Monday, July 26, 2010

Tuesday Poem on Monday - Where she comes from

Heaven has a lime-green sky - acrylic painting by Alisaundre van Ammers 1992

for Ali, aged seven

Where she comes from
Heaven has a lime-green sky.
Angels are hip, dressed
in up-to-the-minute fashion.
They exchange earrings
and bobby pins and fancy
braided belts. Trousers are
out - and sensible shoes,
of course - these musicians
are all ribbons and silk, soft
satin slippers and flight:
when they come down
to ground, they want
the feel of grass and soil,
of mud squelching between
their toes.

Where she comes from
there is always the possibility
of a dance around
the next corner.


When she was seven years old, my daughter Alisaundre embarked on a magnificent painting of angels and their musical instruments... When she came to rendering the sky, she chose a brilliant lime-green. Her teacher at the time hauled the painting away from her as soon as she had finished and held it up in front of the class. "Ali's painting was looking good until she ruined it by making the sky lime-green,' she said. She instructed Ali to start over. (Ali gave me a word-by-word account after the event.)

I was completely outraged, of course, ready to roll up my sleeves and take her teacher on... but Ali insisted she didn't want me to intervene and would handle the situation herself. She went back to class the next day and began again... And when she came to paint the sky, she once again mixed up a range of brightest lime-greens. The teacher loomed over her desk and tried to meddle in Ali's process. But Ali stood her ground, held firm to her brushes and spoke her mind. "Excuse me, Ms. McIntosh," she said, "how do you know heaven doesn't have a lime-green sky?"



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  1. The best put-down!
    (And not a bad painting either.)

  2. Three gorgeous compositions: the angels, the poem, and Ali (not to mention her mother – who makes room for lime-green heavens). Hooray for daughters!

  3. FANTASTIC painting, FANTASTIC story, FANTASTIC girl, FANTASTIC mum. I love lime green....

  4. Why would a so-called teacher try to stifle a child's imagination?

    Anyway, ignorance did not triumph.

    Lovely, Claire.

  5. I love that painting with my whole heart.

  6. Genius, angel child. Birthday wishes in all the colors of vision. I love the painting, the poem, the story.

  7. Sorry to rant, but the sheer injustice of the 'educational' system makes me crazy!
    My beautiful, now 33-year old girl was in the 'gifted' program after being identified at super-smart. They pulled her out of regular lessons to attend the gifted program and then insisted she make up the work of the regular program. She said "I don't think so" and pulled herself out. She said, why am I being punished for being clever? All this and only eight years old.
    Like she can smell hypocrisy like a fart in a car.

  8. Ohhhh, that is so beautiful -I love both the poem and the explanation - one should never be without the other I think ... Happy Birthday indeed to a beautiful young woman - just like her mother!

  9. Ditto to all of the previous comments.
    Just lovely words Claire.
    Keep it up.

  10. Wonderful, you both - Claire and Ali. Two spirited women. (I LOVE the photos!) Px

  11. Gorgeous poem to go with a gorgeous painting. Can hardly believe it was painted by a 7 year old, such raw talent and a fine imagination. Brilliant that she stood her ground and painted her creation as she saw it. What a great daughter! With a fantastic Mum, you must be the best of friends.

  12. Hi Dinah - welcome to Icelines...

    Answering a challenge with a question (as Ali did all those years ago and still does now) is very often a good idea!

    I have just visited your blog - and your cats' blog, too. All three of you get up to some exciting things!

  13. Penelope, Mary, John, Rebecca, Marylinn and Jacqueline - thank you for your generous eyes and hearts and for acknowledging my lovely girl ; )

  14. John - the teacher's attitude had me completely baffled, I must admit. She had a lot still to learn, that's for sure.

    I love how Rumi describes teachers as being the students of their students...

  15. Jacqueline, hello! I understand your wanting to rant... it makes perfect sense to! Our education systems are full of holes. I have enormous respect and gratitude for our vocational teachers, though -those for whom teaching is a calling and accompanying children, a passion and form of service, a gift... I'm sure most of us remember at least one such person who stood out like a lighthouse from amidst the muddle of school days?

    I love the introductory paragraph on your blog --- 'Written by two sisters, separated by geography, but united by an abiding love for each other.' Lovely!

    And... your daughter's comment about being able to smell hypocrisy like a fart in car made me laugh out loud! Thanks ; )

  16. Dear Kay, you say the loveliest things! Thank you.
    Gorgeous new profile pic, btw! Me thinks you might be anticipating summer?
    Me, too. xx

  17. Richard, Helen, PamelaMM - thanks for the warmth and humour in your comments.

    Spirited women, P? Well, yes, we are two lionesses, she and I. Life is rarely what you'd call 'hushed' or dull. We need to remind ourselves that lions love to roam the savannah grasslands and that lolling in the sun becomes them!

  18. Hi Julie --- lovely to find you here, thanks for coming! I wonder whether you have a daughter who paints? Ali and I don't live in the same city any more but every now and then we still manage a stint alongside each other in my Dunedin studio; it's pretty special.

    She certainly taught me something very important as an artist and as a woman when she stood her ground so firmly in that classroom all those years ago. She's a gem, yes!

  19. I love Ali's spunk. This painting belongs in the Museum of Modern Art. It's fantastic, as is her ability to be true to her vision.

    So glad to come upon this lovely blog via Marylinn. I keep telling myself I need to limit my blog reading. It takes so much time, but I can't help myself when I read comments where the words drive my fingers to click for more.

  20. That brought a huge smile to my face. Thank you to you both!

  21. I love that, and I'm sure if it's something you want to know ask a young woman.

  22. Kass, Hello! Lovely to see you here... I've just been enjoying your Candace, Kass, Janet adventures! They make me want to ask questions about the doll; who made her, how old is she, what other stories might she tell?

    Like you, I try to moderate my blog reading, but resistance isn't necessarily all that good for us, is it?!

    Thanks for coming by, Kass.

  23. Thanks Vanda - it's a happy story, yes, and thinking back to that time warms me, too. L, C x

  24. Hello Annell - I agree with you - young women can be extraordinary when it comes to perceptiveness and wisdom-beyond-their-years. I especially love it when several generations of women get together to share each other's company and stories. Something mysterious tends to happen.

    I've been wandering through the landscape of your blog these past few days. It's like coming upon an oasis in a desert. Thank you... and also for your very generous email that I only discovered this morning (I tend not to use that gmail address very often). I will respond to what you wrote just as soon as I am able to? I really appreciate you taking time to write and share your story.

    L, C

  25. I found my way here through Radish. I love this story. I love how children think everything is possible. We can learn from them!

  26. Hi RachelVB - Oh, yes, I 'know' you from Radish's blog, too. I stepped into a conversation you, Marylinn and Rebecca were having two weeks or so ago when I was feeling buffeted and wonky. Without knowing it, you three women created a safe space for me. I was so grateful. Still am.

    Thanks for coming over. I'll be visiting you soon...

    And yes, children are amazing. They are our teachers.
    L, C

  27. Claire -
    I hope you are feeling better and safe. I do remember. I'm glad you felt you could look somewhere.

  28. Rachel, I do feel better, thank you. Safe, too. You let me in that day and it made all the difference... these encounters tend to resonate, don't they? Many thanks.

    Your blog is wonderful - your writing extraordinary. I'd like to ask you something about the piece you wrote on water. Will drop you a note via email I think.

    Take care.
    L, C