Ways of Seeing

By Melanie Bryant

May 29, 2023

Ways of Seeing

At eighty, my mother is a string of adjectives: slight, slow-moving, stooped.

“It comes with the territory,” she says and points to her neck. “I just don’t have the strength to hold my head up anymore.” When she walks, she looks down at the ground. I hope she finds lucky pennies and treasures, but she tells me there are only weeds and cracks in the concrete. I want my mother to unbend herself. I want her to see how the clouds break in the evening sky, the cascade of purple wisteria that falls from the rooftop, the fullness of the moon.

One afternoon, I tell her about Don Marcelino de Sautuola, the archeologist who spent months excavating the Altamira cave, looking for bones, his eyes fixed on the cave floor. One day, his daughter accompanied him and when she stepped into the cave, she looked up at the ceiling and yelled, “Mira! Mira!” For the first time, Don Marcelino de Sautuola looked up and saw the colorful paintings of bison and the ready hunters, their bows drawn, strings taut, fingers steady. My mother says nothing of Don Marcelino de Sautuola or the Altamira cave.

Weeks later, I stop by for a visit. Before I can lean down to kiss her, my mother lifts her head and kisses me. Smiling, she asks, “Did you see the moon last night?”


Melanie Bryant lives in the PNW. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Ruminate Magazine, Bellingham Review, and Chautauqua.

Image by Rechitan Sorin courtesy of Adobe Stock

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