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Azalea, Preston Jackson


20"h, cast bronze

No matter what Azalea was doing, she always had a big smile on her face, backed up by loud laughter. The sparkle in her eyes was like the dew on the spiderwebs and cotton plants in the early morning hours. The skin of her large hands always reminded me of leather saddles and bridles, that were sun-cracked by time. She never wore shoes in the fields she worked, for her strong, calloused soles could flatten any clump of dirt beneath her. We were familiar with the paths that she trod, and the earth itself seemed to compress and shrink, as if in submission to the weight of this gentle intruder.

Azalea was often thought of as simple-minded and somewhat docile. She always immediately did as she was told. There was never a chore that she would refuse, always accepting direction in a gleeful manner.

The red, freshly plowed thick furrows of earth looped upward to meet her strong hands, like a large snake anticipating the removal of burdensome ticks. Most people of her race and class knew well the earth and all its bountiful gifts. Like the Native Americans, she too was blessed with the knowledge that the fulfillment of all human needs sprang directly from the ground beneath them.

Those who passed by, and gazed downward to greet her were met with a face like a bouquet of flowers—any evil thoughts or insults were dissolved by the sound of her greeting and laughter. One knew instinctively that her toil was only momentary in her mind. Her so-called superiors envied her abilities to lighten even the heaviest loads with her mask-like smile.

©2006 Preston Jackson