Following is an excerpt from the book, Copper Janus. One bright sunny day, on a blanket in the front yard, the three-year-old Copper Janus and her mother were enjoying playtime together. A drunk driver jumped the curb, crashed through the fence, and hit Copper and her mother. Copper sustained a spinal injury, and her mother sustained injuries to her hands and mind. Her mother recovered the use of her hands, and went on to become a famous sculptor. She never recovered full use of her mind, and Copper lost the ability to walk. This is an excerpt from the book of a twelve-year-old with the soul and spirit of a knight.
“It is amazing that in her circumstances, she does not feel sorry for herself,” she had often heard others say, but even though they saw her mother as someone who could barely lift her eyes from the world that she encased herself in – Copper knew. Copper knew her mother saved those rare lucid moments for her daughter. They were few and far between, but they belonged to Copper. The cool autumn wind reminded Copper of the first lesson, as it pulled on her long garnet strands of hair. She closed her eyes and took a breath, as she pulled the memory from a place in her mind in which she kept only the most precious times.
It was seven years ago on a cool autumn day. Copper sat on the couch with her legs encased in a blanket, and her small wheelchair in front of her. Copper’s face was swollen and streaked with tears. The other children in the neighbourhood played outside in the street, laughing and shrieking in excitement, while Copper cried inside alone.
Copper’s head jerked when she heard her mother’s soft voice, “Copper, we are going somewhere. Let’s get you in your chair.” Her mother’s life consisted of her art and rarely did she leave her studio.
Copper’s mother put the little five-year-old in her chair, strapped the buckles, and wiped the clay from her own hands, even though she left a long streak on her face. She bundled her thick tangled hair in a band, slipped tennis shoes on without socks, and out the door they went. Copper’s mother talked the entire way – a constant surge of emotion and a flood of words – fast, because these lucid moments were rare, and their lengths were unpredictable. The pace of the small wheelchair matched the speed of her mother’s words, and Copper’s garnet hair sailed back as a flag unfurled.
“Nowhere are we promised a fair life. Life is not fair and the sooner you understand and expect it, the sooner you will stop living in disappointment and despair. Life is a hard, cruel, twisted journey with wounds, scrapes, injuries, heartbreak, and defeat….but if you learn to live around the wounds….I mean….the sooner you learn to drag yourself up anyway, through the muck and briars of life….you will rarely, oh so rarely, see that tiny pinprick of crystal joy. It’s not a long moment before all the darkness closes in, but if you memorize it…really forever memorize it….you can pull it up from those depths within your brain. Just that small memory can sustain you, through the pain and agony of the thick, oily, dark journey,” her mother spoke in breathless sentences, as if in a rush…racing against the time limit of lucidity, when she would return to the art.
Copper knew her mother was in pain as she spoke, and the tears streaming from her eyes cleaned a path through the dried clay and dripped from her face, but the torrent of words could not be stopped and the flood continued. “Life is never the way we plan…why should we ever assume we can control it…it’s stupid and sad that we even try to believe that lie… But if we believe it is out of our control, then we learn to go with the current and grasp for that little vine along the water’s edge, that can slow us for a second to let us catch a life-sustaining breath…just enough to get us to the next vine….just enough…here we are.”
Copper turned her head, reluctantly dragging her eyes from her mother’s face. She endured the journey with her head up, and eyes focused on her mother’s voice. Copper rarely had moments with her mother’s attention, and nothing was going to distract her from it. Copper looked up at the tall stone building. “This is a place that will help you understand.”
“What is it Momma? A church?”
“No, love, it’s a place for those who will teach us a lesson…it’s a hard lesson…I will tell you now that I am sorry for the hurt it will cause you,” her mother knelt on the sidewalk and hugged Copper. When she pulled away, Copper saw the familiar frantic look in her mother’s face, and she knew the moment was leaving “Oh, God, we must hurry…but it will help give you perspective. You remember what perspective is, darling?”
“Yes, momma…it’s how you see the sculpture from where you are standing,” Copper repeated, as a famous artist’s daughter, art was second nature to her because her life was enmeshed in it.
“True, so let me show you how to find your own perspective,” Copper’s mother said as she pushed the chair up the ramp and in the doors. The visit was horrendous. It was heartbreaking. There were not words to explain the level of hurt, but it was a lesson Copper never forgot, and that lesson made her get out of bed, go outside, and strive for those crystal moments….and she faithfully memorized each one. The rare moments of lucidity with her mother were precious and few, but always helpful. Copper knew her mother loved her without a flicker of doubt, even though her mother’s sky-blue eyes rarely focused on anyone or anything except the clay and stone.
The month after the visit, a new sculpture was unveiled in a New York exhibit. Much was written about it, and many came to stand in front of it. Some smiled and mimicked the “artistic jargon,” some stood perplexed, and there were the few who stood in absolute understanding with their own tears streaming in thankfulness for those breaths.
The sculpture was approximately three feet high and four feet long. It was a small section of a riverbank. The torrential cascade of water furiously tore at the edge, destroying everything in its path, writhing in its violence and cruelty, but one small child’s hand was uplifted from the water, clinging desperately to a thin vine. The vine’s roots were bare and there were only a few grains of sand impossibly holding it anchored to the bank. People talked about the injuries evident in the child’s hand, the torn fingers, the gashed skin, and still the one small finger desperately curled around the minute green thread of safety. Many tried to analyze the piece, was it life or a comment on child abuse? No one saw the barely discernible child’s mouth in the torrential swirling water. The lips hardly broke the surface so slightly, that they looked like part of the water itself, but they were there…just enough for a desperate grasp at a breath to get the child to the next one.
Copper knew that life was not fair, it was just a tortuous journey from one breath to the next, memorizing each rare one as she went…the visit with her mother was one of her most precious and sustaining.
I hope you enjoyed this excerpt, causing you to look forward to the publishing of the book!