As one journal comes to an end another one begins. In a way, this is encouraging I guess. Life for me continues, right? Each journal I complete has its own unique stories. Some are interesting and some are not. Some are happy and some are not. Some are more personal and some are not. In my estimation, I believe the last journal closed with no special fanfare or life-altering news. But, this one begins with a smile.
Copyright 2014: Andrew
I can’t speak for the rest of the United States, but here in Alabama a warm day during the second week of April is not unusual. Yesterday was especially so. In fact I would say the weather was perfect. Actually I would describe the entire day that way. Perfect.
Even though the day was beautiful from the start, I decided to take advantage of the weather and spend the first part working in my backyard “garden”; or maybe I should refer to it as my “work in progress”. I have been working on my garden for years and probably will be working on it until the end of my days.
After working I washed up, had lunch, and decided to spend the rest of the day relaxing. For me that meant a trip to the park for some drawing time. I find it peaceful to draw in the park. Not only does it give me a nice environment in which to create, but I also get to be alone with my thoughts. From time to time I may also get the opportunity to converse with others that pass by. As soon as I arrived at the park I made my way to my usual spot by the Japanese maple tree and sat down. I like to sit with my back to the sun in order for the light to fall directly onto my drawing board. I chose to work on a pastel portrait of a girl from Romania. I have titled the piece “Smile In Red”. I met the subject of this portrait during a photography assignment overseas last summer and I took a few photos of her. I chose the title of this piece partly due to the comment the subject made when she saw the photos and said, “Smile”. I guess she thought that she should have been smiling. You can read about this trip in Journal V.
I must have been lost in my work because several hours had passed before I knew it. I was adding a few last strokes to the piece when a shadow fell across the portrait. A moment later I heard someone speak.
“You truly captured the emotion in the eyes. It was as though you looked inside of her. She is beautiful.”
It is not uncommon to have someone stand over my shoulder and watch as I draw, so I slowly turned to see who it was that was speaking. Due to the position of the sun my line of sight began low. The first thing I saw was a light blue sundress. With the light coming from behind it revealed a defined slender athletic figure of a girl I would have guessed to have been in her late twenties. As my gaze looked upward I saw the face of a lovely girl with sandy-brown, below shoulder length hair. The sunlight gave the appearance of a halo around her head. The expression on her face was friendly, but reserved.
I took this as a sign that she didn’t want me to get the wrong impression as to her intentions but only wanted to express a genuine appreciation for my art. She commented a bit more on my work, as though she may have been an art student, but our conversation didn’t go much longer before she thanked me for my time and walked away. If I hadn’t already been through drawing for the day, I would have been at that point. The image of her remained burned in my mind for the rest of the day. But, I was not prepared for how my night would close out.
Dinner last night was nothing special. Since it was such a clear night I decided to sit outside for a while afterwards. I never see any of my neighbors doing this, but I like to sit outside and stare into the night sky. The sky was so nice that I decided to go back inside, get my camera, and take some time exposure pictures of the moon through the trees. My street is not a main thoroughfare and there is very little vehicle traffic at night. This allowed me the opportunity to lie in the street to take my pictures. I had taken a few pictures when I noticed a couple walking up the street in my direction. I was surprised that they didn’t see me. Once they got about ten feet away I called out, “pay no attention to the strange man in the street.” At this point the woman screamed and then both began to laugh as they walked on by. This encounter must have alerted the person coming up behind the couple because she noticed me.
She walked up looked down and asked, “Have you fallen and can’t get up? Do I need to call 911?”
I could tell by the tone of her voice that she found this encounter somewhat amusing. I said, “Do you want the truth or a good story?”
“With you lying in the middle of the street at night (pausing), I assume any answer at this point should be good.”
“Well, you know us artistic folks; we’re a bit quirky; living on the streets and all.” This brought a chuckle from her and I told her that I actually lived at the house I was in front of. At this point I recognized her as the girl that spoke to me at the park earlier in the day and I stood up.
She asked, “So you’re a photographer too?
Feeling a bit embarrassed I said, “Yes’ I am.”
“And this is your house?
“Yes it is.”
“I’m new to town and have been exploring the streets in my spare time since I moved here. I love this street; so peaceful and quaint.”
The two of us took a seat on the retaining wall in front of my house and continued to talk. I began to give her information about the neighborhood and the city. After a few minutes I thought I should introduce myself. “How rude of me. Hi, my name is Andrew by the way.”
“My name is Julia, but everyone calls me Honey.”
I’m sure this was not the first time she has gotten a response like this, but I had to ask, “How did you get that name?” Smiling, “Did you give it to yourself?”
After giving me a non-surprised look she said, “No. Julia is the given name of my grandmother, but Honey was a nickname given to me by my mother the day I was born. My father was in the military, stationed in Hawaii and right after I was delivered my dad took me to the exam room to be cleaned up. The hospital staff was listening to the “Oldies” station and the song “Honey”, by Bobby Goldsboro began to play. That was the first song I ever heard. When my dad told my mother this she decided to nickname me Honey. Everyone has called me that ever since.”
Trying to keep from smiling, I said, “No pun intended, but that is so sweet.”
I could tell by the expression on her face that she has heard just about every joke and comment about that name that anyone can come up with.
“You said you are a photographer, but what were you taking pictures of in the street?”
I motioned for her to lean in closer to me. As she did I pointed up towards at the moon shining through the trees.
“Ah, I see. Your camera can capture pictures at night?”
“In order to get a sharp clear picture I would need my tripod. But, I am only capturing a feeling, a concept really, of what I would like to draw.”
I turned on the camera and began to playback the images that I had saved.
“You are going to draw this?”
“That is the plan. Last year I drew a similar piece from a different picture I took and gave it the title of “Old Friends”. I suppose I will call this piece “Old Friends II”.”
“Old Friends”, How did you come up with that name?”
“Just as Honey has a meaning behind it, these titles have meanings too. I don’t remember whether or not I mentioned this, but I actually grew up in this house. Once my mother passed away, I bought out my two sister’s shares of the house and moved back to the only place I have truly called home. These two trees have watched over me and my family for many years. I use to ride my bike under these branches. I learned how to use a lawn mower under these trees. I, along with the neighborhood children use to play kickball here. I use to catch fireflies under the wings of their massive branches at night. I learned to drive a car while using the driveway beside these trees. The first girl I ever kissed was underneath these branches. I can’t begin to count the number of hours I have spent underneath these trees, or the many sunsets and moonlit nights that I have witnessed through their branches. In a way, they are my old friends.”
“Umm, that is rather sentimental.”
“The first drawing, “Old Friends”, came as a result of a weather forecast, or should I say a missed-forecast. One day I had been at work when a major storm was predicted. This caused people all over town to leave work early. I too decided to leave early and went straight home. Expecting the worse I kept looking out the window. As time passed I never saw any form of dark clouds and decided to go outside. I sat in my driveway and watched the sky as the sun set and enjoyed some wine, cheese, and crackers. This was peaceful, but no storm ever came. The sight that I saw through the trees sparked my imagination. I got my camera and was able to capture a couple of photos before I lost the last of the evening light. The next day I reviewed my pictures and knew I had to draw it. The same could kind of be said of tonight I guess. I was just sitting outside and my imagination began to run and I decided to go get my camera and take some pictures. Shortly afterwards our two paths crossed again, even if it were in the street.”
“Have you been drawing all of your life?”
“Not really. It has been more like a few years. Going into High School I wanted to take art but was denied.”
Sounding surprised she asked, “You were denied?
I know that sounds strange, but at that time the eighth grade art teacher had to approve students before they could move forward. My art teacher said no to my request. I can still feel the disappointment of being told “no, I won’t approve you.” After which she just walked away. I did do some drawing on my own during High School, but I didn’t really pursue it. After High School I picked up the camera and used that as my artistic outlet.” It wasn’t until much later that I decided to try drawing and once I did I was hooked. Still to this day I haven’t taken art lessons.”
“As for you, you said you recently moved to the neighborhood. Where did you move from?”
“I have already mentioned that I was born in Hawaii. My parents divorced when I was very young and I was around three years of age when my mother died of a rare form of cancer. Dad was still in the military at that time and didn’t think a life of travelling from base to base would be good for me. For years I had questioned whether or not that was truly what he thought or just that he didn’t want the responsibility of raising a daughter on his own. In either case, one of my two Aunts took me in and raised me. After High School I went to college and earned a degree in nursing. I guess I have always had a desire to help others. But to answer your question, prior to moving here most of my life was spent in the New England area.”
The conversation went quiet at that moment. It was almost as though something in her answer brought up some painful memories. Her expression would seem to confirm that thought as well.
After a moment she looked down at her watch and said, “I guess I had better get going. I didn’t plan on staying out too late.”
As she stood up I wasn’t sure whether or not her leaving was due to the time of day as she indicated, or whether it was due to something else. But, if it were due to something else, I didn’t feel it was my place to question. I thanked her for taking the time to talk and for not stepping on me in the street. A smile came back to her face at that point.
Just as she began to walk off I said, “Feel free to drop by again some time.”
She turned back, “You never know, I may just take you up on that”, and she continued up the street.