A family friend keeps crossing my mind these days.
Her name was Ilza Hahlo. She was born in Vienna in or around 1908. She grew up to be a textile designer and designed costumes and sets for the opera there. She came from, what I assume to be, an affluent family. She had access to resources many did not. As a young girl she and her sisters had some warts on their hands treated by radium, by the infamous Madame Curie herself, I was told.
Of course, it must have been so exciting to be treated by someone who was revolutionizing the world. There was no way of knowing, I am sure, what the after effects of such a procedure might be.
Ilza eventually moved to New York and tried her hand at textile design stateside. She really did make beautiful textiles.
|One of Ilza’s textile designs|
Somehow she ended up in Arizona, which was our luck. She was a beautiful woman when I met her. We also knew that she had cancer when she came into the family friendship fold. It is assumed that her cancer was the result from the radium exposure she had as a young girl.
I recall one time, as she and my grandmother visited each other one bright Arizona afternoon, hearing Ilza tell my grandmother that as her illness got worse, her colours got brighter as if she was trying to bring all the goodness in light in and shut the darkness and pain out,
This has been running through my mind a lot these past 13 days. There is a darkness that descends and while the pain I currently feel is the result of the last biopsy procedure, there is something else there. It has hints of so many things, despair, anger, fright… to name but a few.
Managing those emotions on a daily basis is very new to me, I have been made aware of just how happy I was/will be. What an unspeakable privilege this happiness is. It weathered through me through a serious chronic illness (valley fever that symptomatically lasted one over year) and the darkness of being on bed rest for a great amount of my pregnancy.
What is so different now. I think it may be that my own mortality is coming to rear it head in front of me. Suddenly beautiful things mean so much more; the goofy faces my son makes as his face matures from little boy to what it is now, the bright colors sweeping across the sky of a morning sunrise.
Subtle changes in myself too. The other day I ran across a nail polish set my mother had given me with wild and bright colors as I tend to prefer for my pedicures. I pulled the light teal color bottle out from the set and painted just one finger nail with its bright pastel hue. I can’t stand to have my nails painted, but some how this one in bright green, seems to be less of a bother. I smile when it catches my eye as my hands wave about as I talk during the day.
I also chose to wear a pair of red pumps, though I am not wearing a stitch of red clothing. I am wearing blacks and browns, but on my feet are these bright red shoes. They invoke my grandmother, as if I am asking her to guide me as I walk this new path.
So colour has taken on new meaning, bright patches of it to cross my path, much like a brightly plumed parrot stands out as one walks through the mass of greens that are everywhere under Amazonian jungle canopy.