Wednesday, October 14, 2015

THYME Magazine: The Bridge Builder's Tale XXV

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor



Joy is the serious business of Heaven.” -- C. S. Lewis

It was one of those delicious lazy afternoons when all seems well with the world. The sun shone brightly into the little garden on Big Diomede where Kris sat with her daughter and Kate enjoying iced tea and conversation. It had been over ten years since the time they had first come together working on Rupert Zimmerman's recreation of Raphael's "School of Athens" for the college building on the island. They had been joined that afternoon by Elizabeth Zimmerman O'Malley and the memories flowed like the sweet refreshment the ladies enjoyed from Kris' pitcher. Kris' house had been the first 'real' house built on Big Diomede. Actually it had been skillfully made in a production center in Virginia and assembled on this spot by craftsmen who had been flown in to train local Yupik craftsmen in the methodology. Now it sat in the midst of a fine little community that had grown up around it.

The hollyhocks were in bloom now, and their offspring, lovingly sown from Kris' pods, blessed many a neighboring garden in the biosphere which protected the little town from the ravages of the severe climate. Today, the little gardens seemed especially alive as hummingbirds and butterflies seemed to abound. "Why does this day seem so different from any other?" mused Kris. Surely it had to be the special visit from Kate and Elizabeth. No, the light seemed more brilliant. The flowers seemed more defined. An artist noticed things like this, and each of these women was an artist in her own right. They laughed that they should mount a show... calling it "Four Women who Paint" or something like that.

Do you remember when we first met?" Kris asked Kate. Indeed that was not such a pleasant time for Kate, but it had been the beginning of what turned out to be their incredible journey together. Kate's family had come to Big Diomede while she was a young woman in college and she had been transported suddenly from her familiar world to the end of the world. Kate's grandfather was Joe, the trucker who was indirectly involved in the Bering Strait Bridge's worst accident. Though he'd pulled up short of the crash, he'd seen his friend lost into the icy waters of the unforgiving currents. He had gone home to his beloved Willa and with his severance check from Intercontinental Logistics the two of them began a new life together. Joe worked as a handyman upon his return and eventually became the maintenance supervisor for a small private school but he and Willa worked together in what could best be called restoring broken homes. Willa's devotion to Joe and the renewal of their love became a beacon to those around them. They did not start a 'ministry' or an organization. They simply opened their little house in Virginia to hurting souls... and Willa's loving mentoring became the ministry.

Indeed, many a couple found inspiration in Willa's merry eyes, which seemed to spread an infectious joy. She and Joe had indeed discovered something that gave flavor to their lives. Now Joe and Willa were gone from this world. "I wonder what Grandma sees in Heaven?" mused Kate. Her grandparents were such a part of her life that she still felt a connection with them. Kate, who had not only 'survived' her Summer on Big Diomede, but now actually admitted how much she'd enjoyed it, felt a joyful peaceful contentment... like an afternoon fishing with Grandpa gave her. In fact, she now felt a twinge of anticipation, like she had as a girl the night before taking a trip to Grandpa's house! It was as if she would soon step into the old man's presence. She brushed the thought away, thinking her mind had simply crafted a sweet memory for her, but she couldn't shake that sweet feeling!

How unlike the emptiness she'd felt when she first stepped onto the island, when Zimmerman was building his prototype community. The only internet access was at the library... or you could hit the "hot spot" by the church office in the parsonage. Kris had seen her there, sketchpad by her side, and asked her to help with some research for a painting she was beginning. Zimmerman had seen a nice recreation of Raphael's "School of Athens" in a college building in Virginia and he wanted a mural of it for the college he was building on Big Diomede. Kris wasn't really loving the amount of architectural perspective involved but she and Kate soon reduced it to a fairly impressionistic set of shadow forms as they now worked on the problem together.

Kate now found herself involved in a grand work. She and Kris somehow were able to match each other's hand and as Kate rendered innumerable coiffers in the great arches, Kris rendered the images of the great scholars... using some of her neighbors on Big Diomede as models. Zimmerman had caught her at an attempt to paint the industrialist as Aristotle and made her change it. Still, Kris was able to hide Zimmerman in the crowd of scholars in the end. When Zimmerman finally discovered it, he was both amused and touched by the gesture.

Kate was 'officially' working for Elizabeth Zimmerman O'Malley that Summer, but when Elizabeth saw the dynamics of Kris and Kate, and how they were bringing her Father's idea to life, she was more than happy to keep her on salary and loan her to Kris. Thus the two women painted most of the day and Kate helped Kris with the children's programs in the evening. Kate's nightmare of a Summer in isolation was transformed into a marvelous mentorship! She and Kris became dear friends. Kris' little daughter found in Kate a new friend! The Summer Kate so dreaded passed all too quickly and the ladies resolved to stay in touch.

Now their husbands were off on a private tour of the inner workings of the Bering Strait Bridge. Elizabeth had arranged for them to visit the utility tunnels and suspension towers. They were even going to descend into the bilge of one of the floating piers. Martin O'Malley's young protoge, who was now the chief engineer of the great bridge, was personally escorting them. They'd probably even get some fishing in. In any case, the men would be occupied for the whole day! There would be plenty of time for catching up together.

Scuola di Atene by Raphael.

Photo by Kristina Elaine Greer
Photo by Kristina Elaine Greer.

(to be continued) [click to read]

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