Luda's Benches by Michael Feldman

Luda, a young woman just turned 40 sits on a bench by a lake and is reflecting about her life growing up as a child by a lake.
Luda's Benches
Luda's Benches by Michael Feldman
A Korean man named Hong (means spacious in Korean) and his young six year old daughter Luda lived in a big house by the lake. His work is a ranger for the water department. He was one of the few rangers with the water department that was lucky enough to have his own house nestled in the trees overlooking the beautiful Lagunitas Lake at the bottom of Mt. Tamalpais. Waking up to the fresh air from the morning fog rising over the lake. Trees are grey green in color are disappearing into the white fog and are waiting to get the first morning kiss from the sun. Hong is listening to the sounds of the ducks and birds as the morning light got brighter. Hearing bikers on the path pedaling along the trail that surrounds the lake. Bikers voices breaking natures silence to let the wildlife know people have arrived. Tiny reflections of sunlight shimmering and sparkling looking like a galaxy of millions of stars reflecting on the lake. And only broken with a silhouette of a ducks swimming. Quaking and diving for food. Morning has broken with sun beams through the trees. On a log in the water waiting for the sun to warm them are turtles. Some crawl out of the water to warm themselves on floating logs and then jump back into the water to cool themselves down. Hong the ranger is sitting on his porch in his wicker chair sipping his morning cup of barley tea, a Korean tea blended with barley rice and warm water. He is interrupted by a delicate soft young girls voice. "Dad, Dad I'm up" Luda his five year old daughter had a great deep sleep. At the age of six she went to bed early usually after the sun set and she looked at the shooting stars in the beautiful evening sky through her bedroom window. The moon had shown in her window most of the night. As she lay thinking about her mother who past away in her sleep at an early age. Luda missed her mother very much. But felt lucky to have a big hearted father to help her through the coming years. "Dad she said I'm going for a walk by the lake and I'm taking Jubilee her mixed black lab with me." She ran along the trail barefoot leaving her tiny footprints on the sandy path that follows around the lake. Some newts had already come out of the water and were trying to cross the path. It can be dangerous for the newts because of bikers would accidentally run them over. Sometimes Luda pick them up and help them cross the path before they got run over by the mountain bikers. Luda wondered around a bend on the path to find her favorite bench where she liked to sit. She could see her house from the bench. Through the reeds along the reflecting water she could see her father on the porch and yelled "Hi Dad" and he corresponded with a wave and a "ya", a Korean word for hi "are you alright?" he would ask. Luda felt comfortable and safe at the lake. She sang to herself. A song she learned from her mother they sang together in Korea before bedtime. Her Mother was very traditional and always showed respect to elders. Bow to elders her mother told her as she crossed her hands and pressed her thumb into her belly button. She taught the same Korean tradition to Luda. The song her mother sang was in Korean singing hush little dog, don't bark or you will wake my little baby. Her mother sang it to Luda each night before bedtime. Bench Two: The Reincarnation (Luda and father are talking at a picnic table overlooking the lake) Luda and her father went for a walk along the path by the lake early in the morning. As they sat at a bench with a long picnic table in front of the bench which was not far from from the house. The mountain reflecting into the lake like a mirror. They were eating Bin Ba Bim. Rice, vegetables and tofu with a fried egg on top. Nothing was moving at the lake. It was a double image of trees and mountain reflecting itself in the water. Birds lightly chirping. Ducks flapping their wings. They also heard the croaking sound of a frog. The frog was loud and talkative. As the trail got closer to the water near to the bench where Luda and her father liked to sit looking at the green pine trees standing straight and tall with a blue sky reflecting in the ripples of the lake. There was a sound of a frog croaking. The sound of a frog got louder and louder also deeper. The frog jumped into the water and made splashing circle rings near the green and orange reeds. The frog came up for air, and again croaking sounds came from him this time very loud. Hong told Luda, when her grandpa died. Hong had spread his Grandpa's ashes into the lake. After that same moment a frog appeared and made croaking sounds. It's Grandpa and he was reincarnated as a frog, Hong said. Bench Three: Grandpa Medicine (View of the lake through the trees) Luda is now 11 years old living by the lake and enjoying her time walking further around the lake and sitting at new benches. New views and thoughts came to her. She hears strange sounds of people walking by talking Chinese. A older Chinese man is practicing Ti Chi. The man sparks a memory for her when her family lived in Korea. Luda's Grandpa part Korean with some Chinese mix. His house was part living quarters and other part a healing office. His house was filled with dark cherry wood cabinets with old keys in the locks that had Chinese tassels hanging from them. Her grandfather had a long beard and shuffled through the house with Chinese slippers. The cabinets had many small boxes and jars in them, there were strange smells coming from each which were filled with herbs and special mixes of medicines that would heal different illness. From the common cold to fevers and stomach pains. His goal was to keep people from getting sick. Many Korean people believed in old ancient herbs and teas to cure them and stay healthy. Luda was warned by her grandfather not to eat or drink certain foods from restaurants or street vendors. She was not allowed to enjoy foods that most of her friends ate. She ate healthy foods, brown rice, fish and fruits all natural and healthy. Once a year her grandfather made her drink dark brown liquid from the horns of an elk. It tasted terrible and look like a black syrup. He also grew green grapes hanging from an arbor that were sweet as candy. Luda picked and ate them directly from the arbor. Bench Four: Luda's first kiss. (Four feet running kicking up dust) Luda now is fourteen years old and brings a young boy named Elliott to the lake after school. They are best friends at school. They sit next to each other in two classes at school and like to tease each other and make each other laugh, passing notes with funny faces drawn on them. He is American and likes to play the violin. He plays a classical piece for her. They both chase each other over the dirt path. She running awkward with both legs swinging from side to side and he chasing her. Kicking up clouds of dust along the dirt path. Nearly tripping over the roots from the trees. As they walk around the lake they stop in front of a tree. The tree had curves like a woman and the back of the tree had a shape of a woman's butt. He makes a mobil from broken branches and dangles them to swing in the wind on the tree. Luda is moved by his sensitivity and a tear comes down her cheek. The young man notices her tear and pulls her close and kisses her salty tears. She runs away. That evening Luda put on a pretty dress with pink and green patterns and make up and lipstick and painted her fingernails a bright green. She wore high heels and walked out to into the evening light along the lake. There a flock of tiny birds flew over her like a ballet of dancer. Hundreds of birds making shapes in the sky coming together and drifting apart. Luda felt she became a grown woman with her heart open. Bench Five: Goes to college and meets a man ( The sun is shimmering on a almost white lake) Luda started an all girls collage not far from the lake and rarely gets a chance to date. Her father is very strict with her. Even on weekends she had to be home by ten o'clock. She gets asked to go out by a Japanese young man. He takes her to sushi restaurant and gives her a stuffed animal for a present . Luda was surprised. Later she hears from her girlfriends that the young man is telling everyone that his parents and her father are making marriage arrangements. This was news for Luda also for her father. Bench Six: Father passes away (Cloudy day image of the lake) On a grey cold morning in December. Luda is at the lake for her morning walk. She had celebrated her 25th birthday a month earlier. Her father was sipping his brown rice tea and sitting inside by the window looking at the winter lake as he had usually done for the past twenty five years. This morning seemed different. A strong wind was blowing the tops of the trees making a hushing sound as the trees swayed. Branches had fallen and orange berries and leaves with millions of pine needles scattered on the wind blown paths, creating a soft carpet to walk on. Dead trees lined the path waiting to go back to the earth, new life was growing on the dead trees. The cycle of life was very visible to Luda. Green moss and small baby trees were starting a new life. There was a loud crashing sound of a tree falling. She looked at the large tree that was rooted up and had fallen over the path near her and covering the creek. The roots and dirt were pointing to the grey cloudy sky almost pointing to god. even nature knows there is a god. The dark sky looked like its going to rain any minute. She felt a few raindrops falling. Luda had a chill in her bones and did not want to stay outside any longer. She came back to the house and called to her father but there was silence. Bench Seven: She marries a minister (Studying at the bench) One year later after her father passed. Luda was at college studying hard long hours about Korean history, She met a man at the library. They studied together and got attracted to each other. He is smart and strong in political knowledge. She admired him and soon they married. A few years later he decided to become a minister in a Christian faith. She too began to believe in religion. They live and study at the rangers house by the lake. Bench Eight: A daughter is born. Soon after her marriage to husband they have a daughter and name her Hana. Bench Nine: Cancer (Image of bare tree) Luda having finished chemo treatments and breast removals and painful transplants. She was frightened about dying. It's her life now and she thinks that most of her life she has done what was expected of her. Good little girl, follow tradition, she was not allowed to stay out after 10:00pm even when she was eighteen years old. Studying hard from nine in the morning until ten at night. No boyfriends and going to a all girls college which almost cut any relationships with boys. Marriage and one girl named Hana and loyal to her husband and his traditional ways. Living the proper Korean woman way. Very traditional. Very respectful to elders and keeping a proper home. Now she wants to be free. Live her life the way she wants. Make up for the things she missed growing up. Bench Ten: Healing When my daughter was about seven years old, she asked me one day what I did at work. I told her I work at college that my job was to teach people how to draw. She stared at me, incredulous, and said, " you mean they forget?" - Howard Ikemoto Luda is walking at the lake through a grove of trees where the sun is accenting light on the side of the trees there she notices a man with an easel set up and he is dancing to the music on his phone. While he is painting on a large canvas. Moving his brush with a rhythm. His colors are bright and beautiful and is painting the lake shimmering and the light coming through the trees. He paints so fast. The oil paints fly across the large canvas. Colors vibrate orange against green, purples and pinks reflect in the water, dark greens shape the trees with bright blue sky. He is pouring paint on his pallet and dipping in big brushes filled with linseed oil and rainbow assorted colors. Almost mopping the colors onto his canvas. Luda is moved by this emotions and strength and truth. The artist does not notice her as she moves in closer and is almost standing next to him. She is breathing deep. Her eyes focused on the wet paint as he is painting. Then he is startled by her and looks up from his absorbent oil colored painting. His eyes light up with a surprise when he looks into her delicate round face with her soft puffy lips. Luda asks him "Please teach me to paint" "Please" in her quiet voice. Shyly she looks into his eyes. He looks back at her puffy lips and white teeth. She explains her fight with cancer and after chemo treatments she needs to paint. Two days later the artist shows up at her door. He is holding two or three canvases in various sizes and shapes, a paintbox filled with paints, linseed oils, turpentine and brushes and under his arm a small folded wooden easel. He also has a big fresh sunflower in his other hand. Luda invites him in and gets a vase for her sunflower. Sunflowers are Luda's favorite flower. Luda and her artist friend went to her favorite bench where she sat as a little girl looking at the big house and remembers her father drinking hayung mi tea (brown rice tea). There her artist friend set up the easel and canvas and puts oil colors out for her to paint the beautiful trees and Mt Tamalpies are reflecting in the lake. He tells her to under paint the lake in bright orange oil paints and then purples and green on top. This helped Luda start to feel she could express a language of color and shapes without using words for her thoughts. A new way to organize her thoughts and use her artistic instincts. A new way to meditate her feelings. Transcend to her deep inner soul. As she was painting a lizard passed by and touched her foot but Luda did not feel the lizard. She was absorbed into her painting. The birds chirped and flies flew by and still she painted with such strong intense feelings. Colors came to her naturally as two ducks swam by flapping their wings and landed in the water causing ripples that she painted. The artist brought his small music box and played a CD with Bach Cello Solo played by Anner Bylsma as Luda painted. Luda said I'm so happy now. Harmony with art and nature and herself. It's my life and I want to heal it. I want to live a full lifetime she said. Playing is the highest form of research. -Albert Einstein The sun settling down over the trees, leaving a little sunlight on top of the trees also the sun is causing a pinkish purple sky at sunset. The artist favorite colors. Luda also loved the sunset colors passing through a few deep purple clouds. It was almost dark before they decided to quit painting. The sky turned purple and lavender with pink and turquoise. Colors that most artist want to paint. Bench Eleven: Falls in love As they walked back to the house she was admiring her painting, talking about the composition and colors. The texture of the oil paints and most of all her feelings of healing were starting to grow in her body. She felt free inside and alive and happy. The artist felt her glow and could not help his impulse and reached to her and pulled her towards him and kissed her on her lips. She pulled away. She was startled and confused but again he pulled her towards him and kissed her again. This time she fell into his lips. Both kissed for a long time as their blood rushed through their bodies. They did not notice that it was almost dark around them. Soon he left her at the house by the lake. And both were confused to what happened. Painting after painting, she was getting stronger. And their relationship also got stronger. More in touch of herself. More letting go of what nearly killed her. She became comfortable seeing her spirit come out. Also became comfortable with her new best artist friend. He admired her honest desire to find who Luda really was inside. Starting a new life now at the age of 40. Luda now is gaining confidence. "It's your life, live it" her artist friend encouraged her. See the colors clearly he would tell her. And Luda did. She painted sunflowers and water reflections and self portraits. All were strong and honest paintings. (Night time at the lake) The waves of the lake water reflecting the full moon as Luda is also reflecting herself in the water. A pink flower at the side of her hair and a flowered lay swung side to side as she danced the Hula dance in a grass skirt. Waves of reflecting water dancing to her rhythm. She is in love. Her love for life began to happen. Her dance made her feel happy seeing her life more clearly, also she was in love with her artist friend. A deep true love she never had before. They developed trust and cultural conversation. They also kissed for hours at different benches. Always hiding from people. She smiled and gave her heart to him when she thought of him with his twinkle in his eyes. He brought sandwiches to share. They were like the two grey squirrels chasing each other from trees to trees. She also dreamed of him almost every night. She now is painting almost daily, dancing, singing and her restful nights with interesting childlike dreams of playing in the parking lot of her apartment complex in Korea. Walks around the lake with him as the trees changed color of the fall, her favorite time of the year. Her healing had begun. A strong wind came through the trees causing leaves to fall and then a unexpected shower of rain came down on them as they ran under a cove of trees to hide from getting wet. Bench Twelve: Daughter at the lake (Luda now has a few grey hairs, many years went by and now at 40 she is sitting at the first bench near the house with her young daughter. They are looking back at the house). Her older artist friend is at the house sitting and drinking brown rice tea on the large deck overlooking the lake. He can hear both Luda and her daughter talking and singing the same song that Luda's mother sang. Luda now is singing that song to her daughter. The sky is settling down to darkness and the moon is reflecting on the lake and most sounds have become quiet except a frog splashing in the water (maybe her reincarnated father). A shooting star goes by as Luda and her daughter walk toward the house. "Yes. I forgot the little girl in me who liked dancing, painting, music and playing...who laughed a lot with silly things... She wants to come back and I am ready to welcome her again in my life. -Luda Luda's cancer came back. This time it had spread throughout her entire body. Her brain, her lungs, her bones. After many painful treatments from chemo, radiation. Luda tried to live. Fighting to live and to survive cancer. Cancer eating her body. She passed away. Some time passes, the artist sets up his easel at the lake. He paints trees at the lake where Luda spent most of her life. As he paints he sees her as she dances between the trees with sunlight shining on her white dress. She waves to her artist friend.

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