The words just wrecked my heart. In the best way possible. If you know, you know, there’s no need to explain. Like I would never ask you why you cry when someone is nice to you – those tears of tenderness – I’ve dampened myself so many times. This recent wreckage, comes from reading “Olive, Again,” by Elizabeth Strout. Olive moves through life from chapter to chapter. It is brief and deep. It is a path, a foot in each furrow, and without explanation each step of the path extends through years – through neighbors and heartache, and marriages and death. A new chapter begins, and seemingly just as we were introduced to Olive’s new husband, we realize he has passed. Didn’t I just turn the page? And so it happens in my life. I feel as though I’ve just written the page and so many chapters have gone by. Did I feel it? Did someone see it?
So I paint. As if in my own way, I can stop time, just a little. For in a way, I do. I begin painting that face, and she feels what she feels. She is allowed to feel it. With each stroke, that little piece of time stops, giving evidence to a time, to a feeling, and there it is, on the canvas. I paint the wing of that bird, knowing it will fly, but for that brief moment, he rests beside me. And each dot of the paint brush says that I saw you, and you felt me. We exist together. We exist.
Olive struggles with the meaning of her life. I struggle not to struggle. I work to make meaning. To slow it down from chapter to chapter. To find value between the words and the pages. To capture the meaning. To create the evidence. Not the answers. Maybe someone smarter than I will put together all the clues. Clues I’ve left in the words and the colors. Clues we all leave in each step.
I get out the brushes and work the image. Slowly it comes to life and just as if I turned the page, there it is. Alive. And tears of tenderness leave their mark on the canvas. For now. For a time.