On clear days, artists sometimes come up here to try to capture this view, a panorama of fields, hills, and mountain. I welcome the sight of an easel set up on the hillside, as I often wake up to a scene of so much beauty that I wish I knew how to paint.
Recently, one artist in particular has frequented these fields. I sometimes catch sight of him, with his paints, in the corner of the field or perhaps at the bend of the road. I stop and we chat. I like to tell him about my digs, the other beauty spots in the area. For every place, there is a story. I tell the stories, and he comes back with a wonderful canvas. This, of course, does my heart good.
There are so many special places. The pond, for instance, is where my husband and I used to swim or row our boat. The water is clear as air, and trees drape their branches over the water’s edge. At the far end is an island. Across is a rock the size of an elephant. There are no cottages or cabins — just the water and the trees and the sky.
One day the artist tells me his own story about his efforts to paint near the edge of that pond. “The light was fantastic when I arrived,” he says. “The trees on the far side were all lit up warmly. The clouds were like Scotland, all shades of gray.” He hurried to set up his gear. And then the light disappeared, the wind came up, the canvas sailed off like a kite.
As he told me about this, I remembered another story, about a Bolivian woman who lived across the road from the pond. She came here to marry an older man. They settled under those pines in a modular home. Inside, the walls were painted turquoise and pink, as if she longed for the warmth of her homeland. Through the trees, they could see the water sparkle.
Soon after, the husband died. The woman was despondent, unable to be alone. The soughing of the pines sounded to her like crying. Along came a man young enough to be her son. Eventually, with heavy heart, the woman sold her tropically inspired house and moved home to Bolivia with her young man. She wrote to me about helping her father run his store in La Paz and of the heartbreaking poverty and the tyranny of the government.
The young man lingered there with her. Every year, another long letter came. Her father had died. The store had been taken from them. The young man had left her. And so on … Endless sadness. Nothing good. Only memories of her place by the pond. And then two years ago, she wrote to tell me that she had received a “gift” from the young man — a baby named Jennifer whom he did not want and whom the mother did not want. This year she wrote to tell me of the difficulties she is having actually adopting little Jennifer, the joy of her life.
Yet she never writes without saying how much she misses her home here, and the pond, and the spot under the trees where the artist now struggles to find, and keep, the right light. And so, for the artist, these are landscapes, driven by light and shadow, color and pattern — a scene hopefully captured in a split second. But for me, so much is invested here. These places are deeply layered in time and circumstance, an archaeological dig of stories hidden beneath the green and ever-beautiful earth.
To view more paintings by David Dodge visit davedodge.com
Edie Clark’s newest book, Saturday Beans & Sunday Suppers, is available at edieclark.com.