It was early October with a gentle chill in the air. The resort town was empty and quiet with many of the shops boarded up for the winter. I had just come off the road from a summer of playing music on the Chitlin circuit, a lot of small clubs and festivals. It was 1973 and I had been on the road for several years with only a few months off in the winter, and I was thinking this would be my last year. Playing drums and living on the road had taken a toll on me both mentally and physically.
I found a café open near the boardwalk. The owner was sweeping the sidewalks, and I could smell fresh pastries and coffee brewing. He was a happy man and it seemed that he enjoyed the sweeping. He brought hot coffee, eggs and sweet potato pancakes with lots of butter and maple syrup to my table. The sun was just coming up over the dunes with its autumn brilliance, filling the sky with color. I reached for my sketch pad to capture the moment but after a few moments I stopped as the view was so beautiful you found that you were holding your breath. You hoped that by being still the moment would not pass.
After finishing my breakfast, I walked toward the sound of the waves breaking upon the shore. I had come to this place during this quiet time to write and paint the sea. It had been almost a year since I had been to the ocean or walked along the shore. Everything I had painted over the last year was the gray of the city streets where we played or the empty towns along the deserted highways. My paintings were the color of sadness with dark browns, grays and dark purples. The poems I wrote were of overgrown and deserted gardens, empty houses and the darkness we associate with loneliness. I needed color in my life and poems of beauty and happiness both vibrant and breathtaking. Today I would seek out these things I needed.
As I crossed the dunes close to the pier, I saw a lady sitting on a stool in front of an easel painting the sunrise. She was dressed in a long dress with a wool shawl around her for warmth and a big straw hat to protect her from the sun. I could see the colors dance from her canvas, vibrant and stunning full of movement and light. I didn’t want to disturb this master painter diligently filling the canvas with the sea, the sky, and the dunes. I watched from a distance until she finished and then spoke to her of the beauty of the work she had created.
Often creation is a powerful thing it enters the body and mind and fills it with imagination and creativity. It is a time where all things are possible.
We talked often at the café about our favorite artist and writers and how different our paintings were in color yet not in style and composition. As the winter slowly settled in and the days were getting colder, I knew the days would be shorter and I would paint less and write more. My friend was leaving a few days before Thanksgiving and as we said our goodbyes, we traded paintings and vowed to stay in touch. Just before she drove off, she motioned to my paintings and noted that I no longer used the colors of sadness.VWe stayed in touch over the years yet time steals much from us. Many years later we connected to write and paint for the same group of writers. The lost years of friendship can never be found only remembered but the new friendship can be filled with new painting and stories.
Chapter Two by Raissa Urdiales
I don’t remember exactly when it was that I realized the sunrise greets us with a rainbow to start every day, all I know is that each time I wake I am excited for the new day dawning and the rainbow that is the archway of a new adventure. I always watch in anticipation as the sun reaches the horizon. The colors appear to dance as the sun’s light begins to paint the sky.
I am mesmerized by the waves as they are a reflection of the beauty above. Their movement is quick and unpredictable. There is never one wave that is exactly the same as the previous or the next. There is never a sunrise that is the same from day-to-day. There will always be something familiar and something unique in the vision that is presented. When I paint my brush moves and changes the canvas and recreates the vision I see. A painting is never complete but is only a snapshot of a moment in time.
He told me stories of his time on the road and I shared the comfort of having lived in the small town my whole life.
A moment in time is true of many things in life. There is that moment when you meet a person for the first time. Some you meet will pass through your life as only a snapshot and some enter your life as the beginning of a painting that will continue to develop and move and change as the colors do when the sun is rising over the horizon. Such was the case with my friend the musician and painter. I remember the moment we met and the beautiful autumn sunrise I was busy creating. I got a sense that there was someone watching. When I turned to look I saw the crooked smile of a man who appeared tired. Little did I know that over the next several months we would learn we share the same passion for art and literature and that our paths in life had been quite different but seemed to have brought us both to that beautiful autumn sunrise. He told me stories of his time on the road and I shared the comfort of having lived in the small town my whole life.
I shared that the vision that I saw every morning changed even though I stayed in the same place. That I can see evolving beauty even when my scenery appears unchanged. He commented frequently on the colors I used when I painted. I assured him the colors in my painting were the colors I saw when I looked at the world around me.
That even on a rainy day I can see the colors that make up the rainbow. That sometimes those colors we believe are sad can be changed to represent happiness if we consider the rain’s role in the green grass and beautiful flowers that require the rain. That sometimes the colors of things when wet are more vibrant than when dry. I showed him the difference of a wet stone and a dry stone and how a wet stone will show all the years of creation where a dry stone can appear to be flat and one color. It’s the magic of our world around us that gives is the multitude of colors that surround us. I knew he had understood when his eyes twinkled and his paintings began to change and vibrant, rich, deep colors began to appear.
Point Of View
Friends will always influence how you see life. They add value to who you are, loving and believing in you. Without friends, a part of who we are is missing.
While this story is a collage of memories and fiction it truly is about friends and the lasting impact they have on our lives. Raissa and I both ask that when you read this you will reach out to a friend and remind yourself how important friends are. Thank you, Raissa Urdiales for your collaboration.
Author’s Note: This is Part Two of the “Long Journey Home” Series.