Amelie prepares her coffee as she does every morning. She uses an Italian espresso maker on the stovetop and runs her to do list for the day. She realizes each morning that she has become a creature of habit filled with to do lists. The list goes on: pick-up fresh vegetables from the store, email the ballet director for Phoebe, remind Phoebe of cleaning her bathroom, remind Phoebe of her own to do list, pick up some avocados to go with dinner. The list is never ending.
While her coffee is brewing, she is also preparing her breakfast, and lunches for her and Phoebe. She makes her avocado toast, and uses an environmentally safe glass bowl to store her lunch for the day. Hmmm.. lunch for today will just have to be some of the chicken from last night over a bed of lettuce, and in case for emergencies, a small bag of dark chocolates which will undoubtedly make her sick later.
When Amelie finishes making her essential provisions for her daily consumption, she heads back up to her master bathroom. She walks by the bed where minutes before Eli slept. His side of the bed is empty now that he left for work.
Amelie looks in the mirror once more and she realizes that today her eyes decided to be speckled with hazel which sometimes happens. Her wavy hair, in dire need of a trim and color, is pulled back in a low bun to keep the strays away from her face. She decided a year ago to stop wearing her dark brown hair long, and she chopped it to a short bob that came to the bottom of her earlobes. She soon realized that it was too high maintenance and she just didn’t have the time. So, it’s back to being long again, she thought.
As she gets done patting her hair, she stares one last time at her reflection and in that moment, she heard her own voice in her head, “you cannot allow him to see you, my girl. You must be stronger than who you were before. You must not cave in, and tuck that feeling you felt in your dream—tuck that away. You must do this. You will forget him in a few days and he will only be a memory. You must do this for us.”
10 years before
The meeting in Orlando was delayed. Julian and his staff were informed that the owner of the app company that they were meeting with was delayed in Atlanta, and would not be able to make it to Orlando until the following day. Julian had planned on staying in his room the entire day to work on proposals. He originally did not want to attend this meeting, but Bertrand felt that he needed a break.
On the other hand, his staff had other plans. Kona, his colleague and friend, decided that the entire group could use some down time, and he had heard that there were soccer games at the ESPN fields, and some of those teams were featuring the top players nationwide.
“C’mon, Boss—just a couple of hours and then you can get back to your work. We’ll get some beers, watch some kids play soccer, and rest up.”
“Fine. Just a couple of hours,” Julian gave in.
When the group got to the ESPN sports complex, Julian regretted it immediately. The place was packed with families, and Kona had no idea that the soccer games featured the up and coming young soccer players.
Julian and his staff settled in at the bar, but soon decided to catch one of the games. There was a team from the Pacific Northwest and the West Coast which included California, who were already in the 2nd half of their game. Kona wanted to see if any Hawaiians were playing since he was originally from Oahu, and played soccer all of his life.
The group began to settle in when Julian’s phone rang. He stepped off the bleachers, and headed towards bleachers’ entryway for privacy. There was a walkway where families of the soccer players were walking to get to their fields, and Julian was sure that no one would hear him talking on the phone.
“Julian, are you finding time to relax?” Bertrand’s voice came through loud and clear.
“Actually, Bertrand, I’m at a soccer game.”
“Well, you’ve always cared for futbol. I’m just checking in to make sure you’re getting some down time.”
“I am Bertrand. In fact, while I have you on the phone, can I have you check on…”
Julian stopped as an overwhelming feeling hit him out of nowhere. The feeling began as a warm brush on the back of his neck, like a caress from an unexpected visitor. Julian turned around immediately, but all he saw was people walking by ignoring him.
“Julian, what is it?” Bertrand asked with concern in his voice.
“Bertrand, hold one.. just wait,” Julian looked around to see if he can figure out who it was that walked by him.
“What’s going on, Julian? What is it?” Bertrand’s voice, while calm, started to panic.
“What? What do you mean?”
“She’s here. I can feel her presence.”
“In Orlando? She’s in Orlando?”
“Shit! Bertrand, she’s at this park. She’s around here. My god. I know it,” Julian frantically started walking down the walkway looking at everyone, his phone to his ear.
“Julian, you cannot. You would not recognize her. Julian, do you hear me? Walk. Away. You cannot approach her. You do not know how she is living in this life.”
“Let me follow this….”
“What are you going to do? Play hot or cold?” Bertrand tried to make light of the situation although he knows full well that his best friend will not listen.
“If I have to Bertrand, if I have to.”
Julian got at the end of the path when he realized that he’d walked away from the soccer field where Kona and his staff are enjoying the game. The feeling began to fade away.
“I’m losing her… where are you?”
“Well, she left you in the last life, my friend.” Bertrand’s voice came through the phone that Julian forgot he still had in his ear, “let her go.”
Julian hung up on his best friend as he stood in the middle of the walkway savoring the last remnants of the feeling that brushed him moments before.
In the present
The museum building was built on the premise that it will store all art work created by Alaskans, art work that featured Alaska in all its wild glory, and Alaskan art donated by donors who wanted to preserve their beauty and could no longer do so. Amelie’s job was to not only procure these art works, but to work with the donors who give their generosity and time in preserving the art pieces of Alaska. To Amelie, the art that the Museum oversees and handle with care are pieces of time that stood still. The artist chose a moment in time to preserve, whether it is through the medium of watercolor, photography, or structural pieces.
The most recent donor of such art pieces is a good friend of the photographer who was an Alaskan adventurer. The photographer fell in-love with Alaska, and wanted to capture all the extreme activities that he experienced in his life. He took photos of the natural beauty that Alaska offered, whether it was hunting for Moose, fishing for salmon, skiing, snowboarding, rock climbing. The photographer captured it all. He lived in the rural parts of Alaska to be cultivated in how to sustain and survive on the land. What a beautiful crazy mind he had, Amelie thought. In Amelie’s opinion, there are several types of people who live in Alaska: those who want to conquer the wildness and live among it, those who want to appreciate its beauty, those who want to hide, and then there are those who just choose to live. Amelie believes she’s the latter, and while she’s at it, she is more than happy to appreciate its beauty, but would never attempt to live in a dry cabin.
“Soo, did you read the dossier that I provided before your meeting tomorrow? I’ll be picking up Mr. Dude from the airport, and will take him to the museum for your meeting—before you play hostess to an old man,” Norma walks in to Amelie’s office with coffee on hand, and a folder in another. Norma has been Amelie’s assistant, and frankly, close friend. They’ve been working together since Amelie hired her, and as she encouraged Norma to pursue careers that Amelie know she can excel in, Norma never cared to do so. Her reasoning was that she is quite happy where she’s at, and why change such a good thing?
“You really cannot be calling our donor Mr. Dude and an old man. You should train yourself to stop that before you accidentally call him that in his face,” Amelie grabs the coffee and looks in the folder. “This is the dossier? There’s not even a photo of him, and from my understanding, he has a long list of accomplishments—and his philanthropy is bar to none,” Amelie glanced at the one page bio of the donor and knew immediately that there was nothing there for her to work on.
“This old dude is really private, Am. His donations are private, and he does not want to be recognized for any of his work. There is nothing on Google about him–not even a photo. How is that even possible?”
“So, basically—I have to wing this one?” Amelie asks.
“Yep, you only have your introvert charm to go with!”
“Very funny. I love my job, but the social aspect of this is extremely exhausting. What’s the itinerary for this visit?”
“It’s pretty packed. A few days here in town to do the sights, then it’s off to Seattle to retrieve the other pieces, and then Germany, then London to extract the rest. Mr. Dude insisted that he goes along the way because he wants all the collection extracted from these locations,” Norma looked at Amelie’s itinerary, and would never want to have to do what her boss does. That’s just too much work that can cause mental exhaustion—something that Norma would pass in a heartbeat.
“When is he scheduled to arrive again?” Amelie asks.
“Tomorrow at noon. He wants to head straight to the museum to meet with you, and then you’re stuck with a senior citizen for a few days…. Actually, for two weeks. That is if the extraction of the pieces are successful.”
“I hate being away from Eli and Phoebe for that long of a time.”
“Isn’t Phoebe going to be stuck in ballet dance intensive classes? So, I think she’ll be alright. Plus, I’m taking her to Falk’s sheep farm and you know she’ll love that.”
“That’s right. I’ll feel better that her time is filled while I’m away, and Eli won’t have to worry about running her around everywhere.”
“In the mean time, you might want to handle a few things before the chaos.”
“Yes, you are correct. I’ll need to oversee the inventory of what we already have, and the pieces that we will need to acquire for this collection,” Amelie looks at her list, and realizes that the artist organized his art meticulously. It was almost as if he was chronicling his pieces in a timeline format, and that time was of the most importance in creating his work.
“Norma, the unveiling event will cover his works chronologically, correct?”
“Yes, that is the only way we can showcase the timeline.”
Amelie looks at the prototype of the catalog that they will feature for the event. The photos were all taken in a matter of 25 years, each coded with the date and a particular time in the artist’s life. He traveled all over the world in the first 10 years, and in the last 15 years, his photos were all taken in Alaska. The pieces that Amelie collected were all taken in various places in the state. I wonder how you lived your life, and what stories are you really conveying in these photographs. Part of Amelie’s job is to date the specific time and location of the pieces. To Alaskans, this is quite important since it’s significant to know that a photo was taken during a particular season. The events surrounding the photos also provide a historical context of a small slice of the artist’s life.
One of the photographs featured a group of fishermen in the Juneau. They were on the beach cradling birds. Upon closer inspection, the beach was not the color of a beautiful blue, but a dark mass of blackness. What was he doing in Prince William Sound during the oil spill?
Amelie’s projects of procuring art affects her in such a way that she becomes completely enthralled as she learns more about the artist. She sees their work as an extension of their genetic make-up; how they were in their life, who they were or attempted to be, and most of all, their sorrows, loss, happiness, and their love. There were moments when Amelie tried to step away from a project she took on because her sense of connection severely affected her own life. She’d step away for a few days to remind herself that she is still with the living ,and that to the artist, she was a stranger who was now collecting their life’s work to be owned, cared for by a museum, and one day owned by donor who wants a piece of their lives.