Our good friend Sunny is sick. This story was written for her in the hopes that it draws some attention to a fundraiser being run on her behalf, specifically from the therealljidol
community (hence the references to Idol in the intro) but also from anyone on my LJ Friends list who stumbles across it. Or who sees it because I mention it on Facebook.
---Introduction by sharyasunnycrittenden
is a friend who, for the first time ever, entered Idol this season. Unfortunately that thing called Life got in the way, and she had to drop out very early. She has subsequently fallen on hard times, and for the last couple of weeks she has been hospitalized in the ICU. Her extended family has set up a fundraiser to help out her immediate family, who are struggling – she’s got a 8 year old and a 13 year old, as well as a devoted husband who are doing their best to stay afloat. If all goes well, the earliest she could get out of the hospital will be Christmas, and the family could really use some help.
The link to the fundraiser is here
, and to help encourage you to donate, joeymichaels
, one of her long-time friends, has written a story for the cause. It’s a story of art, and of hope, and is perfectly suited for Sunny – Artist, Writer, and Muse. I hope you will consider helping out if you can.
---Out Of A Corner
Sonja learned, at age 6, that she could walk in and out of her paintings.
She would make a painting during kindergarten of her house and kitties and mommy and daddy, and then she would walk into it for a little while when things got dull. She would play with the big fake looking kitties and tell stories with the misshapen mommy and daddy and then go back to class. Her teachers would be cross.
"Sonja, where have you been?"
She tried to explain, but they would never believe her. When she offered to show them, they insisted that she stop telling lies. Even her parents thought she was making it up, though they argued with the teachers that their daughter shouldn't be punished for having a strong imagination.
So Sonja decided to keep her ability a secret.
She recognized, however, that the ability to paint a wide variety of things in a wide variety of ways was going to be of particular interest for her. As a result, she really excelled in her art classes.
Every now and again, she would see a painting by somebody else that she especially liked and she'd try to pop into it. That always felt like she was bouncing against thick cellophane. She figured that if she wanted to leap into that particular painting's world, she'd need to duplicate it as exactly as possible. It was hard for her to make the replication perfect – after all, she was just a kid – but she worked diligently to improve.
That was all right, though, as it led her to developing her own style. She especially loved creating paintings of rag-doll-like little girls against a background of multiple triangles and squares. They were pretty to look at from the outside, and when you hopped into one of them, you and the painted girl could climb and run and laugh easily among the big, colorful shapes.
She made a major discovery when she was 13. She and one of her cats, Shiner, were sitting in her room bored out of their minds. It was a foggy Sunday afternoon and there was nothing to do. Shiner was an inside cat and every now and again, he'd hop up on the windowsill and chatter at the few squirrels in the yard.
"I'll paint you some butterflies to chase," said Sonja.
She made a lovely little field and added a wide variety of butterflies.
"I wonder," she asked out loud, "if I can take you with me?"
She picked up Shiner and suddenly they were both in the painting. Shiner, typical cat, was nervous at first, but soon started chasing butterflies all over the field. Sonja had to wait until he was worn out before she was able to catch him and return to the real world. For the next six months or so, creating places to play for Shiner and her other cat, Fatty, were her main hobbies.
When she was 15, Sonja was working on duplicating a painting by Claude Lorraine and was really capturing it perfectly when the air raid sirens went off.
This hadn't happened in over 60 years, so nobody in the whole town was prepared in the least. They turned on the radio and learned that their country was at war with another country because of something a third country had done. Furthermore, they learned that a few towns in their province had already been destroyed by enemy bombs.
The town panicked. There was only one bomb shelter in the whole town and it had been built when the town had less than a third of its current population.
Sonja had a plan. She brought a painting she'd made of a nice little house by the sea, to the mayor's office. After some explaining and begging, Sonja took her by the hand and led her into the painting. When the mayor came out, she enthusiastically agreed to Sonja's plan.
For the next two days, Sonja worked day and night on her masterpiece. It was a huge painting; a massive landscape of the entire town that she painted based on sketches she'd made. She tried to get every detail as perfect as she possibly could. When it was finished, the police helped her bring it into the bomb shelter.
The Mayor explained that everyone should report to the bomb shelter and, furthermore, that they should bring everything they wanted with them - furniture, pets, livestock, and anything else that they could fit down the stairs. Citizens were expressing concerns that it wouldn't all fit, but sure enough, the line at the bomb shelter kept steadily moving.
That was because, of course, Sonja was downstairs leading everyone and everything into the painting of the town. People were amazed to find themselves met with moving trucks (which Sonja had moved into the painting the night before, with the help of the police) ready to move them into painting-world versions of their houses. It only took three days to move everyone in, and they were lucky that the air raid sirens that had sounded in the meantime were not for them.
When everyone was safely in the painting, the last police officer left locked the door to the bomb shelter. Sonja gathered up her paints and brushes in a small satchel. The officer shook her hand, a big, broad smile stretched across his face, and the two of them walked into the painting together.
Every few months, the mayor would send a few people out into the real world to check on the status of the war, but it raged on for many, many years. Sonja's town was bombed, and then bombed again. Their countrymen assumed, when they never heard from them, that they'd been wiped out to the last person.
Inside the painting, they grew real crops from seeds they’d brought along in the painted soil. The rain that fell filled the reservoir with water that was seemed real enough (though it tasted oily). When people died, they were buried in the cemetery and, on the painting in the real world, a new stone would appear.
As for Sonja, she started to grow restless with life in her picture perfect hometown, so she started painting other towns and worlds. Sometimes, she created elaborate fantasy worlds populated entirely by creatures from her imagination; other times more realistic towns or cities. Sometimes, she’d slip into the new world and live there for a bit among strange and wonderful beings. And, sometimes, while she was inside a new painting, she’d create another painting and slip into that.
The more restless Sonja became, the more paintings she’d create. Sometimes, she found herself in a painting within a painting within a painting within a painting… so many levels deep that she was afraid she’d forget how far she’d have to travel to get out.
It was while she was on one of these extended trips that the war ended and her fellow townspeople decided to leave the painting and rebuild their actual town. It took some work to move everything from the painting back to the bomb shelter and then into storage while the town was being rebuilt, but after having lived in that particular painting for so long, the citizens had grown adept at hopping in and out on their own.
As the mayor and the last police officer (the one who’d smiled so broadly when they first went into the painting) were hopping out of the painting, the police officer expressed a concern that Sonja might never find her way out.
“Don’t worry,” said the mayor, “I left her a note.”
The painting was left in the bomb shelter where it became a little shrine to Sonja. Townspeople came to look at it every day (and sometimes hopped in and poked around again, for old times sake) and left little offerings for Sonja (but never candles, because they didn’t want to risk burning the canvas).
One morning, the smiling police officer came to visit and found a note from Sonja on the frame.
“Don’t worry about me,” it read, “I’ll be home soon, but I’ve found something deep, deep, deep inside the paintings. I can’t describe it, not really, but it’s amazing, and I’m going to bring it out with me if I can!”
Every day since, more and more townspeople have been visiting the canvas. The little painted house where Sonja lived started to look like somebody had painted a bright, soft light around it. It is emanating a little bigger every few days.
They’re not sure what she’s bringing to them, but everyone agrees nothing is ever going to be the same again.
If they’d learned anything from their years in the painting it was this: believe Sonja. She doesn’t lie.
That fundraising link again