Originally posted July 20, 2012 @ http://www.lingeringvisions.com
I was recently visiting a historical park in Maryland. I only stopped to take a look around and of course, take some pictures. I didn’t partake in the tour or visit the museum. It was just a random stop on my way from here to there. There were some women in the park, just a few, five of them from what I saw. They were scattered in different parts of the big field that bordered the road and a stream. They were painting. I was curious but I didn’t want to disturb them while they were working. Working, is that the right word?
The air was so tranquil and each artist seemed so engrossed in what she was doing that I didn’t want to interrupt them. It was as if there was a window that separated us. I could see them through the pane and they could see out but other than a brief glimpse as our eyes caught sight of one and other they barely acknowledged my existence. There was a silence between us that felt too sacred to disturb; as if to do so would be to shatter the glass.
Finally one of the women left her station and I felt safe to converse with her. “Are you ladies all here together?” I asked. “Yes, we are a class.” she answered.
I gave her a perfunctory “That’s nice” or some such response, still tip toeing delicately in their space.
I suppose the romantic in me wants to think of myself as somewhat of an artist. I know I see things as some of the artists that I engage with do. Without bragging or being too humble I know that I have a talent for framing a scene with my eyes, even imagining it in a different light or at a different slant and sometimes I can capture that with my camera or in editing. But to actually portray that scene with paint to paper or any other such medium; that is a talent, that is an artist.
There were four bridges in that small patch of field where the women were observing, absorbing, and painting their surroundings. I felt like a kindred spirit as I walked around trying to recognize and guess what each woman might be looking at and painting. The first two were closest together using the picnic tables to set their easels and supplies on. They both were painting the most obvious bridge; a wooden bridge with a steel arch, a reproduction of one from an earlier era. I wanted to watch, to ask questions, to compliment them but the window was closed.
I came upon a foot bridge almost hidden in the brush. Green leaves, foliage, and shadows help to conceal this wooden beauty. I began to cross it and the temperature changed immediately as the water trickled heavily over the rocks below. Last night’s storm had churned the stream and the water below me was the color of mud. It was a beautiful bridge and I took pictures of it from many angles, imagining what I would do with them when I got to editing. I looked around at the other women eagerly searching their faces for signs of approval or even a glimpse of camaraderie but there was nothing. They were in their own worlds, occupied by thoughts of strokes, color wheels, and romance. I was no more interesting than the fly that buzzed by.
I walked the shore of the brook until I came to the woman I had spoken to before. She faced a beautiful stone bridge that traffic ran on above and the stream flowed through below. It seemed safe to speak to her again when she looked up and smiled. “It’s beautiful here, isn’t it?” I asked making small talk again. “Yes it is” she agreed. Her canvas was bare but covered with a moss green paint. I was curious if she was starting over; the other women seemed so much further along. She was the oldest of the group, probably the age my mother would be if she was still alive. I wondered if she had been painting long, if she was a novice or seasoned, if she was frustrated, or her thoughts jumbled. I wondered what my own mother would be like at this age.
I asked her if she had seen the wooden bridge and pointed to it. “Why no, I never even noticed that” she said looking that way. I felt a little twinge of pride at finding such a beauty when artists who had been there considerably longer had missed it. “It’s really nice, you should walk down there” I said with renewed confidence.
I walked on to the next woman who was sitting on a blanket in the grass. Her back was to the stone bridge and the reproduction was behind her and to the left. She was much younger than the first, probably in her forties I surmised. The way she sat in the grass seemed to me like a painting in itself. I imagined her in a different era and romanticized her presence. I hesitated to disturb her. I smiled at her and the window seemed open. “You’ve found a lovely spot” I said “here by the stream. If you could only drown out the noise of the traffic I can imagine it would be surreal.” She gazed to the stream and sighed “Yes”. “Did you see the foot bridge there” I said pointing, knowing quite certainly that she must have, even imaging that it might be what she was painting on the canvas that was between us. “No” she looked up. “I never even saw that bridge before”. I was surprised and I felt my demeanor visibly change as I took on an air of maybe not superiority but certainly of equality. “You should walk down there” I suggested. “It’s quite lovely.”
I made my way back to the car and passed the youngest of the group, she seemed to me to be in her early 20’s. I just had to ask before I left. The bridge sat 100 yards to her right and was probably most visible to her out all of the women. “Did you see the foot bridge there” I asked, my prepared speech flowing naturally. “No” she said raising her head up a surprised look coming over her face as she spied the bridge so obvious to her now. “You should cross it before you leave” I suggested in my most confident lilting voice.
I drove away smiling. I’m still in awe of an artist but I am no longer afraid to break the glass.