17th April

The Painter

Every morning she steps out of the back door and makes her way to the spot a few yards beyond the cottage, at the edge of the field. She likes the fact that she can get there without being seen. The route gives her that seclusion, that invisibility – no one knows she is there, so if someone knocks at the front door of the cottage and gets no answer he or she will assume she is away. This means she can paint all day, undisturbed.

Sometimes she catches herself in the middle of her work. What is it she is trying to grasp? A feeling? Yes. The feeling of the light, the sea, the earth – elemental things. She doesn’t need to go anywhere else for this. She doesn’t need grand subjects – in fact grand subjects would be a distraction. They would get in the way of what she is looking at, reaching for. Here, this unremarkable place by the sea, is enough. Nor, in truth, is it unremarkable.

One painting leads straight on to another. All day she’s there. She leaves her paints and brushes and easel out overnight, a studio in the open air. While she works the wind blows things against the canvas – insects and bits of grass. They stick to the paint and she removes them or she leaves them but either way they become part of what she is doing. The tough, huddled wee tree buds, puts on leaves, loses them. She digs and scrapes at the paint with the pallet knife, the brush-end. Last year the field was barley, this year oats. She presses seeds into the paint. Wildflowers bloom and fade, grasses lengthen. Everything is the same, but every day different. It seems silly to shift about, so she stays put.

There is an urgency about that – staying in one place, capturing it over and over. Thoughts flock in like gulls, or one hovers like a solitary gull. She isn’t well. She is in pain. She wants to write a letter to the woman she loves but more urgent is the need to paint. What is it so close within her grasp, so impossible to hold? It is life.

Reader: James Robertson
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
Harmonium: Kit Downes
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