Friday, May 4, 2012

The Beauty of Biking In the Rain

It was tricky week, overall. I am in that hazy amorphous period of one life's phase winding down while another is still winding up. I don't do well with ambiguity, so I spent more time than I like to admit hunched over the computer avoiding real life by staying plugged into the screen.

But. Redbeard and I went to go see the Van Gogh exhibit at the Art Museum tonight, a last minute decision when we realized it was in its last weekend. And sure, we're eating hot dogs and cornflakes lately to make ends meet but art is food too. And when else do you get a chance to see in person, in living color, world-famous pieces you may never see again, 3-D, textured, close enough to breathe on.

 It was like getting my brain power-washed with color and light.

The story of Van Gogh's moods and internal struggles was threaded throughout, along with his own family. I feel for the guy, toremented, ravaged by demons that chances are we have meds for these days.

But, his medicine was the sunlight of Arles (it's one of the few places I've been in the world and I have to say, the quality of the light really is spectacular); sheaves of wheat; poppies in field and bowls; the forest's undergrowth. And who among us will say that any of those don't have healing powers?

I was captivated thinking about his family, too, especially Theo, always sending him money and art supplies and finding him new doctors. Vincent went down in history but what about Theo?

I guess Theo got the solace of a family and a wife and respectability and stability and a career and children. Vincent, for him, the landscapes, the irises, the wind moving across the grassy fields, that was it, man.

I like to think that despite his demons he had moments of being totally absorbed by stunning, everyday beauty. Looking at the painting called Trees and Undergrowth, how can you doubt it? I hope he got to say what he wanted to say about the world, about what he saw and felt, how his mind worked.

From a letter he wrote to his sister, Wilhelmina: "I believe that at present we must paint nature's rich and magnificent aspects. We need good cheer and happiness, hope and love. The uglier, older, meaner, iller, poorer I get, the more I wish to take my revenge by doing brilliant color, well-arranged, resplendent."

I love that. The beauty of the world as revenge for everything the world has cost you.

When we left the museum, the hot soupy evening had turned into a stormy night. People idled in the doorway, opening umbrellas, discussing what to do. Redbeard and I felt that in honor of Van gogh we should charge out into the rain with our arms open, and we did so. We stood on the pavilion at the top of the hill that overlooks the wide river and the highway, and a vein of lightning cracked in the sky. 

Saturated with Van Gogh, his horizons and close ups and frames, everywhere we looked we saw a painting: the lights of cars sliding down the highway across from Boathouse row, framed by the columns of the pavilion; a white blossomed tree highlighted against a purple colored stormy sky, the mists and lights of the city in the background; the leaning grasses; the gnarled trees along the bike path; the white streetlight illuminating the leaves of a tree as a girl passed underneath.

We rode along the river, faces thrust toward the raindrops, the river pierced with raindrops turning it mottled and matte, instead of its usual dark patent sheen. "I feel so alive," Redbeard called out jokingly, but he meant it too.

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