"San, I've decided I want to buy one of your paintings. Do you have anything in purple and green, with a splash of red?" That's what Jo's morning email said. I looked over my shoulder at the easel. There sat my in-progress-as-yet-untitled painting. Purple, green, and a splash of red.
I looked back over my shoulder. Purple, green, and a splash of red.
I somehow felt both reassured and discomforted. Reassured in that a painting fitting Jo's description was probably 90% complete. Discomforted in that I was a bit spooked knowing what Jo knew: a purple and green canvas, with a splash of red, sat on my easel. Many years ago I met a woman who practiced what she called "remote viewing." She was able to focus her mind on a person or a place and actually get fairly accurate details of their surroundings: San is sitting in her family room watching "Two and a Half Men." That kind of trivial but embarrassing detail. But here Jo was actually seeing a painting on my easel and describing the colors with amazing accuracy. A painting I'm birthing isn't quite as trivial as a TV show I'm falling asleep in front of.
"What are you? Psychic?" I emailed back, "Your description seems to be of the painting I'm working on. Now."
Jo, being Jo, passed the credit to me. "Why, no, San, somehow you had the intuition that I was ready to buy a painting and you knew what painting I was ready to buy."
I had no such intuition. Jo had alluded to having one of my paintings "someday." She had expressed her intention to visit our gallery in Santa Fe "within a year" and buy a painting then. I believed her. I had no reason to believe that she was ready NOW to buy a painting.
"Well, Jo, yes, the painting is your colors, but what you're imagining is probably quite different. It may be the wrong size, imagery, etc. It isn't finished."
"Well, San, when you've completed it, please send me a photo."
Over the next several days I worked on the painting. Something told me to paint a swath through part of the purple, to wash over other areas, to let some of the purple run in little rivulets here and there. I began to feel like I was negotiating little rapids on a river, bumping into the occasional rock, working with the current, going with the flow as best I could. I became a bit stressed. What if the painting wasn't what Jo had in mind after all? What if there were bad feelings? What if our friendship hit a rock? Then I had a beautiful dream:
I was standing in our gallery fretting. I looked at the front door and in walked Jo and her sisters Rubye Jean and Ellie. They walked over to one of my paintings hanging on the wall and proceeded gently to remove little glowing areas of light from the painting. Each sister cradled a bit of light in her cupped palms and ever-so-carefully carried the light to me. They held it near my body in the manner of someone cleansing a body with burning sage.
I woke up feeling deeply calm. Soon after that I completed the painting. I had negotiated the rapids and made it to shore. I took the painting out to the deck and propped it up in the afternoon light.
And when I stepped back and looked at the painting, it reminded me of a river. I decided to name it "River of Now." I sent the photo to Jo, along with various close-up views and several details. "This is probably not what you had in mind at all. If not, no problem. Friendship before business."
In an odd way, though, the painting reminded me of Jo. As I've mentioned earlier in this blog, Jo has been there. She has overcome setbacks that would leave most of us knocking our heads against the wall in a padded cell. And she has negotiated those Class 5 rapids on the river of her life brilliantly. She has gone with the flow of life when that made the most sense. And when she has had to paddle against the current, she has done that too. She has arrived at a place in her life that is about NOW, celebrating the richness of all she has now. And she is one rich woman. Not in a material sense (although she's doing rather well in that department) but in the sense of inner riches. I admire her deeply.
That's why when I sent her the photos, I knew deep down that if the painting disappointed her, it would in no way capsize our friendship. But here is her response: "Wow, San! The size, the colors, the EVERYTHING is what I had in my mind."
WOW NOW! HOW did this happen? Beats me. But I'm overjoyed that it happened.
Now that "River of Now" has been delivered to Jo's home under the big Wyoming sky, it seems inevitable it would hang there. Why did I fret? Why did I need for she and her sisters to come to me in a dream and reassure me? I'm nevertheless glad they did. That is one powerful, light-suffused image I can call to mind on darker days. And the knowledge that Jo lives with one of my paintings now is like the sensation of floating on my back on a peaceful river, gazing at the sunlight filtering through the branches of cottonwoods lining the banks. When I look up at the New Mexico sky, I am actually seeing Jo's sky after all. There's a place where the Wyoming sky becomes the Colorado sky and that eventually turns into the New Mexico sky. All I have to do is look up and I am connected to Jo...
...In my mind's eye I see her touring the big western countryside on the back of a motorcycle, celebrating life.
Thank you, Jo! Happy Trails...