Lost in an ocean of brush strokes and oil paints a little girl sat in the cool, musky basement of her grandparents’ house. The warm afternoon sunlight seeped into the darkness through the Venetian blinds on the small window above her, as particles of dust floated through the air and landed on the sea of paintings surrounding her. Her favourite, the one she was staring at, was simple: a forest veiled in snow, the evening sky with the faintest hint of a sunset and some footprints trailing off into the distance. Not a human in sight, just the traces of some beings’ existence within the frame. She knew them all too well, the paintings and their carefully detailed scenes, the swirls of beautiful colours. They comforted her, created a kind of meditative solitude within her which, even as a young girl of eight, she could fully comprehend.
The afternoons spent at her grandparents’ house were ones of curiosity. As her sisters would romp around upstairs with her mother’s old Barbie dolls, she would slip downstairs to look in awe at the paintings, the paintings that her grandfather had spent his life’s work on. If only, she thought, I might be able to create such masterpieces when I’m older. It never failed that after what seemed like ten minutes, her grandparents would wonder where she was and would descend the basement stairs to find her amongst the paintings. Assuming that she needed some amusement, her grandfather would lead her to another room in the basement, his studio. He’d give her drawing paper, pencil crayons and watercolor paints. It was there that she would spend the rest of the afternoon painting her cares away. When her mother eventually arrived to take her home, she’d emerge from the basement with a paint smeared face and a stack of colourful masterpieces grasped proudly in her hands. “Well, I think we have an artist in the family”, her grandfather would remark “I like this one; I think I’ll put it on the art wall”. The little girl knew that the art wall was where her grandparents hung all of the artwork by their grandchildren, and she beamed with joy.
One crisp fall day, the cold air nipping at her face, the little girl went on a walk with her sisters and her mother and grandfather. As they walked through the forest by the river, her grandfather would stop every so often to take photographs, ideas for more paintings. The rich oranges and reds of the autumn scenery were not left unappreciated with her grandfather’s old Nikon preserving the glorious colours with every snap shot.
“The light is perfect at this time of day; it makes the leaves look almost golden”, her grandfather observed, always the one to notice details that nobody else would.
From afar, the little girl heard the faint whinnying of a horse. Through the forest she ran, until she found the source of the noise. A chestnut mare stared back at her from its home in a rustic looking stable. The little girl, stroking the horse’s muzzle did not see the flash of a camera from behind her. “She’s a beauty”, her grandfather said as he walked up to pat the horse with his granddaughter. “You know, I had a friend who used to ride in the horse races. A real jockey…” and he’d begin to tell one of his trademark stories. In fact, behind every one of her grandfather’s paintings was a story, whether it was an old general store that he had come across on a walk, the beach by the family cottage or a portrait of the little girl’s grandmother.
Years later, a painting of a beautiful horse and a young girl standing on tip-toe to stroke it, hung on the wall in the girl’s bedroom. The graceful movements of the girl and the horse, the warm light and the swirls of autumn colour still left the girl in awe whenever she caught herself looking at it. Her grandfather had given it to her as a surprise for her twelfth birthday and she had treasured it and the memories it brought flooding back. Over the years her grandfather had slowed down and so had the number of paintings he made. In the last few months of his life he hadn’t been able to paint at all, but with his passing he left behind a legacy of extraordinary artwork
Not so much of a little girl anymore, she sat cross legged in the basement of her grandparent’s soon to be old house. This time, boxes surrounded her. Most of the paintings had been packed up, and above her the stomping of the mover’s boots echoed through the floorboards. After her grandfather had passed away, her grandmother had sold the house and today was moving day. With one last chance to be with her grandfather’s paintings and to recall the stories behind them, she had slipped downstairs as the rest of the family moved chairs into the moving van and wrapped dishes in newspaper.
As she located her favourite painting, she realized that it was one of the few paintings that she did not know the story behind. The noise of someone coming down the stairs startled her as she tried to think of why she had never asked to hear its story before. “Taking one last look at the paintings?” her grandmother asked. “You know, that one right there...” she pointed at her granddaughter’s favourite – the snow scene. “Your grandfather painted that the day you were born. Your grandpa and I took a walk in the park across from the hospital and he just had to capture the sunset. My, was it chilly that day.” “I’ve always loved it” the girl replied. “You know, I think he’d have wanted you to have it,” her grandmother uttered, “here, it’s going home with you.” She picked up the painting and handed it to her. The girl held the painting gingerly in her hands as she walked outside to put it safely in the car. As she placed it safely in the trunk, a small tear rolled down her cheek and fell onto the painting, the graceful brush strokes and the swirls of blue, white and violet.
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