______ As Myth
This project conceived by Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton, 2021-22 CERCL Artist in Residence and owner of Deep Ink, LLC, includes a community writing workshop centered on personal mythology (modeled after her forthcoming book Black Chameleon), an art-based project that interprets local mythologies into visual art, and a community exhibit highlighting student, community and professional artists at the Moody Center for the Arts.
When Sun Touches Lake
Story by Malaika Bergner
Art interpretation by Madison Zhao
It was one of those bright gray days. No blue sky in sight, just a thick layer of cloud. One of those days where the wind rattles windows with a punch and you get scared on your top floor apartment unit. Scared you about to get blown away on the L platform hopping the Red Line to work. On the East Side they raising those red flags and everybody knows to stay away from the lakefront. Nobody’s around so the beach feels empty, but it’s not.
The overgrown grass awakens and begins to blow wildly in the wind. The sand gets some color back when it starts to sprinkle, becoming a more melanated hue. The waves grow tall and mighty, strengthened by the storm. And there he was, emerging out of the water. Long, jet black locs reaching to his lower back. The wind strong enough to play in his tresses, making them dance along his spine. Skin the color of the richest sand on the beach, the kind that is mixed with clay. A body freckled with spots of every shade, like every spot was a unique piece of seaglass, not one like another. His eyes were colored like the deepest depths of the water, a black so devoid of light. He had finally emerged. Back to the city that sits on his birthplace, on his Mother, Lake Michigan. A city infested with wind, but not the kind his Mother makes. No, the kind made by liars, exploiters, cheats, and capitalists. The ones who run this concrete jungle. The ones that are still standing on the backs of people who built their beloved city from the ground up. These Wind Blowers were endangering those he felt most connected to. He, the Son of the Lake, They, the Children of the Sun. The ones who release Mother from red hydrants onto the unforgiving streets to play with her under the summer sun. The ones who soak in Mother’s love through their skin and hair, locking her in with their oils and creams. He loved them dearly. But this love was eventually overpowered, all because of a tragedy that he witnessed years ago. His name was Mari and he had risen to wreak havoc on the Windy City.
It was about a century ago, on one of the hottest summer days that the city had ever seen. Mother had her hands full cause everybody wanted a taste of her coolness and her refreshing breeze. She sensed joy and relief amongst the people at her beaches but could feel something insidious creeping onto her shore. A little boy from the Low End was laying on his back with his eyes closed, receiving a kiss from the Sun as Mother held him on her surface. His rich brown coloring, now wet from Mothers embrace, twinkled in the Sun’s rays of light. This is the peace that Mother had the power to bring. This is the peace that she taught her son Mari to create with a single touch of his hand. Mari could take all your pain and worries away, replacing it with serenity and fullness. For people, like the little boy, there was no better feeling in the world. But it could be taken away in an instant.
The first rock came pummeling in like a Wrigley Field baseball. Then another and another, until it was a full-on ambush. The little boy had floated on to the Wind Blowers side of the beach. These people were so imbued with evil that they threw rocks at the boy until he sank. A Child of the Sun sank down to the bottom of the Lake, the life force of his body had been expelled by rock and his soul was now one with Mother. And she felt his pain with every inch of her being, spreading across her from this city to the lands miles away which she touched. Mari remembers that day--he was deep below the surface when he saw the little boy sink, it seemed like his body would never stop falling. He swam over to the boy when he finally lay at the bottom, and gently closed the boy’s eyes with his magical fingertips.
The tears that Mari cried in the days that followed would have made monsoons on the surface, but here with Mother they were swept away into his surroundings. As long as it took him to cry out all of his tears, it took him only a moment to feel fury. This rage made his peaceful powers very difficult to use because if he himself could not be at peace than he could not bring peace to others. His powers were completely entangled with his emotions. He hated the Wind Blowers with his entire being and he carried this anger with him even as he emerged now, a hundred years later. He knew he could no longer bring peace, but he did not care, for he had taught himself the powers of intimidation, impulsiveness, and dissociation that he felt much more inclined to use.
He walked out of the waves that day creating storms and rain with his angry presence, taking his fury to the streets. His energy amplified all the evils already plaguing the city--guns, jails, prisons, police, politicians, food deserts, pollution, worker exploitation, inhumane housing. But as he wandered onto the South Side, he noticed something. Though there was not a ray of sunshine in sight, he saw people of all different shades of brown that were smiling and laughing. They were kissing and hugging, sharing food and telling stories. Moving their bodies to the rhythms and beats emitting from their joyous music. They had created their own little bubble of safety and comfort. Mari felt it in his chest--a warm and tingling feeling penetrating his heart. It felt like sunshine was seeping inside of him. The rain stopped and the clouds thinned out, though the wind still remained. Mari had long forgotten what he had felt before he watched that little boy’s soul leave his body as he sank. These people before him were the Children of the Sun, whose souls shined so bright and full! He was in love with them and had always been. Like a tipping scale, his hatred of the Wind Blowers had been weighing him down for so long, but now he could feel his love resurging and the scale balancing. He still blamed the Wind Blowers for much of the death and pain in the city, so he held on to his powers of riot. But his love for the Children of the Sun extended way beyond any urge he felt to amplify violence. And just like that, he felt the familiar magic in his fingertips that Mother had taught him so long ago. Mari now new balance and was beginning to find his peace within the people he loved. And so the Son of the Lake walked deeper into this melanated enclave, closer to the Sun’s touch, and tuned out the Windy City for a bit. Finding peace, if only for a moment.