Brenda Yates

Pond, Water Lilies & Meadow, by Brenda Yates

With apologies to Eamon Grennan

You enter Senda’s painting in stillness, among reflections of smudged trees and brush at the edges of water, your eye drawn through a break in foliage to sunlight sheening a meadow beyond, untruthfully shining back on the pond, lighting pink floating flowers and a fruiting red fungus that illuminates the foot of an almost familiar, splotchy, white-bark tree—a separate kingdom brightening just above worn-away roots, opened like a dark mouth, wounded, but still eating into the ground.

It was the only oil my father ever bought, the only painting that hung on the walls of wherever it was we were living, aside from the reproductions depicting the temptation of Christ, and Jesus, alone in the wilderness, praying, while dark, piled-up clouds sent down “slanting pillars of light like ladders up to heaven,” shafts I called God’s eyes and took as evidence, whenever they appeared in real life, that He was looking down on us as we drove from base to base.

In his 87th year, my father says he wanted me to have it before he died. He’d hated how susceptible I was, how I disappeared into that landscape. Yet he packaged it, and mailed it across the bleeding miles. Among bombers, missiles and Cold War, the soldier in him tried to snap her out of her own, dreamy world—and never gave up trying in all the years she lived in his house. He feared the dangers sure to come to anyone not on real ground and especially for the ever-after of a daughter who did not do as the Bible said:

“If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. Love not the world nor the things in this world.”  But I did.

Bought on a lark in the village near a waterfall, down the mountain from Nikko’s Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines—we knew its flaws, even then. Perspective askew, and it’s a marsh, yet no mist veils the distance, no mud or muck grabs your shoes as you stand beside the water. But I was bound to it in the dark, bleak winters of biting wind and lake-effect snow, of too far north on a too-long stint in stuffy, sealed-up houses, where looking up from a book, I felt the velvet summer air, sensed the way everything, even my skin, gathered light as if it were holy, smelled the fragrant intimacy of green in the full flush of summer, knew the seasonal dominion of this world, real and imagined, beyond damnation.


Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 14, Issue 2.

Brenda Yates
Brenda Yates is from nowhere. After growing up on Air Force bases stateside and overseas, she settled first in Massachusetts, and then in California where she lives with her husband.

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