January 2012

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Pancho’s Bullet

Cora met Pancho Villa when she was eight years old, at a party with her father, somewhere near her childhood home and the site of a great battle between his army and the Americans. The reason for her attendance, and more importantly, her father’s, a long unsolved mystery.

She often wondered if she’d dreamt it all, the funny Mexican with a larger than life mustache and hat. Were it not for the bullet, taken directly from his bandoliered chest, she’d have no reason to believe otherwise. But there it lay, cool in the palm of her hand, exactly as he’d placed it, so many years ago.

Spied from a distance, she became curious and stalked the great character, stealing glimpses from behind broad legs and skirts, and anything else capable of concealment. Though she never saw him take a drop of liquor, he ate and talked and laughed more than her father, which was quite a feat.

Despite these obvious distractions, the surveillance did not go unnoticed, and he turned and surprised her, facetiously asking if she was an assassin. She tried to flee, but could not, and he charmed her like all the ladies, mustache wriggling like a caterpillar. Before releasing her from his grasp, he ceremoniously removed the bullet and said it would protect her, as it had him against the backstabbing Americans. She didn’t dare tell him she was one of them, born and raised, before running off, quick as her legs could take her.

Since then, it had never been out of her possession, for twenty-five years a talisman and her greatest secret, kept hidden under her pillow, in a pocket, or the folds of her purse. She even brought it into the bath, afraid some calamity would befall her if it wasn’t within reach or the lead pressing firmly into her palm.

Then she met Clement, raven haired and handsome, a dazzling smile wide as the sky, and eyes wild for her, a spinster and hopeless cause, or so she thought. But there he was, smiling and joking at the library, eager for her help, eager for a word to spill from her lips and into his heart.

He was a crop duster, a daredevil of the sky, swooping in craven low loops and up, up again, and more at home there, curls whipping like wings, than nearly any place, save where Cora was.

They quickly found themselves married, and ecstatically so, with warm days spent on bicycles or their naked bodies tangled in clear lake water. In the cool of autumn and winter, she brought home books to read together before listening to records or their favorite programs on the radio. He sometimes took her out in his plane, sharing a glimpse of the world from God’s eye, despite her fears and a sincere belief that only birds were meant to fly. It was at these moments the bullet soothed her most, and, quite possibly, kept them both alive.

Then came The War and Clement’s fidelity to a certain ideal and his beloved country. He would be a paratrooper, and his body, not a cloud of chemicals, raining onto a faraway land.

She hated the thought, hated the epic distance it would take him, and worse still, what might happen. As his departure drew nearer, she wished for an answer, for something to keep him safe, the lead of Pancho’s bullet digging deeper into her skin, and for the longest time not realizing that it was the solution.

Then, on that fateful day, she said her goodbyes and pressed it into his palm, the story of its presence and a multitude of tears soothing her like a balm. He stood, at first mystified that she could keep such a secret, then grateful for all it meant, and hugging her with all his might.

On the day of Clement’s first mission, as the plane climbed higher and higher, Cora rode her bicycle down a favorite country road, missing him terribly. A crow, swirling high above, caught her eye, and as it swooped down, there was Clement, hand firmly over his breast pocket, a magic bullet, and a photograph of his beloved.

Art & Letters is a collaboration:

Story written by Colleen Sohn

Artistically interpreted by Maren Jensen




To live in hearts we leave behind,
Is not to die.

Thomas Campbell

Well, here it is, our Mary Poppins bathroom, practically perfect in every way. Remember that? I think it was written on her measuring tape.

I finally got the art on the walls and had halfway decent light. It only took six months, nearly to the day, since the whole project started, but getting all the right pieces was not so easy. So much so that I painted three myself, and made the domed whale, too.

The hubster made the cool looking screen over the window, so the neighbors won’t see us nekkid. It lets in the most marvelous light while also letting me bird watch. I’ve got my priorities straight. It will get some tweaks and a twin on the other window, but don’t fret, no one can really see in that one, unless they are actually in our yard, and then we have a problem, Houston.

Greg’s favorite piece is the ship. It’s a cross-stitch I designed to commemorate our wedding (almost nineteen years!) and sewed over many, many nights. It says, “On these seas, we sail together.”

The jellyfish and the whale I painted. Did anyone see that awesome documentary about the Sperm Whale on PBS? Goll-ee, my love for them was taken up a notch. They are amazing creatures.

I love it when the hubster sits on the bench, often with a cat on his lap, while I take a bath. He is such good company. We also like to leave notes on the chalkboard paint on the back of the door, a truly awesome idea, really. Butter!

The beautiful shower surround. We had an overhead light put in, so it is no longer cave-like. In it’s previous incarnation, our bathroom, and especially the shower, was quite dark.

Look how lovely the light is! So very bright, like bathing under the sun. The Little Man approves, too. He was meowing up a storm after I’d finished all of the photos, so I went back and took this of him. I guess he hasn’t quite gotten his fifteen minutes of fame.

If you find yourself wanting what I’ve got here and live in the Portland-Metro, give Alex from Western Oregon Builders a call, and tell him you want Colleen’s bathroom. He’ll know who you mean. Bless his heart, it might have been easier to take up residence in the guest room; he spent so much time here!

Fixtures, etc:

Rejuvenation: Porcelain Collection lights, switch plates, soap dish (the white one in the shower is original – the one item we kept), towel and toilet paper holders, fluted black glass knobs and pulls.

Kohler: Archer pedestal sink and commode, Memoirs faucet, tub spout, and shower fixtures.

Ballard Designs: Classic Bench in Arden fabric.

Land’s End: Organic Cotton towels in Light Paprika


Without meaning to, this week I watched two films (or fil-ums as I once read in an Irish novel) that involved the murder of a child. What the h-e-double-hockey-stick kind of coincidence is that, anyway? Despite the rather gloomy subject matter, they were quite good and had me rapt.

In Bruges, takes place in, you’ll never guess, Bruges! Or “fucking Bruges” as Colin Farrell’s character often says. He plays Ray, a hit man who makes the rookie mistake of murdering a boy along with his mark. He’s in Bruges with his partner and sort of mentor, Ken (the brilliant Brendan Gleeson), while they wait for the dust to settle back in London. I’ve seen this fil-um touted as a comedy, and while there are some humorous moments, don’t go in thinking that it’s going to be funny. It’s actually very melancholy and quite beautiful, save for the end. Avert your eyes, for there will be blood, my friends.

As Ray fights their exile, forever cursing the city, and Ken embraces it, happily taking canal tours and exploring some of the oldest architecture in Europe, both struggle to come to terms with their chosen profession, a sincere loneliness, and, most importantly, the loss of the boy. They meet an assortment of characters: a caring hotel owner, an obsessive gun runner, a stunning drug dealer, and an opinionated dwarf (or midget, depending), each bringing out the essence of Ken and Ray, how they got to this place, and hope for something more. It is lovely and thoughtful in its brutality.

Troubled Water is Norwegian and tells two perspectives of the same event. The life of Thomas after his release from prison for murdering the boy, and Agnes, the mother of the murdered child. Each takes half of the film and merge in the end.

It is almost a thriller and definitely a meditation on forgiveness and reconciliation. How can you ever move on from something so horrible? Thomas tries to start fresh by becoming an organist at a church, his playing a mesmerizing gift. He likes the female priest, and her son, Jens, takes to him immediately, despite Thomas’s protests. Perhaps he is not evil?

Agnes obsesses about Thomas and what he might do now that he isn’t behind prison walls. Is she safe, her husband, their adopted daughters? Then there are the last minutes of her son’s life, never knowing exactly what happened. The truth sets them both free and has the audience (or maybe just me) gasping for breath.


Be the Light

The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. … Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

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