Looking For Liberty

This is a drawing that I recently completed.  I worked on it until my pencils were weary and dull, and my fingers were smudged – the whorls reduced to gray and dusty ridges.  It had been a long time since I had drawn with pencil, and I wanted to know if I still had my graphite chops.

I'm not going to pretend that this is easy to decipher.  It is a scarf. 

The dark, reflective bands are made of silk, colored olive and gold, rippling with submerged, filtered light.  When I touch them, my fingers are chilled - caught in an airborne landscape between the green ocean and yellow moon.  The bulk of my scarf is velvet, the color of a young twilight about to lose its warmth to the stronger, darker night.  Biting into the soft sky is a pale embroidery that forms a gentle garden of leaves and petals.

This scarf is very dear to me, and many times I have wrapped the flowers, oceans and planets wonderfully around my neck.  It cost me 55 pounds ($110?), which – over ten years ago – was a terrific extravagance, but a necessary one.  I had to possess this exotic thing.  I was in London at the time, and I bought it at Liberty's.

I had heard of Liberty's.  I had heard of the fabrics one could find there:  a diabolical mix of Ali Baba's cave and the Belle Epoque, ready to be plundered.

Now, memories are strange things.  The images can melt together – facts, images, falsehoods wishes – dissolving into a liquid envy of what is no more.  They are hard to visualize, yet you know they happened.

I remember Liberty's as a wishing-well of early 20th century tudor architecture.  With some effort, I found the room I sought – and I stepped into a place that was plush with an ancient luxury, deep and hallowed with a long-forgotten opulence.

Fabrics, like living things, coiled and crouched all around me.  Thick with foreign embroidery and complicated knits, they could have been used to wrap around the sway of a bustle or to disguise the anguish of a corset. Their anatomies dissolved into folds and creases – I could sense their delicate, textile breath on my skin.

The ground, the sky, the ocean had been pillaged.  I saw their fair colors all about me in the tiny room:  opal, black-rimmed turquoise, the sunset's heated silver, the fish's cool sequins, red plum, blood orange, white peach.

Could I have really seen any of this?  Could it have happened?  And yet, I'm sure I'm not lying.  I have my memories.

I have my scarf.

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9 responses to “Looking For Liberty

  1. The scarf sounds simply gorgeous, M.But I cannot lie. I thought the drawing was of a carved boulder. Can you forgive me? A boulder faced by two large stone steps leading to a mysterious white door. Maybe once the door opened, you'd see a vision of the planets, sunsets, and oceans you so beautifully describe…

  2. Your "I really should go back" tag – yes, you should. Liberty's was made for you. I love it there – just drifting around touching beautiful things and weeping over their price tags.

  3. JP: You are forgiven! I've drawn alot of scarves, and they all have a hard, architectural feel. The blank patch is actually a case of books, around which I arranged that scarf. It's a negative space thing I've always used – if I left it out, the darkness of the silk would have made the subject even more confusing.
    Fox: I actually bought THREE scarves that magical, expensive day – with the intention of letting mother choose one – any one – for herself. Happily, she confessed to me that she didn't like scarves.

  4. I love the sketch though like jaypo I did not recognize what it actually was. It sounds as though it would be divine to touch (the scarf šŸ™‚ ).

  5. I love it! It's a magical thing to be a scarf as well as a mountain ridge! :DA mountain ridge with a inexplicable shiny mirror inside…hidden by aliens until the cavern opened.Hee! I would love to see a photo of the scarf..it sounds awesome!

  6. What a lovely drawing, Aubrey – so much detail. I especially like the texture in the darker areas. It reminds me of topographic map, with layers of folds.

  7. What a great drawing! I recently had a yen for a shawl…considering crocheting one for myself. I'm not particularly good at crochet, mind you. I'm not sure if I can manage something as simple as a triangle. :/

  8. Gor-geous. Interesting, fabric is certainly filled with stories. Have you ever seen the Sandman comic? This reminds me of the stark yet soulful last few issues.

  9. Soon as I read your first sentence, I was brought back (speaking of memories) to a posting of yours some time ago that you like to and used to draw. So I went "yes! now we get to see!" And now I can't help but wonder, will we get to see the scarf, in all its colors and memory-rich glory, in a photograph?

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