Today I wish I had my father’s talent for painting. A snowstorm has finally coated the forest in white. The pine branches hang low over the newly fallen snow. A squirrel digs a hole under the birdfeeder looking for seed, burying himself part way so just his flitting tail rises up above the piles of snow. A chickadee pecks at the seed in the feeder attached to the kitchen window where my cat Hanna is sitting on her inside perch, tail swishing in excitement.
My father’s brushstrokes would capture the way the pure white of the snow lines the brown branches of the cherry tree, the way the dark green of the evergreen boughs dip downward under their snow cover, the way the garden bench rests undisturbed by the heaviness of a white blanket.
He could take this rare day in the north this winter and preserve it forever with his acrylics, starting with the blank white canvas, drawing a rough sketch, setting out his paints on the palette, switching between a flat and pointed round brush, filling in the sky with Payne’s gray, the trees with burnt umber under titanium white, the pines sap green under sparkling pearl, blending colors as he goes, life recreated on canvas.
I guess it’s the same with writing, yet it doesn’t feel quite the same to me. Blank page coming to life, recreating a scene with words, phrases, similes and metaphors, pen imitating brush, adjectives imitating the colors of the acrylics—it’s still art. My father’s paintings line the walls of my home, his painted signature in the bottom right corner. I sometimes touch the letters of his name, remembering how reluctant he sometimes was to identify his work as his, modesty one of his most endearing traits. In the early morning, the first thing I see is my father’s painting on the wall next to the bed, a New England scene of a mill with a water wheel attached, and memories flow through me. I’m a child watching my father at his easel, pipe in his mouth, pouring splotches of color from much-used tubes, mixing, brushing, creating.
I wonder if my children will someday touch a poem I have written, maybe the original copy in my handwriting that I always save, and remember me the way I remember my father. I hope they will.