Jane Devin

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The Power of Venus, Revisited

April 3rd, 2008 · 17 Comments

venus.jpgA decade or so ago, she flipped her blonde hair back with a wave, adjusted her sunglasses, and leaned forward for the customary hug goodbye. I thought, as I often did, how very stunning my sister was, how elegant, and how unlike me, from her long, thin legs to her alabaster skin. Dianne was beautiful from birth on, as if she had won some feminine lottery that gave her Venus-like features, and assured she would never have to stoop to changing her own tires or emptying her trash.

She evoked her charms early, and employed them well, even with me. Why did I so often do her chores? I don’t know, it’s a mystery. I also borrowed her perfectly clean and pressed clothes on occasion – never without being unmercifully caught – and put up with a hundred humiliations that only an older and far more savvy sister could dole out. And I loved her, deeply, with a wide-eyed awe, a steadfast loyalty, and just a twinge of pain.

I was the Mars to her Venus. A skinny Amazon tomgirl with chapped lips, skinned knees, and untied shoes. An outdoor warrior who conquered rivers on oversized truck inner-tubes, and who hammered and nailed neighborhood trash into girls-only forts, which I defended with a mean right arm and a pile of rocks. When I was stuck indoors, I read books – tons and tons of books – none of which ever sated my need for definitive answers but which, instead, were always something of a tease.

While I was flexing my wiry little muscles outdoors or losing myself in some fictional adventure, Dianne was honing the feminine arts. She could dance, she could sew, she could knit. She knew how to apply makeup and what colors and fabrics matched. She grew mysteries, flowers, and curvy hips. She knew which fork to use, and how to properly address a letter to the President. Her room was a fortress of all things femme and wonderful, and on those rare occasions I was invited in, I reveled in her warmth and artistry.

I protected Dianne many times, with all the fierceness of a sister and all the strength of an Amazon-minor. In return, she taught me gentleness and social graces, and how to properly apply mascara to my barely-there lashes – a lesson I quickly forgot.

Anyway, on a warm summer day during the late nineties, she leaned her perfumed neck down and I felt her breath in my ear. I was sure that what was coming next was the typical “I will miss you,” “take care of yourself.” Instead, my sister – someone I have unfortunately known only from a distance since we were teens – whispered in her elegant voice,

“Remember to control your passion”.

I was stunned. I couldn’t even come up with an appropriate response. The comebacks came later, hours later, as I rolled along the desolate Nevada highway in my Ford F-150, blasting Joni Mitchell, lighting cigarette after cigarette (after weeks of smokelessness), and yes – feeling kind of passionate.

Eventually, I let those words go, although for months afterwards I found myself checking my level of excitability, wondering if perhaps my enthusiasm for certain subjects would be viewed as something wild and unrestrained.

Like other minor crises of confidence, this one passed over time. I went on with my rustic existence some 2000 miles away, and shook off the decades-long, on-and-off feeling of being somewhat undone by my Venus sister who, in the glowing light of her perfect femininity, could still make me feel as rough and unpolished as the rocks I used to sling through the fields – or who could just as effortlessly stoke the fire of sisterly love and make me feel eminently cherished.

Enter Dorothea. No, that’s not her real name, but that’s not the point. The point is Venus Redux. Not a love interest, just someone I love. A sister of some differential soul I hold in esteem. Another feminine beauty, with dramatic eyes and sculpted bones whom, if I was a painter, I would never stop painting. I would stand there, in the shadows of my sun-drenched studio, and capture every fleck of light and wisp of mood, with a glass of deep red Cabernet in one hand and the finest sable brush in the other.

If I was a carpenter, I would build her the most beautiful house in the world. I would haul up the most perfect river stone, and make her an exquisite room with high ceilings and large cathedral windows topped in stained glass. Red, blue, and yellow prisms of light would play along ancient stones and dance on dark wood floors. There would be a fireplace fit for a castle, and live, luscious plants growing everywhere. A plush rug, handwoven by the wisest and most artistic of crones, who would tell a woman’s story in shades of red – royal red, blood red, carmine and rose red, the flame red of Mars, and the brilliant red of passion.

And if I were a writer. Well.

I would tell the story of Venus’s great natural power. The way the women of Venus shine and stun, and burn and inspire, and lift-up and set-down whole other spirits, without ever really knowing, let alone analyzing, the effect they have on others. I would speak of their innate love of luxury and beauty, and their propensity to have and know only the finest things in life, from clothes to art to friends. I would speak of their womanly gifts, their flair and artistry, and their ability to set others at ease or on edge with their sharp wit and eloquent tongues.

I would speak of the comfort they provide, and the tantalizing meals they create from Nature’s great bounty — beautiful plates laden with nourishing food, deep bowls of hot, hearty soup – the warm and gracious invitations they extend to others to be nurtured at their table.

And, of course, I would speak of their power to heal.

Dorothea, my friend and sister of the differential soul, invited me over to her new 100 year old abode to paint a few weeks ago. When I arrived, I learned it was not just a room that needed work, but an entire house, with old window frames that had to be sanded, and ceilings that needed to be scraped, and walls that needed to be patched. Somehow, the thought of all that work made me ecstatic. I would get to help build a castle after all, even if it was in the blemished heart of the Uptown district. More importantly, I would get to spend all that time basking in the radiance of all things Venus. There would be a lot of laughter, an abundance of good food, and of course, a few minor but humorous arguments, because the Venus soul is very particular about what goes where and how it goes, and passionate Amazons aren’t exactly short of their own ideas.

It was a blast. On the last night, while the last of the paint dried, we sat out on the balcony, which I was pleased to note would need to be re-stained in the summer. It was a somewhat chilly night, and a blanket she made covered my shoulders. We were sipping warm wine from crystal glasses just sprung from their packing crate, and talking about nothing in particular, when she turned to me with her big green eyes and tilted her beautiful head.

“I was just thinking.”
“Seriously, you can’t change your mind on the bathroom again.” I had painted that bathroom four times, once in primer, then in some shade of orange, and then twice in light blue. Bathrooms and kitchens are a bear to paint.

She didn’t laugh, and I was already figuring out how much primer I’d need in my head.

“Someone is needed to slay the dragons,” she finally said, “and you’re my favorite dragon slayer. I just love the passion you bring to everything you do.”

It was, far and away, the best compliment I have ever received. I remembered then what my sister said to me so many years ago, and when I told Dorothea the story she laughed. “Control your passion. As if. I can’t even fathom that possibility in you.”

Did I say Venus Redux? I meant Redone. Rebirthed. Healed. I took home a quart of Lentil soup, a hand-knit blanket, and an abundance of refreshed Amazon pride — even if my shoes were untied and my clothes were covered in paint.

Tags: Other Writings

17 responses so far ↓

  • 1 MVM // Apr 3, 2008 at 8:02 pm

    Each and every evening I look forward to reading your essays. I feel very fortunate to have found someone with such talent and passion and willing to share it with the world.

  • 2 Paige // Apr 3, 2008 at 9:30 pm

    Such beautiful and heartfelt compliments you’ve paid to your sister and friend. I’m sure they feel honored to have YOU in their lives.

  • 3 Ann // Apr 3, 2008 at 10:25 pm

    Wow! I love reading anything you write. I could see and feel the Venus effect as if I were the one having the experience. I feel very touched. Thank you for writing and sharing your gift..your passion..with us.

    I am a Minnesotan, as well, in a constant ambivalent relationship with the weather.

  • 4 Doris Rose MacBean // Apr 4, 2008 at 11:24 am

    thanks, that was a great story.makes me want to go back in my memory box and fetch one up.

  • 5 linda woods // Apr 4, 2008 at 3:49 pm

    THAT was fantastic!

  • 6 LBJ // Apr 4, 2008 at 6:22 pm

    Oh Jane, you so touched me with this tonight.

    My mother passed on eight days ago. I have been recked with grief, even though I knew it was coming and inevitable.

    My mom was that Venus woman you so thoughtfully and lovingly describe. She was the quintessential beauty and she loved to be surrounded by beautiful things. She made our middle class lifestyle growing up feel rich. I did not appreciate her fully then, but I look back on the clothes she sewed for us, which she copied from Speigel or other catalogs, and my sisters and I did look sharp.

    And like your “dorothea”, my mom just had me wrapped around her little finger, willingly, because I just loved her so so very much.

    My sisters were more like her. I was the Amazon in my family, and gay. Do you know my mom never once made me feel ashamed of who I was? Here she was, a pillar of the community, with these two popular daughters, a handsome son, and me. She never tried to bend me, and seemed proud of me regardless.

    I had a partner for 12 years, and my mom referred to her as a daughter in law, with no hesitation and no shame. Because of how she was, and the power she held in our family, my siblings and dad were the same.

    I’m sorry this is long, I’m emotional, but there was just one thing I had to say. I was going through my scrapbooks, and came across a card from my mom when I graduated HS. In it, she wrote, “your passion will take you far.”

    Jane, your story….was beautiful, and especially meaningful for me today.

  • 7 Another Friend // Apr 5, 2008 at 12:04 am

    LBJ. I can only feel that for some spiritual reason, those words are something that you should grab on to at this time of sorrow and hold tight. Could the message be more clear? There is something really special.. in those words for you.

  • 8 freida // Apr 5, 2008 at 3:46 am

    I just loved reading this, even read some paragraphs 2 or 3 times, just to ‘hear’ them again in my head.
    Nice flow, like music…wonder if my rhythm was just like yours, or the original intention, like sweeping strokes of the paintbrush.
    I just lost myself in the moment.
    Lovely Jane.

    LBJ, I lost my mother, too, and remember her fondly.

  • 9 Ann Parker // Apr 5, 2008 at 10:29 am

    My Aunt Mary was my Venus. My mother’s youngest sister and I were like best friends all my life. When I was thirteen on a hot summer day we laid on our stomachs in a big blow up swimming pool. When we raised up to get out our halter tops filled with water and we had huge boobs. We laughed so hard we fell back into the water. We laughed about it for the rest of her life. She was always elegantly dressed “to the nines”. She preferred costume jewelry to the real thing because she said she could do more with it. Everything is about a dress she said. No matter what is it, it goes back to a dress. She had few clothes as a child but when she was grown she had many. All beautiful and always in style. Then she died, my dearest friend on earth. Once when my grief was new I said into a quiet room, Mary where are you, knowing she had to be out there somewhere, somewhere. Then in a flash, before I could think, into my mind she spoke. I am here, I am right here. One night I dreamed.
    I was in Hecht’s department store going up to the beauty salon. The salon where we both had shared the same hairdresser. Clay, our color expert, our therapist, our priest whose hairbrush mixed humor and religion into something we could understand. He entertained, enriched and improved us as he pulled, plastered and painted our heads in foil and rollers.
    As I walked toward the salon I saw Mary coming out wearing a white dress. Mary! I shouted in joy and surprise. She was walking with her fast little steps in shoes that made clicks and she smiled that smile with her eyes crinkling. When she came close enough she took my arm and waved to the far side of the second floor. Let’s go over here and see these dresses she said, in my dream.

    Beautiful, beautiful post, Ann. Thank you. - Jane

  • 10 peejays // Apr 5, 2008 at 12:16 pm

    LBJ: Thank you for sharing at what I know is a terribly difficult time for you. I’m always moved by what you write, and this time was no exception. I’m so sorry for your loss. Your mother sounds like a beautiful person. And so do you.

  • 11 Me // Apr 5, 2008 at 1:13 pm

    Just wondering if you are single… what you write goes deep.

    Hi Me, if the question is for me, I expect the Spinster’s club to send me my membership card any day now. :-) If it’s for LBJ, well, LBJ? - Jane

  • 12 Jane Devin // Apr 5, 2008 at 2:35 pm

    Thank you, MVM, Paige, Ann, Doris, and Linda. It means a lot to me that you take the time to comment, and I’m totally humbled by your words. Thank you.

    LBJ, you have always written beautifully of your mother and I’m so sorry to hear about her passing. I know how proud she was of you, and you of her. It’s never a long enough life for those who love it, but I’m happy that hers was so rich and blessed. What Peejays said was right on — and I hope you will write about your mom often.

    Ann & Me, I left comments in your posts. Thank you. :-)

  • 13 allison // Apr 5, 2008 at 4:39 pm

    Wow. Simply beautiful.
    LBJ, I am so sorry for you loss. She will always be with you! Thank you for sharing how much love and support you got from your mother. My daughter has a beautiful wife, and we feel so blessed to have her in our lives. I love hearing about good loving parents. So many people are ripped apart by their families rejection.
    Jane you are so gifted, and I am always moved, and comforted by each piece.

  • 14 Me // Apr 5, 2008 at 6:05 pm

    Yes, the question was for you. And I too so appreciate LBJ’s writing…. So many sharing so much. It’s all good.

  • 15 LBJ // Apr 6, 2008 at 10:07 am

    I found Jane’s site through a friend of mine who sent me a link, and have become a regular visitor not just because I think she’s a wonderful writer, but because of the incredible women, like all of you….who are always supportive and caring. I have never known a website with such love on it, and feel so safe here.

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

    And Jane, thank you again for this story, which I have read many times. It is healing.

  • 16 LBJ // Apr 6, 2008 at 10:08 am

    Allison, I bet your a fantastic mother.

  • 17 "Dorothea" // Apr 8, 2008 at 9:56 am

    It wasn’t orange, it was a pale peach!

    You are simply one of the finest people I have ever known, What else can I say? You made me cry with this writing, but that’s what you and your writing does. You evoke emotion, and through that so much else flows.

    I would, if I could, build you a room out in your private Eden, with wall to wall books, a huge mahogany desk, and a glass wall that faced the lake. I’d also hire you a chef! Of course, if I did that you’d never leave, and who would there be to help me when I get in way over my head?

    I wish your sister could know the Jane I know, because you’ve far eclipsed the “Amazon-minor” little sister stage.

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