Canvas

 

 

Is everything we see within us? Can we by some inspired magic present this outward; insinuate our wishes onto canvas? For example, the man and woman sitting at a center table in this restaurant. He draws attention. He has thick, black hair swept back behind his ears from a widow’s peak. His brows slope down at the outside giving the impression he lives in sadness, but his eyes and mouth fight against this – lightening his demeanor with a smile. He is wearing a crisp, ironed shirt and tidy trousers, a large expensive looking watch and some rings – tasteful, not garish. For all of it he seems foreign; European perhaps.

Do you wonder if he is happy? Because I do, and when I see people and invest in their appearance this frequently happens. I will become part of them for some time, and then I wonder – how does the future unfold?

The lady he is with sees something in him. She was drawn to him from the moment they met – at a friend’s house over a dinner of tapas, some red wine, a conversation concerning bugs. It was a Monday night, both had attended against their wishes and the pleasant relief of their attraction lent optimism to situation, a condition that doubles in meaning when two people sense it in proximity and especially in surprise. How wonderful this whimsy that occurs in life and in story.

She is younger by ten years or so. She has long, black hair with some color in it – a dark brown or some very dark purple mixed in. Her blouse is deep blue and patterned with lighter colors in a plaid – it is folded up at the cuffs in a feminine way to her forearms. Her ear-rings are umber and turquoise – a perfect complement to the skin at her neck and to her hair.

Let’s join them by imagining the disturbance of air between them as they issue breath, and let their hands share space about two plates of food.

She is independent and happy with life, yet when she works she disappears – she exists behind a need to please superiors – to assimilate in order to increase the chance she will be thought of favorably and be considered for a senior position or benefit from a better wage.

She is responsible for much writing on forms. She leaves outgoing pieces in a bin. Others leave behind filled out forms, replies, details of the time, date and company responsible for the future of the goods. Of the myriads of people that touch these papers one has such a precise, delicate script that she imagines she can see his hands jotting bureaucratic detail. Her mind grows his face and body from this beauty and over time she begins to feel him. There is no notice at the surface, but over months of whimsy, purpose might thicken and soon, perhaps tomorrow or some anonymous cloudy day she will look up from her desk with new eyes and see the plain carpet, single blind on the window – and a draw beyond her grasp may reach her and power her up and out, away from the documents and smell of ink onto the street where birds and bare winter trees might frame her and fill her on behalf of a new conspirator. Her heart will take command of the world, overflow its reason onto her life. There will be no choice.

These are characters – and isn’t this life? It is imagination. We are restricted, we can’t really see inside of them so we make them up. Point of view is paramount, and there is more:

His name is Norman and he is from a small town in Brazil. He has been working at landscaping during summer, a good way to make money. It keeps him in excellent shape – you can see the muscles at his forearms and wrists when he grips his drink or his cutlery – his shirt is tight in the right places. He loves to be outdoors. He would tell you that his favorite attribute of ducks is the whistle their wingtips make when they fly close overhead – accelerating on ascent. He would also comment on the one day he was working in a large field behind a neighborhood on the edge of the Wildlands and he could smell eucalyptus – not just a whiff, but in a powerful way, and it wouldn’t leave his mind, and there was nothing that would recommend it as possible in the flora nearby. Eucalyptus. Such a unique scent and so strong. He stopped working a few times to try to sleuth its origin. It remains a mystery to this day. 

Across from him is Natalie. We have already discussed her work. She cultivates joy in everything – from the delicate teas she chooses to sip after work, to the hot baths she’s made ritual as her routine, and the quality of silk she enjoys on her body when she sleeps.

They are engaged in conversation. We said so. What are they talking about? We want them to be natural, we want the words to flow easily and be interesting. We especially want them to be funny. We want them to have a witty conversation that isn’t about either of them. Nor is it about politics or religion or news stories.

So, they are talking about trees. Not species of trees, although both would be able to note differences, not just the obvious – coniferous, deciduous – but smaller detail – types of birch, types of aspen, the quality of single leaves. But no, instead they’re talking about what trees want. One type enjoys slapping great fronds together in tropical wind and stands dangling coconuts. Another, with such a tall, thin trunk that its top sways in concert with others of its kind and if you lie on the forest floor looking straight up it seems as if they are having a conversation – leaning into each other to share a point. Conversational conifers. And there are trees that stand aloof, at the corner of some field – documenting the passage of time in an incidental fashion.

And then they say something like this:

“These trees, how like us?”

“I know, we give them all human qualities.”

“I can smell them whenever I want. My childhood home was at the edge of a gully. I can smell the scent of spring leaves or fall air any time I wish. I simply close my eyes, turn up my nose like this and sniff.”

“Your face is beautiful when you do that.”

“But it must be very funny.”

“Funny is beautiful.”

He; “Maybe it’s preference – some people prefer to be indoors, some people are unmoved by nature. And preference is not a crime. You can’t say someone is wrong or diminished in any way by their own perception – all humans are what they are meant to be, but I once saw a billboard – it said, ‘Crazy Creek! Suspension bridge! Waterfall! Boardwalk!’ Immediately I thought there should be signs every 10 miles or so entreating you to just look. Signs that advertise terraced conifers waving to you from the roadside, dark emerald firs, individuals – wearing aprons of red vine, and yellow-topped aspen crowning through the green forest dome all the way up to the tree line; open from dawn to dusk”.

She; “I used to sneak out of my house in the middle of the night while my parents were sleeping. There’s a path that leads from the back of the house past the cliffs and then turns up into the forest. I was walking there one night – moonlight on the ocean and fog on the hills. I took the path for miles – I never had to be back until dawn, and I was at the edge of the trees when I heard it. It wasn’t raining but I heard rain. It was confusing. I looked up and held my palms out – no rain – not a drop. So I walked closer to the trees and the sound got louder. At the edge of the forest you could hear it plainly and it became clear, the leaves of the trees were soaked from fog – it condensed on the trunks, boughs and leaves until they couldn’t hold it. And it was raining from the trees themselves – it’s a different sound – I don’t know how to tell you. It made me feel so happy. I always remember this and I always want to feel that happy. I can hear it now if I try. It’s a sweet sound, a thick, sweet sound.” 

Lovely! You see – here we sit, yet we can give a gift, we have given a gift; life is plain, or life is poetry. So let us allow this – delightfully, with a nudge at the gates of love all hearts may begin to accept possibility. Even our own.