    Who has time to look at eyes when one can study hands and mouths?

... during a work meeting

   Oh, and there's another window to the soul of your companion. One that doesn't need the eyes of the beholder.  To you it may seem a tiny window,  but I crawl through it very often.  It's the voice.
   I have a life long habit of not looking at a speaker, when I'm in a group. When I attended college, I used to write letters in the mean time. During meetings at work I made drawings. And during parents teacher meetings my eyes are magnetically drawn to my shoes.  I've been doing some experiments lately, forcing myself to look at the speaker or other group members instead of doing one of the above. I noticed a difference: when not looking at people, I can focus better on what I hear. Even while drawing or writing letters.
   And I don't just mean the words the speaker chooses. When focussing on paper or some other lifeless object, I can discern a myriad of subtle changes in intonation, timbre and volume of a voice. I can't do it half as well, while looking at people.

.  I guess that's where my weird habit comes from, I've got quite a collection of films and TV-series ...  as audio recordings. Jokingly I refer to it as my "video store for the blind".
   I usually watch TV in fragments. Hey, new voice! Let's see what this persons looks like. Than I tend to my knitting, ironing, sewing -whatever-  again  and just listen. In pre-video days I wanted to hold on to some of those programs and started to record them on audio tapes.
   Nowadays I'm into buying DVDs. It started because my son has trouble reading and I don't want him to miss out on the healing effects of well told stories. We've watched 'Horton the Elefant' and 'The Mighty' over and over during a certain hard time we went through.
   To me these DVDs serve a different  purpose. Since I know I have SPD I started to look differently at body language. I never liked the rather superficial works that focus on one person only . (To be honest, I think those writings are boring and a bit 'bogus')  Body language is a dialogue between two -or more-  persons. Action and reaction, synergy.   And that is what I look for now, when playing a DVD.
   However... occasionally I run into a film that actually makes good 'listening material'. I burn that one on CD, reviving my 'video store habit'.   A small homage to that tiny window to the soul, not through the eye.  

    Even if it would happen only once, I would love to join some casting directors at an audition. All I would do, is stare at my shoes.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Yes or No ?

   I like Improv, in the sense of Applied Imrovisation  for therapy, training, mediation, whatever. It all began when I first heard of an Improv player, who saw the similarities between Son-Rise and Improv. And he decided to use Improv for his son, a little boy with 'classic autism'. In need for moreplayers, he started to 'deploy' other Improv players and this is the root of a wonderful initiative. It started with Artists meet Autism and now Deniz and Christiane Dohler share their experience in dealing with autism through AuJa.  Here's a small tribute to the Dohler's work. That is.. as soon as people start reading this blog.

   Improv teaches you about the impact of saying 'Yes! And...' to things instead of  'No', 'Yes,but ...' or even just 'yes... [without any follow up]'.
   Saying Yes! sets things in motion. You may not end up where you thought you would, but at least you'll end up somewhere. Possibly even at a better spot than you imagined. And you have been experiencing life all that time.
   All the other responses block the flow of your creative river. It means you have to come up with something else, something better. And if you block plans frequently -habitually?-,  you might even stop making up new plans. Then you have 'desire without action', a great greenhouse to cultivate depressions!

   I have been thinking of the times I did not say Yes!  Crucial choices, I mean. I'not going to sum all of them up, only a few. Just to see if I can start you off, remembering some choices you've made.

   I've been asked to do my masters with Dr. Ubbels. A rocket launch from NASA Florida was going to be part of it. Wow!  everybody yelled. I was excited too. Played with the thought like rolling a pearl admiringly  in the palm of my hand, around and around.  But I said no. I stuck to the advise of one of my teachers: don't take it, if you don't want to be doing research on that subject for the rest of your career. That's a No I never regretted.   [Item: the launch was canceled later on]
   I've said  'yes but' a zillion times. There's one I'll always regret.  When I worked for my first official employer I met a colleague who traveled with the same bus as I did. He never spoke to me, but always greeted. I'm used to those types, my brother and son are the same.  Not talkative, but you know they're there for you when you need them. And I  was right. Once I had a problem with muscle cramps in my leg and no one noticed except for him. He offered to bring me home on his bike when we got out of the bus.  But I had already arranged for someone to pick me up, so I declined (cursed mobile phone).  After that  I asked myself if I wanted to get to know this colleague better. I answered myself:  "Yes, but let's do it after the summer holidays."  After those holidays, reading the staff magazine, I saw his photo .... among the obituaries. (he was only 47).  The obituary mentioned only his father and children, so he probably lived under circumstances that were comparable to mine.  Not having said Yes! on this occasion,  is what I still regret.
   There's a 'No' that I had forgotten about, until a little while ago. Looking back at it, I now blame my tactile defensiveness for it. I was asked  -yes I'm still painstakingly precise about being truthful-  by a professional cabaret artist, "H." to do audition for his company. H. even had his own theater.  I really loved the idea. I've been in amateur plays and had created "grandpa Craig"  for some 'non-public' evenings (for which H's  theater was hired). Because I was interested in auditioning, I was invited to watch a show. In which a young woman and H's partner  -a rather well developed person, shall I put it that way?-  did a song "Let's just cuddle" while lying in each others arms and petting each other profusely. The hairs in my neck stood up and all my nerves protested. Never, never, never! am I going to do a thing like that I thought and declined the invitation for the audition.  I did participate in some plays after that, but I always made sure the role didn't involve touching other people. 
  I wonder whether participating in H's company might have helped me become less defensive?
Hello JoAnne, you're still alive, you can still go out there and try to find out for yourself. Experiencing over thinking it out, right?  Well no yes, but you know I shouldn't or maybe some other time because I'm really busy with more important matters right now and who knows what else might come around got to be ready for that right I'll wait for another invitation and then I'll be all dressed up for opportunity knocking on my door never heard of knocking on opportunity's door...
   What are you going to say to your next opportunity ?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Stand-in Angels

A true story by JoAnne Lakefield

Forget not to show love unto strangers,
for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.
Hebrew 13:2

   “I'm sorry JoAnne, but I don't think that we are going to keep contact. We didn't do that 20 years ago, so I don't believe we will now. And my wife and I don't invest in meeting a person if we're not likely to continue the contact.” I was trying to make an appointment with a former youth-club member whom I hadn't seen for years, but ran into again at a hospital. We had exchanged phone numbers, but to what avail?
   “It's OK, I understand” I said, and added in my mind “But I pity you. We are 20 years further and what have you learned?” I remembered how I had learned about the influence a person could have on your life. Even if you met that person only once.
    Like that wholesome tavern that you run into, just when you are too weary and thirsty to continue your journey. Are you going to sleep under the stars because this might be a place where you'll sleep only once?


    After I had finished my study I never found employment as a biologist. But I've always liked to think up ways to stay in touch with my profession. One of those plans was to study bird foraging behaviour at railway stations and the distribution of species over the different large stations of the country. I had arranged with the railway companies that I could visit the stations without platform tickets -if these would be required-.
    And here I was, on a cold gray December morning, seated on a wooden bench at the middle platform of the railway station at my home town.Step one would be to figure out how to gather information at this station, that could be compared with the figures I expected to gain from others stations. What “tests” could I replicate at each station? All for the sake of statistics.
    Seated on my left was a young woman, about my age. Her train was not due yet, and she had decided to wait at this platform, since it was less cold than the platform where her train would depart. We exchanged a few amicable words and I fell back into designing my tests, making occasional notes.
    A woman, in a long black leather coat sped up the stairs leading to 'our' platform and she paced past us. All I remember is her face -mid forty I'd say-, her long wavy hair and the restless look in her eyes. She scanned the area and decided to sit down. On 'our' bench, on my right.
   “Oh please, don't let her talk to me,” I prayed in silence, “I'd like to get some work done, You know?” Maybe my prayer was heard, I don't know, but it definitely wasn't answered. The woman bowed over to me to ask if I could give her a cigarette. Being a non smoker I lacked the proper utensils. She shrugged and decided that sitting there and talking to me was just as good and she settled down for a chat. I tucked away pen and paper, resigned to sit out the arrival of her train.
    At first my left hand neighbour chipped in, but as the revelations of the older woman became more personal and dramatic, she withdrew from the conservation. When the other woman left us to buy cigarettes and lighter -no longer able to do without a smoke- she asked me if I knew the woman with the leather coat. Because of all the personal information she exchanged with me. Surprised at hearing that she was a total stranger to me, the young woman complimented me on my patience. And she excused herself, her train was about to arrive and she had to go to the next platform. Just as she waved to me from her platform, right across my bench, the restless lady returned. She took back the spot she had deserted and lit her cigarette. Our conversation continued.
   She introduced herself now and started telling me about her profession. She had been a nurse. In her time, a woman did not have a wide range of occupations to choose from. And her father, a doctor, had pushed her to become a nurse. She had always hated it. This woman clearly had no intention to take a train yet. She obviously wanted to unburden herself. So I resigned myself to my fate and to my own surprise, I offered to buy her some coffee. The booth was just around the corner, so in less than no time I returned with two carton cups with coffee. She thanked me profusely and while we sipped the extremely hot stuff, she continued telling me about her life. She lived in an apartment near the station. She lived alone, but occasionally invited homeless people and cooked for them. They could also take a bath at her place. But, she became grim, “These rats know I have an alcohol problem. They know they can easily knock me over and rob me. I never should have let them in, in the first place.” She told me some anecdotes that I will not spell out here.
   Suddenly she became quiet. As we emptied our cups, the coffee at a more agreeable temperature, a train arrived at the platform where we were seated. The brakes made so much noise, for a few seconds it was impossible to pick up our conversation. My eyes were directed at the train, but not really focused. I was just mulling over the woman's story 
   In a flash, like a dagger thrust into my chest, I realised this woman came to the station to commit suicide. No pictures, no voices, just plain 'knowing'. I turned my head towards her and she looked straight at me. “I don't even know why I came here,” she said. “I hate stations. My brother killed himself by throwing himself in front of a train”  I could only nod, not surprised, but touched nonetheless, that she brought up suicide. The affirmation of my flash of insight.
   “Look at me.” She pointed to her coat. “I really don't know what brought me here. I just left the house without getting dressed. I'm only wearing this coat with nothing below it.” That was true, she wore trousers, shoes and the coat. No more. “I really don't know what I was thinking when I came here.” When she got through gazing and shaking her head she calmed down and thanked me for the coffee and the conversation. She mentioned her address and asked me to visit her. “But ring the doorbell twice. And do it this week or the next. Else I've forgotten who you are and won't open the door.”
    I'm not one who makes false promises, but now I nodded just to make her feel better. She got up, to go home and get dressed. The restless pace was no longer in her walk.  While I watched her going downstairs a voice in me – untypically calm and peaceful- said:  “No Lady, I gave you this day, because you needed it. But it is not necessary that I will continue our contact.”

   I didn't retrieve pen and paper again. Just got up and went home. Two weeks later my own life was turned upside down, I was forced to make a choice I never thought I had to make. To become a single mother. No time left for bird watching, or visiting the woman I had met on the station.


    I'm not fond of the crappy talk about angels, but the idea that God uses us as temporary messengers* for our fellow human beings arose that day. I still believe it.
   We are all at risk of being stand-in angels.

                                                                                                                               JoAnne Lakefield

* = 'Messenger' is the translation of the word angel