Thursday, October 30, 2008

All a Dream

You may not like listening to other people’s dreams, but I have to talk about it.
I dreamed that it was the middle of the night, and I was lying in bed dreaming. All at once five or six people came into my room. I knew they were Republicans. One of them was solid and chunky, and he had a plastic I.D. card pinned to his suit. He demanded an explanation: “Why are you not voting for John McCain!”
I should be telling my shrink about this, and I will, as soon as I can get in to see him. I have this kind of dream every so often. Usually it is someone demanding that I explain my religious beliefs—not a secular guy who thinks religious claims are false, but a fundamentalist from my home town in Alabama who thinks it wrong to read the Revised Standard Version. Last night’s dream was a variation on the theme.
I stammered out Reason Number One: “Sarah Palin!”
I was about to give another reason, but the man in the suit was already arguing with me about my first reason. I felt foolish. Well, how would you feel if you had to sit up in your own bed in the middle of the night and defend yourself to five or six fully dressed Republicans?
That is why I hate to dream. I am always having bad dreams. Dreams about politics and religion. Dreams about missing class for a whole semester. Dreams about public bathrooms with wet floors and all the places taken.
You’d think that at my admirable stage in life I was entitled to a few good dreams. Drawing a sheep and getting the lines right. Running tirelessly through fields of endless poppies. Being asked a question and getting the answer.
But no. I would wake and find it was all a dream. The sheep is crooked, my back is tired, and the answer escapes me.
However, I will keep on drawing crooked sheep and trees that look like broccoli. I will still walk everywhere I can. I will still give my own answers and not anybody else’s and be wrong and so what. I will still vote for whoever I want to. And I will get a bumper sticker for my car that says, “I am not afraid.”

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Views of the Common Man

The hardest part about drawing trees is seeing them properly, and finally I decided to do something about it.
I had made a few failed attempts at the red maple by the driveway before I concluded it was too mixed up with the other trees. So I went over to Hadley and did the big, solitary Boundary Oak, and that went a good deal better.
In two weeks I felt ready for landscapes, and when I kept the trees distant—and small in my drawings—they came out pretty well.
Last Saturday I believed myself ready to draw a breath-taking vista. My home is in the Connecticut River valley; the Pelham Hills are to the east and the Holyoke Range to the south. The vistas are there: all you need is a little height to see them from. So I set out in my car to find one of them.
Getting the height I wanted was easy: I just took Station Road over to the Pelham Hills. Getting a view was not: you have to buy property on the hillside and build a million-dollar house on it.
At any rate, that is what people have done, and they do have a magnificent view—Long Mountain, Mount Norwottock, Bare Mountain, Mount Holyoke by the river, farms and pasture-fields. You can see parts of it every now and then from the road. But you can’t see enough to draw it.
My first thought was to go along until I saw someone on their front porch shelling peas and holler from the car, “Can I use your view for a while?”
No one was shelling peas.
I did see a man walking from his car back to the house. He looked at me carefully as he went. And I saw two women walking their dogs and having a conversation. They stood still and stopped talking until I had passed.
So I didn’t get my big view. I went back downhill and found a small view. There is a place on Mad Woman Farm where you can see Mount Norwottock through the trees.
I have thought about it, and I think the small views are better in a way. Of course if a large view shows up, I will look at it for all I’m worth. But most of us, most of the time, live among the small and close-up vistas. These are the things that summon us to become artists: Queen Anne’s Lace (my mother’s wedding flower!), white beeches against gray clouds, Mount Norwottock through the trees.