In his later years, my father had a woman, Timéa (Timi) who came to help with the cooking and cleaning. After he died and I took on the house I decided that it made sense for her to keep coming. Timi is a sunny Hungarian girl with a bright disposition and wardrobe. On a recent visit though she was concerned that I had lilies in the bedroom. She’d heard it was dangerous to sleep with them in a closed space when they were in bloom because the pollen could kill you in your sleep.
I imagine this idea came from a number of different places. Hospitals discouraging the flowers being left in patients room overnight. The strong associations of Lilies and death. The heady, overpowering almost soporific intensity of the pollen, which irreversibly stains clothes and fabric. I watched the lilies bloom ominously over the week with a morbid fascination. They seemed to sag, sleepily under the weight of the bright orange dust that coated the insides of their petals and there was some kind of truth in how the flowers carried themselves. Anyway, this led to a thought, a bridge between materials that I keep coming back to – Make-up and Eyelashes.
Mum was never without make-up (or heels but that’s another story). In her 68 years I can count on one hand the number of times I saw her without her war-paint and falsies. The first time, I distinctly remember doing a double take as I didn’t recognize her when she came out of the bathroom. Most of the time she slept with her make up on and simply added or reapplied in the morning.
A recent work (Asleep Somewhere) consisted of a set of her old false eyelashes projected on a wall using an OHP. The work took its title from the many euphemisms used on headstones to say that someone was dead. Phrases like “Entered into Sleep” or “Rest in Peace” being the most common. It struck me then that there was something in the weight of the make-up; the accumulation of it over the course of time, weighing the eyes down insistently. Like the weight of the pollen that burdened those flowers.
Timi moved the lilies into the bathroom. And apparently they do kill cats.