[3] About a Painter

Posted on April 3, 2009


painterI was coming back to consciousness, waking from a deep and restful sleep. The room was quiet and cool to the touch. The three or four thin blankets I had wrapped around me were just enough to keep me warm. The light coming in through the wall of windows behind me matched the temperature of the room; a refreshing and calm grey light of a cloudy late summer afternoon.

I had woken up in someone’s studio. The room was made entirely out of brick and the ceiling was at least two stories up. There were canvases and easels all over the place. Some standing blank, awaiting their clothing in paint. Others were in stacks or were drying, with rough and splotched brush strokes in bold and expectant colors. Cans and brushes and palettes and tubes of paint scattered on the wooden tables throughout the room.

The bed I was sleeping in was pushed against the left wall, and at the foot of my bed was another easel, but this one had the painter sitting in front of it.

Though I had never seen this place before or ever met the woman with the paint brush in her hand, gently studying and attacking the canvas in front of her, I knew I belonged here. Maybe I had fallen asleep and awakened to be ten years in the future.

“Ah, you’re finally awake!” She said, still poring over the painting.
“Yeah…” I said, still incredibly groggy.
She said something about my husband and I moving closer to the city in a couple of months so I wouldn’t have to drive two hours to hang out for the weekend. “And so you won’t lapse into 14-hour comas while you’re here.”

I had gone to sleep at 3am the night before and from the clock on the wall across the room, I could see that it was now 5pm.

I didn’t mean to sleep that long, so my immediate disposition was to be frustrated at myself and the other small annoyances going on around me at the time. After making a few comments about how long I had slept, she and I began talking about everything going on in my life. All the present bothers, the points of stress, the logic of current worry, irritations, odd dilemmas.

She continued painting, and I sat up in bed against the wall, trying to keep my hair from getting caught in the tiny teeth of the bricks and talking about present day. A creative focus that’s be neglected or left to wander aimlessly on its own in my mind with no way out. The way I talk myself out of my own internal dialogue and feelings. An late inability to way to express questions and feelings about the relationships in my life. People who turned out differently than I needed them to. Things that started out looking like a storybook and took a sour turn towards an awkward that I still don’t know what to do with. Communication breakdowns that hurt and leave bleeding scars.

The conversation covered years of memories and all narrow hallways of situations. But then said something that absolutely struck me.

“Well, why don’t you do more with your art?”

She presented this as a partial, though not complete, yet substantial solution.

I didn’t have an answer. All I could think of were little excuses and burnt wishes that I hadn’t paid attention to.

“Oh. Yeah… I guess I could do that.”

And then my alarm clock on my cell phone woke me up. It said 9:32am.

I dreamt this over a week ago and yet I still can’t forget the conversation. I still don’t know who I was talking to, where I was, how I knew her, but her question has resonated deeply and hung in my mind every day since. All I’ve been able to do is respond the same way I did when I was talking to her face-to-face.

Why do storms and painters to give me messages in my sleep? Even though it was only a dream, I cannot ignore its truth.

(Number 3)

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