It happened again. In Australia of all places! The small coffee shop looked innocent enough. High in the Atherton Tablelands in tropical Queensland I thought surely I would be safe. Though the immediate need of deciding on what I wanted to eat took my focus for a while it wasn’t long before It demanded to be noticed.
I chewed purposefully, concentrating on 30 good chews before each swallow. I engaged my in laws and husband in the type of conversation being in a small community on the other side of the world demands. Anything to keep me from gazing in Its direction.
I decided to turn away from It and look at the wall our table was against. Tricked! Above my head was another one.
Crimson reds and deep blues were splattered and swirled on a canvas stretched tightly on a two foot by four foot frame. A small white card named the work, “A Venice Street at Midnight”, by Val Clarke, $400.00. Four hundred Australian dollars for an original oil painting? There must be a mistake.
I was compelled to rise from my chair leaving my empty plate and lunch companions. I looked at the other painting on our wall. I was still resisting It on the other side of the room as best I could.
The twin painting was by the same artist, priced the same and named, “Rain in Venice”. There were subtle shades of grey lapping and overlapping the tall canvas broken with streaks of ochre, jade, and cobalt blue. The work was impressionistic and full of texture. Mountains and valleys created in the oil added to the mood of the rain on the canal. Stark white patches and streaks emphasisized the illumination of a street lamp. With a sigh reserved for prisoners of war who have no choice in where they are led, I turned and walked across the room.
I was now standing before It. The presence of a couple eating at the table in front of It did not deter me from appoaching, in fact, I barely noticed their being there.
Swirls of cadmium yellow and cerulean blue paint caught me up in their revel. Much like an unsuspecting tourist at Mardi Gras, I was becoming part of the greater whole. The pull on my psyche was so strong it was painful. I finally gave into the memory. The portal was open.
Though the painting was titled, "Waiting for the Gondelier", I was transported from the northeast coast of the continent known as Australia and landed squarely on the Champs D’Ellyse in Paris, France.
Once more I could feel the energy Paris alone can generate. I smelled the hot crepes being made in the street cafes. The poetic French language was caressing my ears like a gentle feather to the cheek. I breathed in deeply. Yes, Paris.
The week I spent in Paris in the fall of 2000 was being relived, relished. It revived in me the life that great architecture and art gives my soul. I felt renewed and strengthened. I could face the mundane things of everyday life again knowing that beauty does indeed surround me.
A hand on my shoulder ripped me back to Australia and to the small coffee shop.
“Honey, I just paid for the painting. They’re shipping it home for us. It will be there in time for your birthday.”
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