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My name is Stephen Mead. I am a published artist/writer living in north eastern New York.

I am submitting here an excerpt from a piece entitled "A Thousand Beautiful Things", a hybrid work of essay/memoir.

"Mirror, Mirror"

According to Feng Shui, mirrors are supposedly good power representatives, just as long as they are not cracked or divided in any way. Stains or spots where the reflective coating has worn off probably isn't so hot either, but that's what I've got to work with since, el-cheap-o me, didn't buy new. In other words, I take my chances and live a little.

The bathroom medicine cabinet is a good case in point. It has a wonderful carved gothic shape that has gone to permanent tarnish around the edges. No problem. A little glue stick and a couple post cards creates another dimension. The two images I chose are black and white, each done by a local artist. One is a photo of a statue rising out of the grassy earth like a maenad.

She is carrying a large pitcher on her shoulder and looks peaceful as well as strong. Directly across from this is a painting of an Asian woman done as either a graphite or ink wash, something rather runny and thin anyway, so the woman's face, with steadfast eyes, has a haunting blur aspect. Her lips, however, remain generous and pronounced, as though she is aware of the nature of time, the difficulty of keeping one's head above water in any eon, but also a trust in ultimate perseverance.

It has been said that shamans are doorways, and there is something of the in-between which these images convey to me, a reminder of metamorphosis as one's reflection floats in the midst of both. There is genuine truth in the Asian's plain face, and perhaps that's why I chose it, having once met such a good spirit.

I was thrift shopping one autumn day downtown when the overcast grey turned into an actual squall. Suddenly a magnetic light blue filled my senses, a lightness on my skin as well, for this passing kind Korean woman was cloaking me with her rain cape. "Take, you need," she said, laughing over my protests as she hopped onto a bus and disappeared. Reverie. I've never forgotten that incredible generous occasion, having both written of and painted it, the poem acting as midwife for what turned out to be a long pregnancy.

More than a decade went by before I actually dug out the rain cape and let the muse work its healing onto canvas. The photo of the statue, a water-bearer, as my Mom was, took as long a germination period for me to get around to sketching. In fact, not only in the bathroom, but throughout the apartment, are various postcards and clippings which have either found themselves incorporated into my work, even if just as oblique reference points, or may still do so one day yet.

I keep a wicker basket in addition to several folders filled with these tokens of inspiration. Often I find myself like a beach comber or gold prospector fanning through them. Especially since I don't use actual models, the post cards, as well as my photo albums, serve either as anatomical perspective studies, or as triggers, keys, for remembered individuals/experiences.

These, when mixed with the notebooks where I jot down ideas, act as alchemy. I just never know when the seeds of chemical gestation may go off. Even as I write this, feeling rather guilty about taking the time to do so, time away from painting, time away from loved ones, there's a fluttering of colours and lines taking shape like a kaleidoscope behind my eyelids, shifting and calling, but not really waiting.

Yes, I might bid them to come again, yet it's not as if they've ever really left. I was the side tracked one. Colours. Lines. Shadows. Light. Whatever I capture or don't, these things remain, belonging to themselves, belonging to all with the gift of sight, and perhaps even, touch.

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