COVID Creativity: “The Coffee Table” by Ann Nayer

COVID Creativity is a new Source arts feature highlighting the work of our creative readers as they respond to a time of global pandemic. All visual artists and creative writers are encouraged to share with us new works that have been created as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Poetry and creative prose submissions are limited to 1,500 words and should include a brief bio of the writer.

Visual art submissions should include at least one high quality image or video and a very brief bio along with an artist’s statement that speaks to the inspiration for the work. The statement should include the title if there is one, the medium used and what the work means to you.

Please send submissions and questions to [email protected]

 

“The Coffee Table”

Anne Nayer

When I was eight and my sister six, we were newly returned from a year of farm life with my aunt, uncle and two cousins while my parents recovered from third-degree burns that had upended our lives. My mother, in and out of the hospital for the multiple surgeries that rebuilt her face and her hands, used to go to occupational therapy sessions across 23rd Street at the VA hospital. She came home one day with a project. To help her burned and skin-grafted hands recover any semblance of fine motor control she was going to create a tiled coffee table using three-quarter square tiles. She chose a mottled blue-turquoise tile as the background and black tiles with which we plotted a design of geometric black veins using graph paper. I remember our artist family friend Ann stopping by to help with the overall vision and execution. It was a painful, painstaking labor of love that ended up in a coffee table approximately four feet by two feet that was a centerpiece of the living rooms of my childhood, adulthood and, after my parents passed away in the early 2000s, my own living rooms – at first, briefly in Davis, California and then in my real home, St. Thomas.

Over the years the pieces of wood that framed the table warped and fell off and I put them back. The legs started to wobble so that I had to be careful when moving it or it would collapse like a newborn colt. A house-sitter from a couple of summers back finally broke the legs and stashed (hid) the table in a closet. I’d always meant to revamp, repair and refurbish it but the ancient pressed board was flaking off and it was more than I could ever seem to manage. And then came Hurricanes Irma and Maria with the upheaval and the moisture and the moving-out, so the table remained in the closet with the occasional fallen tiles in a special box.

In its final incarnation it sat on my deck and after each rain I pulled off the ones that loosened like baby teeth ready to fall out and saved them in large ziplock bags. And finally, the other day, in an energetic clean sweep I sat down with a trowel and loosened the rest. The recalcitrant one had to be forceably pried off the pressed board making me think about how the holding power of the grout after 64 years. I had my friend take the flaking pressed board, the skeleton of the table, to the dumpster.

The exercise wasn’t without an emotional counterpart. In the midst of fancy couches, Waterford crystal decanters and fine art, that table had not only been a centerpiece in the living rooms of my life but also a testimony to the fortitude, determination, resilience and creativity of the woman who was my mother – the woman who lost her face and then faced the world.

I have the two baggies, one larger full of the blue-turquoise tiles that match my view of the turquoise sea meeting and merging into sky blues, and one smaller one of the black tiles that formed the vein-like design that cut across the blue like a wordless game of scrabble. I am imagining the next table and inviting the perfect guidance, materials and inspiration to move me, like my mother, to painstakingly create my own centerpiece, masterpiece, everyday coffee table – something to gather around, to rest libations and half-read magazines and a vase of flowers, a modern day version of a candy dish and to irreverently rest my feet  (when my mother isn’t looking).

The metamorphosis of the table seems fitting at this particular moment history when everything is shimmering, vividly out of focus and disturbance is the undercurrent even as I meditate. I am grateful to contemplate creation as I sweep up the dust of what’s crumbling, imagining what I would like to see grow from the new raised bed my friend Culture just built for me and how, after I’ve harvested the fruits and vegetables of the earth, I would like the table set before me to be laden and with whom I would like to be giving thanks and breaking bread.

I’m checking out grout and inviting the new table into my dreams, the starting point for everything. First the seed, then the root, then the flower and the fruit, may this food on which we dine, make our little lights to shine.

 

Anne Nayer, a Source reader on St. Thomas, is a psychotherapist and a life and law of attraction coach who works with individuals, couples and families.