International Writers Magazine: Art for a rainy day
Eric D. Lehman
up next to my girlfriend, Amy, in our tent on the shoulder of
Mount Greylock, ready for a hike I had planned for two years.
This was the day I was finally going to complete an eight-mile
loop through the rare ecosystem of the Hopper, and along the ridges
of the adjoining mountains.
The previous day
we had driven from Connecticut, stopping at the Furnace Brook Winery,
where we sampled a refreshing Riesling, an unusually buttery Merlot,
and one of the best hard ciders Id ever tasted. We had continued
to Herman Melvilles house south of Pittsfield. We walked on the
piazza he built with view of Mount Greylock, its snow-covered, saddle-backed
shape reminding the author suspiciously of a huge white whale. Then
we had come to that whale, driving up the old winding road that led
to the summit. Once there, we climbed the strange, lighthouse-shaped
tower with its 360 degree view of five states.
As Amy and I ate breakfast at the campground, I packed our backpacks
for a long day on the trail. I was excited to complete this hike, and
even more excited to take Amy on what might be her most difficult hike
to date. And then, as we prepared to leave, the sky opened up and began
to rain. Not just a shower, but a steady downpour that made all thoughts
of hiking unreasonable.
"What should we do?"
"I dont know." I ground my teeth in frustration, unwilling
to give up my dream. But I luckily had options at hand, activities in
the area that we could do, things that might be better for a rain day
than a sloppy hike through a sodden forest.
"Lets go to the art museum in Williamstown," Amy said
"Yeah," I conceded.
I knew we must change plans and put regrets and maybes from my mind.
But as we drove down the long Notch road, I looked back at the shrouded
mountain ridges, and cursed the inconstant weather. As we entered the
environs of Williams College and followed directions to The Clark Museum,
I tried to focus on the present experience rather than the imaginary
one, the fantasy I had built up in my mind.
We found it at last, a modern building set on one hundred and forty
acres of rolling meadows and forest. Immediately upon entering the vast
atrium of the museum, Amy commented that she liked it already. We spent
the next several hours wandering the Clark brothers collection
together, and then separately. We found old favorites likes Renoir,
Cezanne, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Monet. American painters John Singer
Sargent and Winslow Homer found a new place in our hearts, as we studied
their styles, so similar to the French masters, and their subjects,
so distinctly American. I didnt think once about the hike I had
missed out on as we scoured the galleries, taking notes on our favorites.
When we had finished the tour, we joined forces again and revisited
each others favorite paintings, commenting on their suitability
for the walls of our new home. We kept talking about the images that
haunted us, even as we headed outside to see the cows in the museums
pasture, our eyes transformed by the painters visions.
We arrived back at the campground at four oclock and the rain
had dissipated. There was a short trail to a waterfall only a few yards
from our tent. So, we hiked down the path, not the long trail of my
dreams, but one that seemed quite satisfying after the experience at
the Clark. A shaft of sunlight hit the misty water where it sprayed
into the sunset air. The surrounding trees glowed unnaturally green
from the fresh rain, making the scene appear suspiciously like an Impressionist
painting. We laughed and played, without a thought for the maybes of
life. And I made a vow to always anticipate rain days, so that instead
of regretting lost fantasies, the canvas of my memory would be thick
with the brushstrokes of actual experience.
© Eric Lehman September 2006
University of Bridgeport
Bridgeport, CT USA
Clarks' upcoming exhibitions:
Alpine Views: Alexandre Calame and the Swiss Landscape October 8, 2006
- December 31, 2006
Claude Lorrain The Painter as Draftsman: Drawings from the British Museum
February 4, 2007 - April 29, 2007
The Unknown Monet: Pastels and Drawings June 23, 2007 - September 16,
and Political Freedom
Eric D Lehman
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