I sent Michelle the half photo of that beautiful man in the background, but it didn’t fit her composition so she sent it back. I really hated to cover any of his face, but sacrificed it for art’s sake. It represents the face of the omnipotent all-seeing God who originally animates both Floabunda, the flower seller and Phrunel, the angel. Of course when I started I didn’t have a god or an angel or Floribunda. I had a man casting his eyes sideways toward someone and holding up an expostulatory hand and I had a woman with an attitude looking back at someone. I saw immediately that they went together. Michelle had given me a chair, but it was a little dull. Chairs and tigers go together so I put the chair on the back of the tiger and voila! When I used M.’s big basket of tulips to cover up the line of demarcation where the old man ended I realized the woman sold flowers and added a bunch more from my own stock. I also had a wing like sculpture back from Michele. I colored it, it turned the old man into Phrunel the angel and there was my story- half unfolded before a single image had been pasted down. (I admit I wanted a real angel name and so went googling. Phrunel was obscure and fairly benign – most of the higher orders are quite terrifying.) The pot in Phrunel’s hand had to be added once the story was over. Originally I wanted something in that hand but nothing fit. I decided to keep it empty and thought of it as a gesture of speech, which resulted in the necessity for dialog. The pot arrived as an image at the very end of the composition because now the story demanded it. It’s so interesting to me how the picture and story play with and against each other creating a virtual picture of right and left brain collaborations.
The Flower Seller and the Angel
There was once a flower seller named Floribunda who dabbled in scents during the winter months. In summertime she gathered and grew, always remembering to thank to each plant and leaving a pinch of sage or a strand of her own hair in return. As soon as the last bloom was harvested Floribunda dashed for her still room. There she chopped crushed, ground, muddled, mixed and distilled the dried flowers she’d set aside during spring and summer creating potions, balms, perfumes and tinctures to sell at the big Kris Kringle market in December.
You can see by now, Floribunda was an unusual woman. Her analytical mind and discerning eye had been fine-tuned by years of wild crafting and floriculture. Nature’s innate complexity had tempered her loving heart with wisdom. Hours of solitude in field, forest, marsh and meadow had complemented long days haggling and gossiping in the market place in honing her intuition. Integrity was her watchword, Floribunda never answered a question with a question and she never minced words.
Her three constant companions were the serpent Sly, a slender garden snake inadvertently dropped on Floribunda’s toes by the barn cat; Jezebel the rabbit, who’d leapt into her arms from the middle of a flower bed where she’d been busy munching tulip bulbs; and Fredji, a liberated Bengal tiger. Floribunda had discovered him, skinny, mangy and reeking of dung, huddled in the far corner of a filthy circus wagon. In her righteous wrath she’d bent the bars apart and pulled him out. When the ringmaster interfered, she flung a vial of distilled mangrove leaves at his feet. After the noxious stench had inundated every stitch of canvas in the big top the circus pulled stakes and left, never to return. It took months to mend Fredji’s wounds and heal his rage, but now he never for a second left her side.
Sly’s talent was to sense falsehood. He lived in the left pocket of Florabunda’s skirts. When he sensed dishonesty, pretense or deceitfulness he slithered in and out of her fingers. Honesty sent him twining rapturously around thumb and wrist. Jezebel recognized a loving heart, no matter how cleverly disguised. She was drawn to love like a magnet. Fredji was simply himself—fierce, loyal, dispassionate—his glacial blue stare warning enough to keep his beloved mistress from any harm..
The angel Phrunel appeared on the first day of the Christmas Fair. He was a Lesser Angel of Redemption and Hope, who appeared as a benign old man, dressed in green robes. Jezebel made a giant leap into his arms and snuggled into his chest, ears pressed blissfully against his angel heart.
The huge rainbow wings caused admiration and alarm among the shopkeepers. Though he folded them carefully, they knocked down a pyramid of tangerines and sent them rolling in ten directions. While street urchins scrambled for free fruit, their more respectable elders scrabbled after a flurry of green, gold and blue pin feathers loosed in the elaborate folding of Phrunel’s wings. He stood twice as wide as Florabunda’s stall and thrice as high. She reached behind the counter for her chair. Balancing on patient Fredji’s back she climbed up to where Phrunel could hear her.
“What do you want?” she yelled. “Have I displeased the Almighty somehow?”
“No, no!” exclaimed Phrunel. “Quite the opposite. He wants his creatures to amplify their talents. That’s why he created you. It’s me, I need some help. There’s a backlog in Heaven and this is so minor, I hesitate to bother Him.
“So you thought you’d bother me! Well, us actually.” She pointed at the chaotic mob swirling around them.
“Er, yes.” The angel nodded. His eyes filled with tears. Florabunda gasped and hopped down from her perch to grab an empty green bottle. She handed it to the angel who carefully guided his huge teardrops into the vial. Everyone knew how rare and efficacious angel tears were.
“What’s the problem? she asked, climbing back aboard her chair.
He held out a large and shapely hand. “Wart on my harp finger,” he whispered. “I can’t play a single note correctly. I’m so ashamed.” Tears threatened again, but to Florabunda’s regret he blinked them back.
Once again Florabunda clambered down the makeshift ladder, rummaged in her stores and returned. She placed a stoppered jar into his outstretched hand. “Twice a day beginning with the new moon, afterwards bathe the finger in moonlight for three nights running. The wart will disappear, not a trace left, I promise.”
Phrunel stored the pot in his pocket and carefully plucked a feather out of his wing. Florabundi gasped with pleasure and hid it under her cloak.
“Time to go,” she said to the animals. “Come on Jez.”
Jezebel simply sighed and snuggled closer to Phrunel. He smiled and shrugged, unfurled his wings and disappeared.
Sly curled around her left wrist. Fredji lapped at her right with his sandpiper tongue. “Tomorrow, “Florabunda called to the gaping crowd. “An angel feather!” she thought to herself. “What will I make with that!”