I dream of a small town that a friend and I stop in on the way back home. The town is sweet and when we stop at a gas station next to it is a museum. I walk in and the first large oil is a portrait of me when I was eighteen and I lean stunned against the wall and take it in. When I try to take some photos of it it is like a bird’s wing where colors change. I see many people and many scenes that move in and out of the painting like a film screen, and at a certain angle can see myself with my long honey brown hair in and out of focus. I know who has painted it and have an image of Irving and Jill and their daughter and son. All four are artists in their own right in palpable ways in the world.
Jill was a muse for her husband and for me the gypsy, flowing feminine of the sixties in her long white dress with her small child that I saw her lift up and put over her shoulder at an art opening for Irving where I fell in love with her immediately. She had a tenor in her voice and poetic way of seeing that made everything numinous and you felt in her presence beautiful.
Over the years we became friends. She brought soup to my mother when she was losing her life to cancer with her hair tied in a scarf, long and ash brown behind her, high cheek bones and gray eyes. After she left my mother said I see why you like your friend but I also felt she saw me cherish an ideal that maybe was not her as a woman and it made me sad. I projected quite a bit on them as people and they had this amazing house that every part of it was like a still life in Irving’s painting and I saw the art in how Jill arranged and held life around her. They opened for me as a family the artistic voice in all of life and I was encouraged to be myself in what I saw and expressed. I was granted a pass to something because they bestowed their blessing on my efforts.
In the dream I go to the station next store and look at maps and nothing names the town and no signs and I ask them what is the town’s identity and they tell me they did not know the place had no name. I asked what city it was close to and if people commuted from there and the said they thought San Francisco.
Soon it was time for us to leave the clouds were gathering and the light changing towards a possible storm and we need to drive back to our lives but I wonder if it is a place that Jim and I can find a little house to live as I am leaving but let it go and return to our town.
Today Irving and Jill’s daughter, Francesca writes amazing books of this fantasy struggling with reality, and I know that was true for their lives and the ideal had to be wrestled with in life and as life can go it was shattered with sickness, death and just the way the world moves at a much faster pace then any ideal can bear.
Irving once made a joke about what if Rembrandt was an ad man which made me laugh many times about our culture. They protested during the Viet Nam war and they continued to provide a hearth in my life over the years and like others that left my life Lew and Edith they were of an era that lay before me that I am in now where I too can cherish the scope of existence. I hope the world can gather itself and engender a respect for nature back into the fold of the future not as an ideal but as a necessity. I always felt with all these people this unbidden yet vital necessity for a certain expression lacking in much around me and luckily knew that in my own family and think of all of them as we move towards the solstice.
When I house sat for the family and their big shaggy sheepdog would jump on top of the table and scatter the candle holder during a storm and their cat would sit and look with me through the prolific sketch books of drawings that Irving did of the family I held a life in sketches not digital selfies and saw the hand shaping those figures, objects, scenes with just a few lines. They were and are exquisite drawings of an assured line with a tender and sparse touch. His paintings had a haze of soft oils with a focus on a figure and objects usually of his wife or something she arranged and many drawings of her asleep on the couch book a book and glasses sprawled out while reading.
She told me once they would talk late into the night after the children were asleep and then lovers before dawn. The kitchen was a nook with Irving propping the painting up and working while Jill cooked, the children would sometimes ask if it was okay to eat the fruit in case it was a still life in progress. There was home made granola and yogurt left for me to eat when I would house sit which I had never had even though I grew up with a rich array of Sicilian spaghetti sauce and Italian anise and ribbon cookies as a child this was unique.
Somehow the place and time is some of what is Christmas and Hanukah and the image of the dark Norwegian wood that translated into the painting in my dream. Even though my work remained a more pastel palate of burnt sienna, yellow ocher and cobalt blue in that soft skin toned sky their work was in it for a long time. There is no image for the entry today it all is much richer in the mind’s eye as they say or resides in some ineffable place.