you can still sign up for ireland

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I failed art in second grade. Miss C held me back from recess until I finished my finger painting. I had painted a stick person standing beneath a tree. The person at the time had no clothes on because I was letting the flesh-colored paint dry before I clothed him. Miss C said everyone knew you didn’t paint the flesh, you just painted the clothes. The shock. There were rules? I had had no idea there was no flesh beneath all the painted clothes in every painting in Room 5. I needed time to think about that.

I missed out on a week of recesses.


After mankind learned to make fire, we didn’t always know how to put the fire out. If evil spirits started the fire—and why not think that way—then beating a drum might put the fire out by scaring the spirits away. Five thousand years–that’s how long drums were beaten before we could think of using water.


Rules that make us judges. I wrote about this earlier, but it is still on my mind. A friend to Pope Francis is quoted as saying this is why the Pope works at avoiding so many rules. Judging can make us walk over a hungry body, thinking he got what he deserved.


My daughter teaches K-2 kids who need more time learning lifetime skills. She has fallen for them, as have I. At Christmas I was invited to Gingerbread House Day in her classroom. She paired me with a student whose name has since changed twice. His family is in transition. He and I were so involved in his gingerbread house, we never looked up to realize the other adults were making the houses while each assigned student looked on. I didn’t build the house, my student, Q, did. We had frosting on our glasses, wrists, ears, hair and not so much on the house. It didn’t look like a house, but a forest, growing, on a tinned sheet of ice.

Last weekend my daughter and I stopped by her classroom to pick up flowers she had left behind. The hallways were dark, the exit signs glowed red, the waxed floors shone. Had we looked down, we might have noticed we were both, suddenly, wearing Mary Jane shoes that could make clicking sounds if we skipped instead of walked. Outside her classroom, stapled to a cork board track, eight pieces of art greeted us. Her kids were learning about shapes, and from these shapes they were learning to fashion faces.  Seven construction paper faces and one without: Q had made a body, but was still thinking about the word, face.


The sky shines from within. – Peter Heller, “The Painter”


Behind us at our favorite cafe, one woman is singing to another two measures from a score—illustrating the clarinet solo from that morning’s rehearsal. Her song rises. It takes us out of our own conversation about how neither of us had known that the word, shone,  can refer to a girl who “f*cks easy.” This according to the Urban Dictionary found on our iPhone while debating the difference between using shined, glowed, or shone in the above story I was already writing in my head.

Our whispered “f*cks” and the other woman’s impromptu solo meet at the same moment and mingle. Seemingly so.  We smile. We hush. We drink our lemoned water.

” . . . It was just eight notes,” the singer behind us says, ” but I felt so good, you know? I mean, I felt physically good. I  . . . I glowed.”





About redmitten

author of Cracking Geodes Open, Making Good Use of August, and The Peppermint Bottle. poetry editor for IthacaLit. website:

7 responses to “you can still sign up for ireland

  1. Ah, Sherry, this is one of my faves. Wonderful musing on art and rules and judgments and belief in self. Thank you. Karla

  2. csbaehr

    This is so very good. Thank you.

  3. Love this. Ah, the things that “everyone knew.” And how did they know those things?? Nope, I didn’t know either. I would have been with you, painting the flesh first. Of course! I always did badly in art class also heh. Those were my worst grades. Well you saw my ceramic thing. Maybe those bad grades were justified. Hahahaha. I also did badly in Phys Ed which was funny because I was a semi-professional tennis player and champion runner over various distances at my school. But I couldn’t play hockey or volleyball to save my life, so. Rules. But I digress. Thank you for sharing your shine.

    • redmitten

      but your ceramic thing IS art. we could never stand in a straight line, right? let alone draw one. which leads to your running and not playing games.

  4. Oh wow, when I read the part about the fire and 5,000 years to think of using water I burst out laughing. I have missed you. My life blew up and I can’t even blog right now – but I was thinking about you today so I thought to catch up.
    I am trying to swim to shore right now — any shore. or a boat. Or maybe a piece of driftwood? I don’t know. 😦

    • redmitten

      katy, so good to hear from you! i’ve been missing you and coming to your writings to find you! catch me up with you, i have driftwood that can be used to stay afloat. (redmittengirl (at) yahoo (dot) com)

  5. “…we never looked up to realize the other adults were making the houses while each assigned student looked on…”
    In sixth grade we made little wooden sailboats with lead melted onto the keel to hold them upright and cotton sails. The boys had access to power tools at the Boys Club so they made sleek hulls and keels for all the girls except me and the girls sewed sails for all the boys except one. He and I were determined to make our own boats with hand-held rasps and files and drills. They were tubby and crude, but they were ours.

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