The Portrait

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The wind blew gently tickling the old willow,making it sway and shiver. She stopped for a moment, looked up, and imagined she heard a giggle from it as she walked beneath the branches. She smiled, shivered a bit herself, as if she felt the tickle too… Mac breathed in deeply, looked at the surrounding hills and lake and whispered, “How Beautiful”.”I could never tire of this view. She blew a kiss across the landscape, then carefully walked down the gentle path toward her home. She and Joe had fallen in love with this place, so long ago. She looked back at the willow, it waved, she smiled.

It was getting toward dusk now, and the early spring dampness settled on her shoulders. Shadows were getting taller as the sun coasted slowly down to earth over the hill just beyond the lake. It had been a good walk, she and her black lab Crazy had not walked together for a long time. Her strength was coming back slowly, and the walking stick helped with her balance. The stroke had affected her left side, but she was right handed so that helped in regaining her independence.Taking Lily in to help was not an easy choice, but this was one time she was forced to admit… she needed help, a least for a while.

Making her way into the house she said, maybe today, maybe I can begin again.

She hadn’t picked up a brush in years. There was a period of time when she painted a lot, painted still life’s, landscapes and a few portraits as well. It always took a while to begin, but once she started, it became an untamed passion. When she painted it seemed to pull the sadness from her, it breathed a new interest to her day and night. The smell of the oils, mixing of colors, just so …and the light and the absence of it …. always important.

Once she had begun a painting, the subject consumed her in its tones, textures, hues. Her eyes darting to the eyes of the subject on canvas, becoming alive, as she gave light and life to them; or the vases of flowers, their fragrance, more real with each pedal, each bouquet she created. For Mac, every painting was a heightening of senses, the taste of fruit, the smell of a peeled orange, the feel of an antique glass bowl, the rough touch of bark, and color, rich, soft, subtle colors. This painting, as she began would bring back the memory of the touch of his skin.

Tonight, over a year since he died, she took out the paints, the esil, the brushes She set the blank canvas before her, its starkness reminding her of the loneliness she felt, since he was gone. And so with a photo to guide her, and memories to carry her, she touched her finger to canvas with the gentleness of a kiss, tracing an invisible outline of where to begin, how to begin.There was so much of him to bring to this portrait. So much life to give it…to create from memory.

Each feature,his soft brown eyes, a glint of light would give them life…and oh yes, that dimple in his left cheek, that appeared with each smile… or at the sound of his deep laughter. She smiled to think of his laughter….his hair full and dark with a bit of untamable curl. The mindless way he would run his fingers thru it when he was in deep thought.

She studied the photo, a hint of dark shadow,that rough, partially graying beard. but that expression, so familiar…. one of a slight smile. A strong jaw, and the tiny scar, when he fell from the old willow. She looked out at the willow, the old gnarly trunk, its roots grabbing hold of the earth…as she tried to hold the image of his face in her mind….she starred out at the willow…its long, delicate wispy branches danced in the breeze, nearly touched the ground.

She walked to the counter, grabbed the bottle of scotch and carefully poured herself a drink. She sat down by the island, looked away from the canvas and out toward that willow. It had seen many seasons, weathered many storms and felt the warmth of each new spring. It experienced the changes that a year can bring..endured broken branches…just as the changes in her life since the stroke, since his death. The memories of their marriage of 12 years.She raised the glass to her lips, holding it with both hands. Damn stroke she thought, never felt so weak, so weak and and so damn needy. How she hated to admit she needed help, but this girl Jill, she seemed like a good kid.

Sweet, and well, she looked like she could use some help too, Its a temporary she thought, I will be strong and back to myself again…she took another hard swallow of the scotch. Took the photo in her hands and said You had to do it didn’t you old man? You had to leave me first……….

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