Anne is all ready to sail home. She hopes to travel by steam boat or hot-air balloon. She has packed her bags, her books, and her many ointments (nothing but festering pond weeds and maybe some calendula). And she knows, oh! she knows fully well her future is nothing but bright and colourful.
We have been discussing her future, as so much of her creation had to deal with the past of her mother. I've told Anne countless times how brave her mother is, even though I know perhaps she doesn't consider herself very brave. So by telling Anne, I hope to have inspired her, to be just like her, to be kind, hopeful, strong, determined and above all truthful to herself.
Anne is at that age, that magical cusp of children when they venture into adulthood via teenagedom. With one foot rooted in the empire of their childhood, the daydreams about fairies, spellbinding castles, evil wizards, indomitable talking beasts, powers to make all the yucky go away…and the other foot planted tentatively into a future full of unknowns. Uncharted.
A tremorous heart, padded by her dreams and storytelling, that plods forward with open eyes, as big as saucers. Like walking in the forest at night, with nothing but moonlight to guide you. Squinting, trying to see where you are heading but only seeing things as they are upon you. That's how those teenage years felt to me.
I have shared many secrets of mine with Anne. I have told her stories, real and made up, we've spent mornings feeling regret and sadness, and many afternoons feeling joyful and satisfied. We have made flower crowns to pass time by, and sewn many little stitches on her clothes to feel productive.
We've eaten lots of toast, drank lots of tea, smelled lots of flowers and dreamed quite a bit too.
Anne is as much part of my life, my past, and my future, as she is of her mother. Two different women, apart by land and history, joined together by the hands of this little cloth girl. Two girls with violent pasts, one girl with a wool heart.
Though the stifling summer heat keeps us indoors and almost catatonic, Anne and I did venture into the garden many early mornings and late afternoons. There's really something to be said for these magical times of day. I never tire of meeting a day at its wake and its slumber.
Stepping outside in night clothes, in full daylight, is a regular occurrence at my house. I don't know about you, but even up in Canada we spent many hours plodding the garden, visiting the day lilies and the elderflowers, in nothing but a night shirt and some shorts. Only to run inside driven to near insanity by the black flies of course.
Here things are a bit more cordial, at least for now, concerning the mosquitoes.
At these times of the day we can enjoy each other, cranky moods all but vanished. We can be civilized, and take turns, offer chairs and even fetch glasses of water for parched throats. At any other time of day, even an asking glance grants you a stiff response and/or a nasty grunt. You can't be on your best behaviour when your whole face is melting.
Slit-eyed and rather grumpy, we head outside. "Oh! the sun is blinding", Anne says. "It's the end, the Sun is getting closer to Earth, we are all going to perish! And I never even got a boyfriend!!". Calm down, I tell her. It's just summer.
Anne acquiesces by the plum trees. Her curious bearing turns her inward. She starts noticing the lady bugs plotting through the leaves, the juncos chit chat, the song of a thousand frogs, the delicate beauty of dry, spent petals on the grass, the buzz of summer insects. Her whole body relaxes, and she listens. I do the same.
The garlic woods summons. A sombre crow heeds a warning. Compelled to watch her very own Lake of Shining Waters, Anne heads to the pond.
Embalmed weeds greet her. Pungent smells stop her. Her own indulgence makes her laugh. The incandescent waters mesmerize her. Dizzy with summer and life, she turns to me. She thanks me for making her, for letting her see this. I smile back. The pleasure was all mine my dear, I keep saying in my head, as I see her at times through the lens of my camera.
Very prone to sentimentalism when it comes to my work, I try to absorb as much of their smell while they are with me. I look at the body of work of these two hands, in the shape of boots, underwear, little ears, dresses (two!) and I try to to put their eyes inside me. Because I know, that once they leave this house, that's it. They will never be mine again.
I part with those feelings, I part with them, and I close the chapter. Thanking them so deeply for allowing me these many weeks to be their partner in crime, joyful and messy hours they were. Some days the tears are enough to mop up the floor. It's never sadness. Its raw emotion. Over the years I have come to accept this little ritual, it bothered me before.
I have accepted now that I am very emotional when it comes to my dolls, and that every time I make one, a part of me gets better. Learns something. There's progress.
With dolls like Anne, there is an enormeous amount of inner work. Childhood trauma, pain, memories. As I breathe those out, I relive those moments, and I try my best to set them free. To take strength from the valour of the person who requested the doll. To take after their example. And I always come out shaky, very undone. Stripped of my carapace, bare-boned, alive.
It's an organic process and I never know what or who is going to come out, both in the doll and in me. Dollmaking comes in a shroud of mystery. These parcels of wool flesh are absolutely full of manna for my soul. While it may be weeks or months before I can process all that Anne awakened, I will persist. Little mexican warrior.
When people ask me "what I do" is so hard to describe. A few years ago I couldn't even say I made dolls. I do, but that's not what I do. Can I say "I make vials for people's imagination, so that they can enjoy freedom in their busy lives?". Or "I use cloth and wool to recreate inner children". Or "I fashion little people in order to heal my life and become a better human". Or "I craft a life of intention by using my hands, laser-focusing my energy into dolls and stories". Or this one "I envision a life full of wonder, and I send people the biggest gifts of my heart so that they can feel it too".
We will never know what I should say. And perhaps saying anything like the above sentences would strike a chord with people, or send them running. Awkward dinner party guests they would be. But it's nevertheless a conversation I have, with me mostly. I do talk incessantly inside my hear, if only to keep myself in check.
My dear Pariz,
Although I have never met you in this so called "real life", I want you to know you are my friend now. A kinship awakened in me when I read your story. How could I've ever denied you this doll? The first day you wrote to me I felt sweat tricking down my spine and inner tremors shake my world. I knew then. That's why I said yes.
I know I tried, unsuccessfully, to steer you a little away. Maybe this other doll would be better suited for the age you wanted to represent…anticipating the inner work that a Petite Fig creates in me. There is always a tear of loneliness attached to their heart, the losing of their childhood. But I am very glad you didn't listen to me, because Anne needed to come out like this. In such form, with such grandeur.
Her sun-warmed cheeks represent your California summers, your trips to the pool, to the library. Her soaring eyes change with the light, I promise. Her sheepish grin is full of mirth and mischief. Her old-fashioned clothes and her ingenuity reminds me of the feeling of being with Grandma. That all-knowing, full loving mother.
She has grand ideas, and big hopes (as big as rocks she says) inside her heart. She hopes to become an initiate in this life by way of bramble bonfires, with chants to the heavens and many scraped knees. Dig up those old devils and make them sing and dance with us! feed them honey and oats, and let them go away in peace and laughter. Away with them.
If you have given me one thing, dear friend, is this: we are never too old to mend.
Here is Anne, from my hands to yours.