The Painter and the River
The Painter and the River
A painter who had long tried to understand life, spent his days painting and observing the city where he lived. He always noted the monotone gray shades of the drab buildings that, to his eyes, said a lot about the people who lived there, about the mechanical way through which the individuals were led through their lives. He realized that the fleeting happiness, desired by all, always slipped through their fingers, was evasive. And the moment he was going through was not one of the most pleasant ones either, for he never seemed to achieve his goals. Everything was kind of stuck.
Discouraged, he saw his creativity, once so spontaneous, escape him. The color of the city gave him a grim impression. The painter wanted to rebuild himself. Hopeful, he tried to renew his inspiration, seeking haven in nature. So, he took a small paddle boat and went down the river.
The idea of paddling a stretch of the river and observing new landscapes, pleased him. By doing so, he thought, the saturation point caused by the frantic mono-rhythm of the city, would give way to the beautiful images found along the way.
On the day of his journey, under the blue sky, he went down the river taken by the gentle stream. Nothing escaped his eyes. He followed attentively the birds, nesting among the leaves of the trees, showing their exuberant colored feathers. He fixed his eyes on the fish, whose images were sharpened by the contrast with the pebbled river bed, in which they happily swam. Delighted with the yellow butterfly, that landed on his feet, he admired the little multicolored flowers on the river banks welcoming the insects in search of food, and observed the small animals that came to quench their thirst and swiftly leave in fear of predators.
The hours went by without the painter’s awareness. The sun set on the horizon touching the river, forming a brilliant beam of light on the water. A variety of pastel shades filled the sky that slowly became darker and darker as the birds flew around announcing the end of the day. The painter then left the small boat near a clearing and went ashore to rest. Yet he could not guess what was about to happen.
As he walked absent-mindedly thinking of all the beauty he had seen during the day, he stepped near a brightly colored snake. The animal’s skin was predominantly red. Cornered by the painter’s proximity, it tried to bite him, without success due to the thick boots he was wearing.
Recovered from the fright, he made a small fire. The air, once still, started to softly blow feeding the fire with greater vigor. Tired, he lay down on the ground, between the fire and the river, and watched the sky. The night was full of stars and the moon showed a unique beauty. While fixedly looking at the moon, he thought about his profession, about nature, about life.
He searched his memory for childhood yearnings. He remembered how he became a painter. He thought and put together all the events he considered unfair. He wanted to figure out the composition of images and colors that resulted in such a reality. He tried to understand the natural movement of things, the natural order of everything that exists on Earth, the function of everything. He thought about the fear he felt facing the snake, and about the joy of the contact with the little butterfly.
He started meditating on everything; on the dissatisfaction he felt before the trip, on the forgotten questions he had when he was only a small boy. Why is the sky blue? Why is blue blue…?
For a long time, he thought and pondered.
The painter’s thoughts seemed to be ordered in such a way as to establish a link between all the facts he had observed throughout his life. It was as if he had turned a Newton’s disk and seen the white color through its movement.
After a while, he thought of nothing else, only admired the light coming from the moon. It seemed that that light was part of him, was him, he felt integrated with that heavenly body and with all the elements around him; he felt something that made him see happiness with another view. He realized the existence of what always is. And he fell asleep.
He woke up in the morning with the sun drying the dew and warming his face. He felt pleasure. It vaguely occurred to his memory the dream he had dreamed. It seemed to him that, in a way, during his sleep, all the experiences he had had along the previous day, marked him deeply. The wonders he had been through kept indelibly registered in his heart and in his mind.
The perception of time seemed enlarged. Life in an instant. He searched for the point of wisdom from the experiences he had lived, and found courage to give shape to the uncountable virtues he had recognized within himself, and filled them with colors. Other aspects of life were then understood. He felt connected to nature, the same nature that had attracted him and taught him so much! The feeling of discouragement once present gave place to enthusiasm. He recognized he had a lot do.
After paddling along the stretch of river…, after going through the day…, through all the thoughts and sensations, after having lived the instant…, the painter gave his canvas new contours, a new depth, that reflected infinite beauty. What used to be unconceivable was now reality.
A painter he was, he went back to the city, to his work, to his daily routine. Everything the same. Everything from then on different…