The Search

22 07 2007

When I was a kid, say five to ten years of age, I had a most peculiar habit. When alone, and given some time, I would stare into a picture until I could see things inside the picture begin to move. Oil paintings, usually, or reproductions therefrom. My mother had an eclectic taste in art that ranged from God-knows-who to God-knows-what. This was back in the days when television only had four channels, counting PBS, and went off the air shortly before midnight most nights. This is back before computers and video games and iPods and every other G.D. thing we have today to fill our minds with useless NOISE. This is back when a View-Master(tm) and a pack of reels titled The Seven Wonders of the World could keep me occupied for the better part of an idle summer afternoon, and happily so.

I used to wish that I could disappear into pictures. Part of it was that I wanted to escape the roller-coaster reality in which I lived, but the greater part of it, the part that matters, was that I have always longed for exotic, distant, fantastical places. As I would lay and stare at some art reproduction, I would make up stories in my mind about the people and/or the place that I was viewing. Of course, I was always the hero of these tales. God knows how many imaginary villages and villagers are left standing today thanks in no small part to my diligent (and heroic) efforts against dragons, giants, and mean stepfathers…never pictured, always beyond the horizon, just out of reach of the artist’s brush.

There was one particular reproduction that I am desperately searching for on the Internet. The problem is that I know virtually nothing about it; no title or artist, just a vague recollection of what it looked like. There was a house on the right side, with a lake in front of it that seemed to span the bottom part of the canvass. There was a little boat on the lake, and one or two people in the boat. The whole of it was blanketed by trees, and mysteriously dark, while on the left side of the painting an opening in the trees (possibly with a river or a stream running through it) opened out into a brighter place somewhere off in the distance. That’s about all I can recall, other than that the painting seemed very dark and moody, but in a mysterious way. I think the thing that fascinated me the most about it was that the light was in the background, and I always wondered what was beyond that opening in the trees, in the clearing beyond.

I don’t know if I will ever find it again, and there is a part of me that wonders if I should even try. Sometimes the way you remember things is better than the way that they really are. Sometimes a strange and mysterious thing from childhood is revealed as mundane and simple by the stark, white glare of an adult mind.

Maybe I’m searching for something else entirely.

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