The Shadows Are Only Beginning to Reveal Themselves
In 2019 Leslie hung her first art show in the Harris-Warke Gallery in Red Deer. In this series of triptychs and diptychs, visual and written reactions to death and loss are brought together through stream-of-consciousness narratives – what someone was doing in the moment they learned of a death; a dead shrew on a leaf-strewn path; a trampoline with broken springs: formerly innocuous actions and items forever rendered symbolic through their accidental collision with a loss.
There is a woman named Susannah Violet Lee. She was buried next to her husband before you were born. Each time you go to this cemetery, you review the dates on their headstones, run the math in your head. Occasionally there are plastic flowers. Wilbur was ten years older than his wife, but he doesn’t interest you, except for the way he left Susannah a widow for thirty-plus years.
Susannah Violet Lee was a beloved wife, mother and grandmother – the wording on her headstone tethering her for a lifetime to a choice she made at twenty. You doubt she had a gentleman friend in all those years alone, but you wish retroactively for his existence. Susannah had a sparkle, despite the hardships of her life. She loved to laugh.
Wilbur’s headstone was a small, basic square of grey stone. Susannah’s was taller, limestone, embellished with a discreet cross. Two years ago when you came back to the city, their individual markers had been replaced with a joint one – a black shiny headstone with bevelled edges, machine-etched silver flowers, and shared text.
You don’t like this change at all. You miss the fungus on the gravestones – the sense of peace it brought. The way the moss gently, persistently inched over loss at a rate you could keep up with.
The clouds deign to show themselves as you fly home. You like to call this arrangement of sun and cloud a “god sky.” If someone else were taking this photo, it would be an inspirational meme and the text would contain exclamation marks and the word blessings! Or blessed! Or #blessed.
But someone else isn’t taking this photo. And you’re only distracting yourself from the heavy, helpless embraces of those you’ve left behind; from the coffee breath of your seatmate, the intrusion of arm and knee.
You aim your phone at this magical phenomenon: this “god sky” effect nothing more than a thin sheen of bird shit with a gloss of airport grease and dust. One quick flick of the camera button. You accept a package of dry pretzels and pretend to sleep.