Wednesday, September 26, 2007
The Better Things in Life
I don’t believe in Poltergeists, but there is a spirit painter that hangs about this old house and slaps up canvases that are as tender and touching as the celebration of sound of a live pianist in my living room.
Only once, just once, a visitor came by who was an accomplished pianist and switched my electric organ to ‘piano’ and played, while I prepared afternoon tea, a selection of solitary piano solos ---“Somewhere my love”, “Autumn Leaves”, and some other of the great songs. Whether it was the instrument, the skill of the pianist, or the acoustic resonance of the higher ceiling in my living room, I cannot say. What I will say is that I never forgot how beautiful that was. How beautiful it sounded. How, in an instant, it changed a dull house to a fine old castle full of reverence, and awe, and beauty and romance.
And if excess and luxury means extravagant paintings and sweet music, I maybe don’t often have the music, but I do have the art. My invisible painter comes by, when the snow is deep and the world quite plain and the trees so bare, and paints with delicate hues of pink, rose, white, and blue, sweeping valleys, villas, and mountainous scenes of uncanny realism in the sky. Sometimes he paints abstract stuff with dark purple animated monster-looking things with bulbous eyes, and domed foreheads that mercilessly chase smaller entities of sweet innocence clothed in auras of sunshine, and dresses of white.
In the last few days, he has discarded many colors and in the process splashed all the trees with various Monet-like dabs of brilliance. He’s covered the green lawn with golden dabs and poured out a deep rich luminous burgundy paint on the dog wood tree. The other day while waiting for the appropriate time to touch up the landscape with fall colors, he mischievously painted a rushing river where there was none.
So although I have no paintings of worth on my walls, I have a collection that rotates quickly and invites me to have another look out my window at his latest masterpiece.
But, as mistress of this place, to preserve the ambiance of formality and flushing dignity, I really must buy some piano selections— (Liberace, perhaps), for topping-off special moments when friends come over, and I don my lace apron, and the china comes out for ‘high tea’, and the latest paintings are hung, and the afternoon light is just right and ‘housekeeping’ – (that would be my robot vacuum cleaner) has just dispelled all dust from the corners of this ancient estate.
I guess I’m in this special frame of mind because right now I’m reading that old English Classic first published in 1881, “The Portrait of a Lady” by Henry James. And jangling in my mind is that very first sentence, so simple and so lovely—that tells me this will be writing at its best:
“Under certain circumstances there are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea. There are circumstances in which, whether you partake of the tea or not – some people of course never do, — the situation is in itself delightful.”
I have the circumstances. I have the tea. I have the art. And all I need now is the music (and for me that is piano – without violins, without horns, without anything but the clarity of each left-hand resonating chord and right-hand winsome note.
Of course later, Hub will shut down my music and go to the Lone Star Channel (with all that gunfire erupting and horse hooves rumbling and graceless verbal interchange), and my painter will fold up his palette, and I will return to a plebeian existence. I will descend from my throne, shake out my hair, and bumble around in faded jeans and a stained cotton tee, engaged in the servile task of preparing supper for Hub, my puppies, and me.