I was feeling better, so I went outside.
I’m finally starting to feel better again after this latest round of Covid. I tested negative over a week ago, and no longer have that allover achy feeling I had a few days ago when I got out of bed. So, yesterday, very tired of spending my days inside a darkened bedroom with nothing but a gloomy view of an air shaft to keep me company, I decided to get out and do something enjoyable.
It was hot out, so I put on head-to-toe light-colored linen, popped a straw hat on my head, put a couple sketchbooks in my bag, and made my way slowly over to the Jardin des Tuileries. I suppose I was doing my best impression of somebody’s Great Aunt Gertrude on a watercolor holiday in Provence. The coastal grandmother aesthetic, Parisienne-style.
I’ve been feeling bad about my ability to make art lately. I got so jazzed about it all in the spring—running around high on visual experience, in love with the way the light looked in the caverns of the Metro, and the acid green new leaves of the trees. I went out and got oil paints for the first time in more than ten years, and started playing around with them. I was drawing a lot on my iPad and coming up with ideas for oil paintings that I wanted to make. Everything was beautiful to me—the street, the sky, the reflection of the café lights on a glass bottle of Orangina. But then I got pneumonia, then Covid. A hundred other things got in the way. I did not feel quite so in love with the visual world anymore. I took walks along the river at blue hour and thought, sure, I guess it’s nice, but I didn’t feel that other kind of pull. The beauty felt flat, or hidden; it didn’t penetrate.
Yesterday, sitting first at a garden café table, then later in one of the green metal chairs beneath the canopy of a chestnut tree, I remembered something: the world starts to sparkle if you take the time to go and look for it. I wanted to just make some drawings, without worrying about whether they were good or not. This is so important: doing things just for the sake of doing them. So that is what I did. The light was golden at the bottom edges of the chestnut trees. The leaves were a thousand different shades of green. Like waves crashing, the muffled screams of carnival-goers drifted over from the pendulum rides. Gusts of wind turned up clouds of pale dust that blew along the pathways, fading the colors of the topiary as if with icing sugar. Starlings crouched in the branches, cleaning the constellations of their feathers. The summer plantings, sunflowers and verbena, were growing tall in the garden plots.
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