Short Story Series 2: Down by the River – Part 2

[…continued from Part 1]

I didn’t have to wait long before Barbara, Carla’s mom, came out to greet me.

“Hi Blake. Welcome back!”

“Good morning, Barbara. Thanks.”

“I’m sorry to hear about your mother’s passing six months ago,” she said. “I know she would have rather seen you move back here when she was around – she always talked about your family.”

“Yes, I do think she was lonely since my dad passed away several years ago. I just couldn’t move back here yet.”

“Carla said you had a question for me?”

“Yeah…what can you tell me about the history of the church by the bridge at the edge of town,” I asked?

“Why do you ask?”3

“The property hasn’t changed a bit in over 15 years. It’s well maintained, never seems to be active as a church should be, doesn’t get visitors. For some reason, I was afraid to ask as a kid or maybe I did and never got an answer. Now, frankly, I’d want to know more about it. And what’s this about magic stones nearby?”

“I see my daughter’s been talking to you,” Barbara said with a tad of disappointment.

“The place has been quiet for several decades. There were some rumors about magic rocks, but after what happened back then with those kids, everyone in town has just become silent.”

“What kids? OK, Barbara. Tell me, what happened,” I said with a polite yet, slightly demanding tone.

Barbara looked around at the other tables, then at the door, and finally at the kitchen glancing at her husband working in the back. Then she sat down across from me placing both of her arms on the table.

“Look, Blake, I’ll tell you what I know, but you need to stay away from the church and keep your family away from the property if you don’t want trouble.”

“What trouble?”

“There were rumors that started even when I was a kid, that if you looked long enough along the river’s edge, you might find a small piece of red sandstone, like the large blocks the church was built with. They were supposedly very special rocks. Now, I never saw any of those rocks and no one I knew back then did either. But, about 20 years ago, there were a few groups of kids who went in search of them and it resulted in tragedy. A few of them went mad. One of them went to an asylum and, as far as I know, she is still there as an adult. One young man killed someone and then jumped in the river and was never found.”

“I don’t remember that.”

“That’s because the priests or clergy associated with the church spoke to the authorities and it just went away – like it never happened.”

“What does that have to do with the stones? Do you honestly believe the stones caused the tragedies,” I asked?

Barbara took another survey of the diner and then leaned in a little closer, and spoke a little softer.

“The rocks were reported to have the ability of taking away all of your negative feelings, leaving you…well, the kids called it a ‘high’, like a drug one could get addicted to. You were supposed to take one of the special red sandstone rocks, hold it in your hands, and mutter some mumbo jumbo. Supposedly the rock and the person holding it went into some kind of resonance. Afterwards, the person was supposed to throw the resonating rock into a very specific part of the river. If the rock went in the right place, the river would take the negative energy away, leaving the person…well…feeling great, peaceful and, some say, powerful.”

“Ha! Well, if you believe in that sort of thing, what’s wrong with that,” I asked? “It’s seems harmless enough.”

“Maybe. However… it is said that if the rock doesn’t go into the river in exactly the right place, the negative energy it absorbed rebounds back to the person who threw it, having multiplied the dark energy many times. Depending on the size of the rock, the dark forces could drive someone irritable, angry, mad – I mean crazy! And, even larger rocks could cause death.”

“Barbara, I’m sorry, but that’s a little farfetched.”

“Most people think so. There have been no reports of rocks being found since then. The only testimony given to the police was from one of the kids who survived only to suffer a permanent headache. Days after the tragedy when he talked to the police, he was seen talking to one of the clergy from the church. He then retracted his story about the rocks and insisted in was made up. He never spoke of his ordeal again.”

“This kid – this man – where is he today,” I asked?

“His name is William Kegan. He’s a night janitor at the high school. He keeps to himself, talks very little, and the only place in town I’ve ever seen him is at the library. I don’t think he’ll talk if you’re thinking about visiting him.”

“Well, I’ve got nothing to lose. I think I’ll pay him a visit tonight.”

Just as I spoke, Barbara’s husband walked in with my order. He set it down on the table and silently gave Barbara a stern and reprimanding glare. At that point, she looked at me and smiled. She lightly slapped the table with both of her hands as she stood up and said, “Good talking with you, Blake. Again… welcome back!”

With that she walked away. I had a breakfast – more like brunch – to eat. And, I believe I had made intriguing plans for the evening.

To be continued…

© 2018 Michael Armenia

Short Story Series 2: Down by the River – Part 1

Short Story Series 2 : Down by the River – Part 1

I don’t know how many times I crossed the Paketka River walking to school in my youth. There was a sandstone bridge far above the raging waters descending from some natural falls not far away. I enjoyed looking at the marvelous church that stood off to the side and set back toward the river bend. It was made of the same red sandstone only with larger blocks, not a single one of which could be carried by one man alone. It was quite majestic. Daily my head would turn toward the manmade monolith as my stride continued forward. Only occasionally did my toe stumble a bit from the distraction. And even when the winds voiced themselves loudly through the willow trees on the grounds, you could still hear the river’s rapids distinctly. I always imagined they were having a conversation.

The church was not very old, 18th or 19th century, and all the years I grew up there, I never knew it to have a mass or service of any kind. I figured it was a cloistered abbey of some sort. There were always one or two monks around the grounds or in the church, but their order was never clear. The doors were never open and I don’t think visiting was allowed, although a tall person could peak at the nave through the windows which were stained glass in appearance. Oddly, every pane was amber in color. They depicted no imagery or symbolism whatsoever. There were pews visible inside and cast iron chandeliers, but no ornamentation to speak of.

This much was from my childhood perspective.

As time passed, I returned to the village to live with my family and my son traced the very steps I did when I was his age. In the heart of fall, shortly after the school year began, my son asked me to walk with him to school just for the company and I was astonished at how the appearance of everything had not changed – it was just as I remembered. The trees seemed the same, the gardens, and even the sound of the river. It was beautiful. As an adult now, I was curious and a bit less shy. So, I thought that an investigation into the history of the church was long overdue.

After leaving my son at his school, I strolled into town to eat at the local diner which served food all day, every day, since my grandparents first moved to the village. The food was quite excellent and the staff fairly talkative because not many visitors come that way. I strolled in and, finding only a few customers, had my choice in seating. I chose a booth preferring that to a table.

“Coffee, Blake” the waitress asked as she gently placed a menu before me?

“Yes, thank you, Carla. I don’t need the menu though. I’d like three eggs over-easy, toast, and hash browns, please.”

Carla, who was a sophomore at a nearby college, smiled and walked away back to the kitchen to where her father was cooking. Her parents owned the place. When she came back with the coffee pot, I decided to ask her what she knew about the church.

“Carla, do you know the history of the church by the bridge?”

“Not really. Why?

“Well, I grew up here and remember it well, looking just like it does today. But, I never saw services there in my youth or any people visiting. So, I’m wondering if it’s a monastery or cloister of some kind and I’m curious as to who has maintained it so pristinely all these years?”

“All I know is a little about the magic stones down by the river. The church is a mystery to me. But, my mom knows a lot more, I think.”

“What’s this about magic stones,” I asked?

“Well, there is a local legend that the hand-hewn stones the church was made from were cut from a quarry near the river’s edge, about a half mile from the church. Although that old quarry is mostly overgrown now, every once in a while you may find small red sandstone bits along the riverbank.”

“And what is so magical about them?”

“Honestly, I have no experience with this – I’ve never found one – but…. plenty of people have, and they claim that a person can put all of his negative thoughts into the stone and throw it in the river. The river feeds on the negative thoughts and the person, feeling instantly better, finds inner peace, at least for a while. It’s said to be a respite from life’s harshest trials.”

“Can you tell me more,” I asked?

“Let me get my mom. She made me promise to never look too much into the church – that there was some danger there. I’ve always listened to her and have been quite happy to just admire it from the bridge like everyone else. Mom will probably tell you more than you want to know.”

To be continued…

© 2018 Michael Armenia

Short Story Series 1 – Part 6 (SSS1-6 Conclusion)

[…continued from Part 5]

A month passed and I received my first letter from Lydia. She had immediately begun to write me on the flight to Paris the day after we parted. She had so much to say, but wanted to assure me that she would send me photographs of her work, particularly the zodiac sculptures which she sold to Adrian. She told me about her shared studio space in Boulder where she kept her belongings with her friend from the university. And she explained how I should expect a package of photographs from her friend on her behalf, because the negatives were in Boulder and it only made sense to have her friend make copies and post them to me. Upon reading Lydia’s letter, I immediately wrote her in return. I told her how I accepted Adrian’s contract to design his massive lair in Mykonos, Greece and would begin drawings later in the year. I also wrote about how I gleaned more about her from taking her Aunt Kathleen out to lunch a few times.

After a few weeks, I received the envelope from Lydia’s friend in Boulder. The photographs of the sculptures were phenomenal despite Lydia saying that they wouldn’t do them justice. The details of the bronze finish were so exquisite although exactly what the texture was like I couldn’t say without actually seeing them. There was a mixture of patches of muted patina and patches of polished bronze with markings. I knew somehow that I would see them one day; I only wondered when.

I could not help wondering when I may see Lydia again. She wrote a few more times about a month apart with little news about her commission. I also received one postcard from a day when she took a break to visit the great Gothic cathedral of Chartres. But in the fifth month of her stay, a heartbreaking letter arrived. Lydia had met someone, Pierre, a French philanthropist who fell in love with her art immediately and, in no time at all, with her. I don’t blame him. How could anyone not fall in love with Lydia? And, as sad as I was for our now unlikely future together, I couldn’t blame Lydia either. “You should live in the present and follow your heart,” she would say. At this news, I wanted to cease corresponding, at least for now, because I was hurting and still trying to reconcile my heart’s desire and my intellectual decision to not follow her to Paris.

Lydia’s last letter from Paris that year came just after her commission ended. She was engaged to be married in France. Suffice it to say, I was not invited to the wedding nor could I have attended for emotional reasons. It was a small private affair at Pierre’s family estate in the south of France, a small coastal village near Nice.

I did actually get to see Lydia again. It was at the Adrian’s housewarming, a soft opening and private showing of her zodiac sculptures two years later in Mykonos. I had flown in just for the event as did Lydia and Pierre who I then met for the first time. And I must say, Pierre was quite a fine gentleman. He made Lydia happy – that is what truly matters.

Adrian wanted us both there because he wanted to show his friends the faces, the heart and souls, behind the design of the house, particularly the foyer, and the artwork on display. But, he didn’t see it merely as art on display. Neither did Lydia. It was a vision, an alchemy experiment, realized within his home that resulted in something larger…something beyond the material. The room was a symphony for the senses: the sculptures not only pleased the eyes, but they vibrated with warm and cold sensations to the gentlest caress by hand – and Adrian, encouraged the tactile experience. One could hear music playing; and not sensing the origin for the varied direction of the sounds, some people thought the sculptures were singing. Adrian’s designer selected some fragrant live plants that harmonized in the most intriguing way with the lingering metallic scents from the copper and weathering steel water fountains. That experience – that sensational ecstasy – was the moment that I ironically ceased being a professional architect.

From then on, I needed more to feel happy than anything architecture alone could provide.  I was, however, convinced that devotion to the fine arts, specifically painting, was the most efficacious path for my expression – my transformation – of life’s experiences into something productive, something new, something…more than the sum of the parts. And, now the contractor must be my soul, not the pursuit of money. I would no doubt survive. At that moment, a few years too late for Lydia, I had confidence in my ability to thrive on integrity of the heart.

Before I left Adrian’s house, Lydia approached me. We hugged tightly. I wished her and her new husband well.

It has been 40 years since I first met Lydia. In that time I never married, although I had several relationships.  A few sporadic letters came over the years expressing how much she valued our friendship and had an eternally burning ember for me within her infinite heart and boundless unconditional love. I, too, had an eternally burning ember for her. That was never a question.

The last letter I received from Lydia was two weeks ago. At the age of 67, she had become a widow with no children. Pierre had died of cancer over six months ago. With all of her family, including Kathleen, having passed on, she was all alone. Sharing all of her feelings about her love for Pierre and her love for me, she made it clear that she did not despair. She felt totally blessed in her life. Her last paragraph had the potency to once again change my life. It read as follows:

Patrick, I fell in love with you when I met you. I never fell out of love with you. I also fell in love with Pierre. He was a loving and faithful husband. My only regret in life so far is not having children. It just wasn’t meant to be. Some things are ‘meant to be’, though. I always knew you and I were ‘meant to be’ together even though the timing and circumstances may not have seemed to synchronize as we expected. Patrick, I believe Pierre and I were meant to live together; but, I think you and I were meant to die together – that is to say, pass our end days in the comfort of each other’s company. I want you in my life…for the rest of my life. I beg you to consider coming to France and living with me. I left Pierre’s family estate behind. It was too big for me. But, I purchased a charming house as large as my Aunt Kathleen’s house, if you can remember. The only thing that can make me happy now is you. Please come play chess with me – I promise to let you win!

I hesitated at first having such an important decision to make.  I could either, drop everything and leave for France that night, or I could get a good night’s rest and leave tomorrow. Either way, I was determined to join Lydia and that I did!  I began writing this story on the eve of my flight and I’m ending it now from her balcony, overlooking the Côte d’Azur after a sweet breakfast with both the love of my life and the one that got away!

THE END


© 2018 Michael Armenia

Short Story Series 1 – Part 5 (SSS1-5)

[…continued from Part 4]

“Earl Grey would be wonderful. Thank you,” I answered. “I love your imaginative analysis and it sounds like it would be satisfying. But, how am I to earn money? As an artist, I would never have afforded my house next door, at least not at the age of 30 when I built it five years ago.”

“Is that house really important to you,” she asked? “Or, do you simply need a domain to call home?”

“Well, I did design it, but I am not attached. My point is that money is necessary for survival.”

“No, Patrick. Granted, it makes life easier, but an easy life doesn’t imply a life of purity, virtue and soul-satisfying integrity, let alone happiness. Anyone – and I mean anyone – who applies themselves to a deliberate choice wholeheartedly and steadfastly, will prevail. The money will come. It has no choice because the opportunities will come. The universe will manifest your true intentions. You will learn in time to be open to those opportunities. And, as long as you never sacrifice your values, you will encounter that elevating release you spoke about, a catharsis in every work. Being alive is easy. Thriving takes work, but with your cauldron you can transform work into play. A person should labor, but labor with love. Love is everything. Love.”

“Lydia, you have this all figured out at 27, don’t you? We could debate…but for what? I know you are exactly right! I haven’t been truly happy as an architect since my first assignment. But, I can tell you that Adrian’s lodge was something extraordinary. I did take that to heart. My mind was never on money during that project. No other client has ever let me be so original in my work. For that experiment, I think Adrian was my Philosopher’s Stone.”

“I KNEW you understood alchemy better than you let on,” Lydia quipped.

“I’ve quite the interest in alchemy and the spiritual alchemists of the Renaissance and Enlightenment. I just never thought of taking the concept outside of the laboratory or a spiritual path. I can’t believe, Lydia, how much you have just opened my heart and have blown me away! Thank you!”

By then she had returned to the sectional and, again sitting beside me, took a slow sip of tea while looking me in the eye.

“You know something I really like about you, Patrick?”

“What’s that?”

“You let me pierce your soul. You let me look into your eyes without yours darting away. Most people can’t do that for long. You give me time to swim in that sea of your brilliance.” She paused for a moment, and then, “ I, too, am enamored with you. Are you…are you seeing anybody right now?”

My heart raced and I said, “Well, no!”

“OK. This may sound absolutely crazy, but I want you to consider it. After a short pause, she burst out with this: “Come with me to Paris! If not tomorrow, shortly after. Take six months to consider a change from the construction of buildings to the exploration and expansion of your heart and soul. You can stay with me. I want to know you as much as you want to know me, I assure you.”

“Oh my God, Lydia. That…that sounds fantastic! But…I…can’t just leave my active projects behind. If I had no work, I would go in a heartbeat! I have two buildings under construction and drawings on a third due in one month, with meetings every week. I could not do that from Paris. I can’t just walk away from that. It would destroy my reputation and future work.”

“I’m not going to try to convince you, Patrick. I love your integrity. You see, that is precisely what would ensure that you will succeed in true happiness. However, one does have to make a leap of faith from one path, financial security, to the roller coaster instability of life as an artist. It is this risk and the discomfort of the risk which often prevents people from seizing opportunities. Sadly, they never know how truly happy they can be.”

“I wish I could. I really do.” I was feeling quite dejected. She lifted my chin up slightly, quickly kissed me and said, “Now, how about that game of chess?”

We played three games until nearly midnight. I won the first game. She won the second. We tied the third. Clearly she was an expert as well. I wasn’t distracted that much even though the butterflies in my stomach were fluttering the whole time. I knew I would not walk away from my active business deals. It’s not who I was. But, at the same time, I knew this woman was meant to be in my life. I wanted to live together with her, to face life’s obstacles with her just as much as to enjoy the pleasures. I felt like I was making a stupid decision. My heart said it was wrong, but I followed my brain. For me at that time, integrity was an intellectual virtue. I did not yet understand integrity of the heart.

After the chess, I thought I should leave, even without saying goodnight to Kathleen; there was no sign of her all evening. Lydia could bid farewell for me. She had a morning plane to catch and I didn’t know that earlier, or I wouldn’t have kept her up so late. We had an emotional kiss on the front porch before I walked away.

Lydia said, “I will write you. I will send you those photographs. You will write me. I’ll keep you updated on my commission and maybe we can see each other in six months.”

The moment seemed so cliché, but there was always…always a light of hope that never extinguished.

To be continued…

Is this the end? Will Lydia and Patrick ever meet again?
Stay tuned for the conclusion!


© 2018 Michael Armenia

Short Story Series 1 – Part 4 (SSS1-4)

[…continued from Part 3]

Lydia continued, “So, you mentioned the word magical and, frankly, I did start each work with a little sympathetic magic. And I played on my own symbolic and emotional attachment to the constellation as well as my own personal traits and incorporated that into the process. It’s all perhaps a bit complicated and boring…”

“No,” I interrupted, “please go on.”

“Well, I began with the obvious position of the stars and the familiar constellation shape as we in the west now see Pisces. I took, as seeds, not the symbol of two fish entangled, but the pattern of the major stars as seen from earth. Considering their mass and relative sizes, I began sculpting clay spheres to represent the stars, concentrating in my mind on each one as they were made. I attached them to a wire frame. In my mind, my intentions were to represent Pisces and at that time it was indeed Pisces to me. I began this at a time when the sun was in Pisces, in the middle of the stretch at the beginning of March. I also worked on it only at night when the constellation was visible. From this point on, the sculpture would be transformed and likely no longer resembled anything like a constellation.

“The next phase involved an enormous amount of intuition and papier-mâché. I took my time familiarizing my hands with the clay stars, their size and positions and I did this for about an hour with my eyes closed, meditating on Pisces and the space that was created by the constituent elements. Then I applied the paste-laden paper to the balls in a very organic way and let the overall bridging shapes between them take form on their own. When I liked what I felt and finally saw, I moved on and continued this way until I had a solid abstract form with a single contiguous surface. When the paper was dry and firm, I covered the entire sculpture with a one-sixteenth inch thick layer of clay. Surfacing the clay with textures, patterns and symbols was a very important and personal process.

“From that point, I made a mould and I used the lost-wax process to create bronze sculptures which would finally be mounted. That is the abstract sculpture the viewers at the gallery surveyed.”

“Lydia, that is so brilliant – what a loving way to create a piece of art.”

“The only way,” she added. “This process imbued them with something quite magical, I think”

“And you did all of the other zodiac signs that way?”

“Absolutely. Each one took about a full week to model and cast. Three months of work stretched over an entire year, of course, to take advantage astrologically. You know, Adrian, loved the idea so much that he bought them and has commissioned a chess set. Normally, I would have rejected such an assignment, but I adore chess. Do you play?”

“At an expert level,” I replied.

“Can we play,” she asked?

“Maybe later. I need you to tell me why you called me a skilled alchemist, why you showed me the gorgeous sky tonight, and told me of your sculpture series which I can only imagine is breathtaking. I’m holding you to your promise to send pictures!”

“It makes me feel so good that you like my technique and want to see them.”

“To be honest, Lydia, I have to share something with you. I’m a little overwhelmed – in a wonderful way, mind you.”

“By what?”

“By you! I said, as she smiled. “You know when you opened the door to Kathleen’s house this evening, I – I had such an unbelievable sense of – I can’t explain it – everything about you is so magnetic that I am drawn to you.”

Smiling, visibly delighted, she put on her index finger on my lips to shush me for a few seconds. When she withdrew it, in a movement quicker than the eye, she  kissed me, but ever so gently with her eyes closed, as if trying to intuit something with only her heart and her lips. Then she pulled back a little, saying, “Was that OK?”

Instead of an answer, I put both of my hands firmly on her cheeks, pulled her face back toward mine, and kissed her for about a minute, though my recollection of the experience seems like it was an eternity.

“It’s cold. Let’s go inside and have a tea while you tell me about alchemy,” I suggested.

Lydia looked me dead in the eye and smiled. She stood on the tips of her toes, said, “OK,” and collapsed back on her heels before leading the way with my left hand in hers.

“Please have a seat on the sectional,” she said as she walked me right near it, “and I’ll put water on for tea.”

Kathleen’s living room was very large as was her fireplace. The sofa and chair where we were sitting before is closer to the fire; and the sectional couch is closer to the middle of the room with a more direct view outside as well as Kathleen’s entertainment console. An array of independently dimmable pendant lights hung from the apex of the ceiling, each at different lengths casting shadows which could be interesting or distracting, depending on how the area was lit.

Lydia put on water and immediately came back to sit next to me at one corner of the sectional.

“Tell me, Patrick, why I felt dazzled by the wood inside Adrian’s lodge, particularly the exposed beams and rafters so exquisitely finished.”

“OK, I have to admit I am proud of that. I didn’t merely design the space and specify the layout of the wood, but I actually insisted that I, myself, select the pieces of wood to be used for each building member from the mill . It was the only way I could be sure of the patterns in the wood – the flow and size of the grain, if and where knots could be located, and so on.”

“And those patterns were part of the design, essential to the layout of everything else, as in synergy,” she presumed.

“Absolutely,” I stated.

“So, you were blending elements together to make something, more than just the sum of the parts, in order to leave an impression – visible and/or emotional – on the people who would be exposed to this construction.”

“Yes, isn’t that what architects do,” I asked?

“Not all. But, great artists, yes.”

“You think I am a great artist,” I asked?

“Yes!”

“But, you called me an alchemist?”

“Patrick, it takes a skilled alchemist to be a great artist. Think of the origin of the word alchemy or in Arabic, alkīmiyā, which means “the chemistry.” A lot of our science has its origins in early Arab world and alchemy was indeed the beginning of chemistry. Certainly the aim in the middle ages may have been the prospect of turning lead to gold, but in essence, alchemy is about transformation whether you look at it materially or spiritually.

“Such as the transformation of water to steam, which is what your kettle is doing over at the bar?”

We both burst out in laughter.

As she got up to get the tea, she continued, “The Vail Lodge is a spectacular work of art, Patrick. You should be proud.”

“Well, truly, it is the only design I’ve ever done in which I not only enjoyed every aspect of it, but I also had such a cathartic release that was elevating.”

“An ascension of your spirit,” she added.

“YES!”

“That’s my motivation, Patrick. If there is no ascension, no expansion, then there is contraction or stagnancy. And still waters breed mosquitos.”

I chuckled.

“When the process itself is transformative, you will have that feeling.”

“I’ve never had it in any other design,” I admitted.

“You can find it in any activity, Patrick. But, each of us has the propensity to serve better in some arenas than others. Forgive me for saying this, but…I think you would make a fantastic artist, and by that, I do not mean a mere artisan, someone who works for money. You have the heart of a pure artist, someone who needs to satisfy the soul. The spirit moves you to produce and you follow it: your productivity is birthed from inward reflection. It’s hard for an architect to do that, but of course it is done – Frank Lloyd Wright, Van der Mies, Corbusier. Their clients didn’t hire them to design buildings; their clients said, ‘Please give me a Corbusier and I will pay you’ or ‘I want a Frank Lloiyd Wright, please and thank you!’ You will do well as an artist, producing…no…transforming the world around you inside your cauldron; and you will be much happier. …Earl Grey alright?”

To be continued…

© 2018 Michael Armenia

Short Story Series 1 – Part 3 (SSS1-3)

[…continued from Part 2]

“And while I’ve just had the pleasure of meeting you today, Patrick,” she continued, “I have to say that I have met your soul through your work already and didn’t even know it.”

“Excuse me?”

“Yes. Shortly after Adrian bought my sculptures, he invited me to his lodge in Vail to discuss a commissioned work. I was blown away by his amazing house. That was you! I can’t believe it,” she said with open mouth.

“Thanks, well, his interior designer is the truly amazing talent.”

“No,” she interrupted. “The architect of that house knows form and flow. It’s truly alive even when empty. Marvelous!”

She stopped talking. Her mouth left curiously open, not agape, not shut. But, she didn’t know what to say. I felt a transfer of energy from her eyes. I wanted to just stare, but that would have been awkward so I interjected.

“Tell me something what you learned from Mies, one of the 20th century’s greatest modern architects.”

“Oh my,” she sat back and grabbed her martini, taking a tiny sip before continuing. “OK. Naturally, Mies is known for his own work. But, the spirit of his ilk – the likes of and especially Frank Lloyd Wright and Corbusier…yes, Corbusier – that spirit brings life to the industrial look. I mean, it may sound silly, but when I look at a Corbusier, I may say to myself, ‘how will it comb its hair today?’  You can just move one of his chair designs a little askew and it takes on a new personality…as if it has style itself.”

She erupted in a charming laughter then took another sip of that martini. I, too, admit that was funny. And I knew exactly what she meant, although I don’t know how to explain it. Then she continued, “Look, a lot of people find Brutalism cold and sterile, but I don’t see it that way and you could say that Mies helped me to find the warmth. And, frankly, the most important factor with warming Brutalism is lighting design.”

“Oh, I agree. Listen, Lydia, you have me quite disadvantaged. I would like to know about your own artwork. Are you showing anywhere?”

“Not at the moment. For the last year, I’ve only done commissions. I’d be happy to mail you some photographs though.”

“That would be great. I’d love to see them.” I wanted to change the subject to find out more about her personal life. “Where are you visiting from, Lydia?”

“I was guest lecturing at the University of Colorado in Boulder for a friend of mine on the faculty. Now, I am on my way to Paris for a commission, a six-month-long installation integral with a building that is being constructed. I decided to spend a few days with my Aunt before flying from Denver tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow! Wow!” My heart sunk almost like I lost a loved one.

Such emptiness consumed me at that moment. There was no time to really get to know her. Yet, I thought to myself, “I am already in love. But, I don’t believe that love at first sight can be true love. I need to know how and what she thinks. Is she religious? A zealot? Is she political? An activist? What is her ultimate goal in life, personally and professionally? Does she want kids?” So many voices in my head were yammering at that moment and I had to shut them up somehow. The least I could do is get her contact info…

She blurted one step ahead of me, “Can I get your contact information, Patrick? I suppose I won’t see you again before I go. And, I don’t want to lose touch with you.”

“Of course,” I answered trying to cover my desperation.

“I’m sorry about that,” Kathleen’s voice echoed as she returned to the living room with a never-ending ceiling. “Listen. I must make several phone calls to stop our number-one fundraising event from being cancelled. Will you two be OK talking among yourselves for a while?”

We both smiled and said nearly simultaneously, “No problem!”

I didn’t really know what Kathleen did, but she was a social butterfly.

I used the energy of the interruption to shift the conversation. “What motivates you, Lydia? Surely money is not a driving force, but I imagine you do fairly well.”

“I do. I’ve done well at networking despite being a private person. I guess I’m lucky. A commission always seems to arise just before I need the work. Only it’s not really ‘work’ after all. I only choose to be retained if I feel I am being paid to play. Besides, I don’t have many expenses. I don’t have a home and I’m free to travel. But, the force that drives me? I just have to feed my soul. I must be productive…creative. But, I always follow my heart. There’s a cauldron inside me. I have to make something out of the experiences I have or else that cauldron overheats.”

“What will you make out of our encounter this evening,” I asked?

“Something amazing I am sure! I know you are the same, Patrick. I’ve seen the house in Vail you did for Adrian. You gave him the number of rooms he wanted, but I know he gave you freedom and you did something amazing yourself. You…are a skilled alchemist!”

“I am?”

“Sure,” she said as she took my hand and put it in hers filling me with ecstasy. My heart pounded as I melted. “Come,” she said as she stood up. With both hands she pulled me up, taking a few steps back in her bare feet, then leading me to the sliding door of the deck. It must have been unlocked because she opened it quickly with one hand, then with both hands again she took mine and we walked up to the railing. Then she let go and pointed to the stars.

It was already dark when I arrived at Kathleen’s house. Oddly, I didn’t notice the sky on my walk over and that’s saying something. Out there in the mountains, there was no light pollution and the Milky Way was a spectacular site on an average day.

“That is Taurus. You’re a Cancer, aren’t you,” she asked?

“Yes,” I smiled.

“I knew it. I’m a Taurus. It happens that the twelve sculptures I sold to Adrian were depictions of the zodiac.”

“The Pleiades are so distinct this evening,” I said.

Her jaw dropped. She then took my right arm between her left and her body and hugged it, saying “You know your astronomy!

“Well,” I said, “I dabble!”

“So, before I met Adrian, I had something stirring in me, something that had to come out. An artist will tell you that if you’ve got the itch, you have to scratch it. With my heart open to better understanding astrological influences, I felt I needed to explore the sky unlike other artists have previously. “

“What do you mean,” I asked?

“Well, since the first landscapes appeared, lunar or stellar for that matter, artists have painted the phases of the moon, or a constellation of stars, or they may have depicted Taurus as a bull – these are too representative, imitative of nature even if done with a distinguishing style. I felt the need to be more symbolic, personal and powerful, and with the right influence. When an observer looks at my sculpture, she may not necessarily know what she is looking at intellectually; she may find it abstract. However, it is imbued with a magic such that she will ‘feel’ what it is in her heart and soul.”

She paused briefly, taking a deep breath from her building excitement, and then continued, “At a public showing I did an informal research survey shortly after my first work, Pisces, was finished. I asked ten seemingly unrelated questions to the myriads of people who attended. One was, ‘if this sculpture were a month, which month would it be?’ Others were, ‘if this sculpture were an animal, what animal would it be’ and ‘if it were a flower, what flower would it be? The important question was, ‘if this sculpture were a zodiac sign, what sign would it be?”

“And the results,” I asked?

“Several questions had a fixed number of possible answers – twelve months, twelve zodiac signs, 13 playing cards – that’s right I did playing cards…oh…and the 6 chess pieces as well! The other questions had no fixed number of answers leaving the person to be creative. The fact is that the answers had a broad distribution with no strongly favored results except one: the zodiac question. 37 out of 60 people taking the survey selected ‘Pisces’ for that question. Patrick, that is better than 50% of the people.”

“Wow. That’s an amazingly narrow bell curve.”

She was so excited to tell me this; she had grabbed both of my forearms with her hands ever so gently and looked me in the eye as if she had more to reveal. I could not have been more attracted to her than I was at that moment. But, I wanted her to continue.

“That’s nothing short of magical – how did you manage to create such a sculpture? Did you create the rest of the zodiac the same way? And poll viewers of those works? Wait! It’s chilly out here and you are bare foot.”

“I’m fine,” she said assuredly. “As to your questions…”

To be continued…


© 2018 Michael Armenia

Short Story Series 1 – Part 2 (SSS1-2)

[…continued from Part 1]

With a welcoming arm motion, Lydia indicated where Kathleen was located within the house. Of course, having visited numerous times I knew the house well.

I continued, “Hello, Kathleen. I brought you a gift of olives from my trip to Greece this past summer.”

“How nice – thank you! I’ll open them now. They’ll compliment the hors d’oeuvres perfectly. Martini,” she asked?

“Please.”

“If I may ask, were you in Greece on vacation,” Lydia asked?

“Not really. Though it was quite beautiful and relaxing. I was there to meet a client who wanted to familiarize me intimately with the location where his house would be built – I’m an architect.”

“Fascinating! I studied architecture for several years before committing to a Master’s Program at the Art Institute of Chicago.”

“Is that where you studied architecture,” I inquired?

“No. I studied at the Illinois Institute of Technology under Ludwig Mies van der Rohe just before he died.”

“Oh my God! How fortunate for you! I’m envious of that opportunity,” I said, astonished.

She continued, “I had a thesis in mind ever since I was in high school concerning the benefits to a society that lives with artful intention; that domiciles, office spaces, institutions could all feel like home when art and proper design is used as a catalyst. So, I obtained a BA in Fine Arts primarily as a sculptress, with degrees also in Art History and Sociology first. After a good foundation in architecture, though, I shifted back to Art History for my Master’s.

“My…how old are you,” I blurted? “I’m sorry. That was rude of me. It’s just that…you seem in your early 20s… you’ve done triple duty as an undergrad, and you’ve finished grad work?”

“Yes, well, I’m 27. It’s not rude at all. And thank you for the youthful compliment,” Lydia said and smiled demurely.

“Before you two immerse yourself too deeply in conversation about art and architecture,” Kathleen interjected, “please help yourselves to a plate of hors d’oevres and sit by the fire. I’ll bring your drinks in just a minute.”

Just then the phone rang. “Dammit,” Kathleen whispered, “I forgot to return a call earlier today and now I have to take this. I’ll be right back.”

“I’ll finish the drinks,” Lydia offered. And she swiftly moved behind the bar to take care of two martinis. “Olives,” she looked at me?

“Yes, please. Thank you.”

I was impressed with the comfort Lydia exuded, seemingly having little reserve and no trepidation with a stranger and total comfort as if this was her own home. I may have been misreading her body signals, but she seemed as though she really wanted to talk with me, so much so, that I wondered how much thought Kathleen put into this evening. Was she setting us up? Did she talk me up to Lydia, so to speak? Because the telephone invitation that afternoon was the first time I heard about her niece.

“Patrick, please tell me about your work – is it mostly residential?”

“Mostly. I’ve done a small town library, but the work I’ve been getting for several years is thanks to my older brother, Thomas, who has been a successful general contractor for decades.”

We walked over to the living area by the fireplace. I sat on the couch and she sat on on arm chair directly facing me. She set her martini on the end table, slipped off her shoes and sat with her legs crossed, put her hands together, as if she was going to meditate, and then looked at me most inquisitively.

“How did you meet your Greek client,” she asked.

“Through Thomas. I designed a Greek man’s sprawling lodge in Vail. In Greece, he’s planning to build a home out of which he can host large gatherings, private film showings, concerts, etc. His foyer will be 1000 square feet of gallery space. For once, I am excited about a project, but he hasn’t contracted my services yet.”

“What do you mean by ‘for once’,” she pursued?

“Well, residential work has been less than satisfying. Granted it can be challenging, but…I don’t know how to explain it. In favoring the requests of my clients, often their own imposing visions – which they are certainly entitled to demand – leaves my soul wanting. I suppose it is more that I craft solutions to problems for money rather than create spaces. It is just not fulfilling. This project, however, has the potential to be a work of art.”

Lydia said excitedly, “Oh, I know exactly what you mean. And, you see, this project of yours falls within the scope of making an institutional building feel like home.”

“How do you mean.” I asked?

“Adrian Michaletos,” she said assuredly, as a light bulb clicked on behind her beautiful eyes! Why didn’t I notice them before – her eyes – a dazzling emerald green.

“How do you know my client’s name, Lydia?”

“I believe he’s my client, too.” She laughed. “He purchased twelve sculptures of mine last year. He had them crated and stored awaiting display in his future home in Greece.”

“This has to be more than coincidence,” I muttered.

I forgot about my martini and the ice cubes had nearly melted. As if Lydia were not intriguing in her own right, her rapport with me was deepening the allure and mystery of what kind of soul was at the core of this young woman. I knew nothing about her except for the brief introduction into her academic education. I needed to find out more and sincerely hoped I could spend the rest of the evening talking with her alone. I wondered if Kathleen would get off the phone soon and interrupt this magic that was happening. I also wondered if Lydia, too, felt something between us, a resonance with me.

To be continued…

© 2018 Michael Armenia

Short Story Series 1 – Part 1 (SSS1-1)

I think it’s important for me to write every day, or as often as time allows, and that is not something I have ever done before. So without further ado, I will begin writing here the first installment of the first short story in  a series of short stories. (These are works of fiction. Therefore,  any resemblances to persons living or dead are merely coincidental. Just kidding! Or am I? No, it is. Or is it? Hmmm)

Short Story Series 1 – Part 1 (SSS1-1)

Snow had not yet fallen, but it was a chilly winter afternoon just after Thanksgiving in 1972 when I first met her, the one that got away.

The ringing of my olive green phone was muted from its resting spot on the coordinated orange and green, speckled shag rug that lay just in front of the glowing fireplace. It was my neighbor, Kathleen Thompson, a slightly older lady calling to invite me over for cocktails. Her niece was in town, didn’t know anyone, so, Kathleen thought I might like to make her acquaintance. We settled on a time that evening – six o’clock. When I put the receiver down, I was a little flushed for not really being in the mood to meet a young woman. But, Kathleen was a good friend and neighbor and I was happy to oblige. I could make small talk. I’d have a martini, try to smile and pass the time cordially.

Our houses were actually quite far apart. The region of the Colorado Rockies where we lived was laid out in parcels of five,  ten, even twenty acres and a visit to a neighbor was likely a walk of several minutes. But, it was always a beautiful one in any direction. Kathleen lived to the left and her roof was about 50 feet below mine. I could see it from my back deck. To the right lived Harvey Kettleman, a retired banker. The windy road we all lived on was paved, though you wouldn’t know it in the summer when the winds blew. After a tumbleweed race, it would be covered in reddish brown dirt. It actually looked kind of nice against a backdrop of blue spruce trees.

I was an architect. I say “was” because after Lydia “got away,” I quit the business and devoted myself to the fine art of painting, oil, tempura, and mischteknic. That was her name Lydia Talbot. Talbot was the married name of Kathleen’s sister.

Six o’clock nearly came and went without my notice. But, when my late grandmother’s grandfather clock chimed six times, I made haste and jumped in the shower for five minutes. I figured that as informal as this was, I could be a little late.

Kathleen’s house was a typical mountain A-frame house with four bedrooms and three and a half baths – something I notice, as an architect. I rang the doorbell expecting Kathleen to answer, but when the door opened I was just enamored by the beautiful young smiling woman who answered. I think I was in a trance. Her naturally colored lips seem to move in slow-motion, but I couldn’t hear what she was saying. I heard a few angelic harmonies in the ether all around me and she was glowing. I don’t know how many seconds it took for me to snap out of it, but I felt a strong magnetic force emanate from her when I extended my hand and introduced myself.

“My name is Patrick Kendall and I live next store.”

“Yes, Patrick. I’m Lydia Talbot. We’ve been expecting you,” she unhesitatingly countered.

I was tingling all over when, rather than let go of my hand immediately, she gently pulled me inside slowly releasing her grip as she shut the door with the other hand.  Then I was in the grip of her perfume, a fragrance unlike anything I’ve ever known. Only I’m sure it wasn’t perfume – it was her. At once subtle and potent. Fate was serenading my senses.

“Is that Patrick,” Kathleen shouted from the open kitchen in the center of the house?

“Indeed it is,” I replied! I needed an opportunity to break free from this debilitating enchantment. I mean, it was quite sublime but I had to maintain some decorum, keep my senses well-grounded. I did not know anything about Lydia or just why she was so absolutely alluring, but I was certain I would quickly grow addicted to her. I clearly would have my chance to know her this evening, if not ever again.

To be continued…


© 2018 Michael Armenia

What I’m reading this week…

Several years ago, a friend of mine asked if I had read the Ringing Cedars Book Series, suggesting that it would resonate with me regarding its spiritual qualities and back-to-nature theme. I had never heard of it let alone read it. Since among my library of reference books there were hundreds of books still awaiting a thorough read, I thought I would probably never get to them. However, when the nine-volume set (there are now ten) appeared before me in the flesh several weeks ago as fodder for an upcoming library book sale, I took it as a sign that I should read it now – and not just read it, contemplate and meditate on its substance. Despite setting aside a dozen non-fiction books which I should read over the summer of 2018 which would foster one my major writing projects, I committed to reading this series by Vladimir Megré first.

In brief, this is a book about nature and spirituality, a philosophy of living, loving and co-creating. It is portrayed by the author, a simple Russian entrepreneur, as his true and faithful experience of meeting a recluse in the Siberian forest. This most beautiful and goddess-like woman whose name is Anastasia is so fully actualized, she exhibits the wisdom of all the ages as well as apparent supernatural abilities, all of which she says is present in every human and actualized once we raise our awareness.

At the rate of reading one book every other day, I’ve just finished the fifth book out of the nine and I cannot wait to document the potentially life-altering material presented so far. I’m not going to review the series which has been published for nearly two decades now, first in its original Russian and then distributed worldwide in other languages including, of course, English. I will not write with respect to what I like about the books – which is most everything – or what I don’t like, only a few criticisms, mainly with regard to language, translation choices. What I mean to express here is why and to what extent this series is important to me.

Much of what she says resonates deeply within me, affirming my heartfelt intuition about so much. Regardless of what happened to the author, he was divinely inspired to share all of this information which I feel is of utmost importance for human beings to ascend spiritually before plundering themselves into material oblivion. Nature provides everything we need while our technocratic endeavors drive us further away from who we are – our true essence.

When I finished the fourth book, I was inspired. That volume had some remarkable revelations for me regarding my magnum opus, a work in progress. It  will be instrumental – inspiring to say the least – for dialog in the first few scenes of my epic historical drama which is under development.  My play which takes place in Renaissance Europe contains the most fascinating blend of historical characters.  The relationships between the characters has been fleshed out, and moreover the connection of their ideologies was firmly cemented in my mind after reading this book. There is amazing synchronicity at play!

Suffice it to say that the series has made such an impression on me that I intend to read this series next year in its original language, Russian. I studied Russian as a senior in high school. Because I’ve I pursued other languages since then, my reading comprehension in foreign tongues has spread quite thin. So, I intend to begin studying Russian online in the fall to establish reading fluency. I’ve the necessary textbooks at home as well. This will be fun to say the least.

It has been the most inspiring journey so far. Changes are afoot and welcomed. I am immersing myself in nature again and for all my family has been going through lately, I needed this spiritual grounding, a serendipitous and relevant follow-up to the last book I read, Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi.

So, if you are curious, pick up the first book titled Anastasia and absorb it cover to cover, for it is a very easy read. What you get out of it depends on how open your mind and heart are. Your potential is truly infinite!

Official Web Site for the Ringing Cedars Book Series

Poem: Auspices of and Early and Cold Winter

[Written on the morning of the first snow fall of 2017]

Nettle stalks,
Dead long since summer turned to autumn,
Standing taller than the average human,
Droop with the weight of freshly fallen snow
In the frigid air of early November.
Their arching tops,
With hanging clusters of dried seeds
dangling in temptation,
Encourage the robins, thrushes and towhees,
Who cannot alight upon them,
To mimic the in-flight dining rituals of hummingbirds.
Some seeds fall; fodder for a later time.
Further attempts to fill their beaks
From the ever-dancing perches
Ultimately prove fruitful;
And the birds fly off to a nesting cove
Of quieter warmth
Beneath the snow-laden fir trees
To digest their bounty.

©2017 Michael Armenia