Sunday, October 05, 2008

Painting Rain

By Meredith LaFrance

The rain was coming down in a torrent, angry and without any sign of retreat. Amanda peered out of the foggy window. The dirt path that began at her front door and wound its way down to the dock was barely visible through the sheets of water. She shivered. Her steaming mug of coffee warmed her stiff fingers. She sipped it slowly, trying not to burn her tongue. The creamy sweetness slid down her throat and she savored each sip.

The rain did not bother her so much when she was here on the inside looking out. The rhythm of the raindrops drumming on the roof and pattering on the window was something to live for. It was not a luxury that she had been able to enjoy back in the city. There, the rain was barely audible next to tires screeching on the pavement right outside her 4th floor window.

Thunder sounded in the distance. The lights flickered. She set down her mug and pulled her afghan over her shoulders. Easing up out of the rocking chair, she walked through the kitchen, into the study. The rain pummeled softly on the roof, blocking out all other sounds. She sat down in front of her easel. The blank canvas stared back, a white emptiness waiting to be transformed. She picked up a brush and dipped it into the murky glass of water sitting on the corner of her desk. Trays of paint were scattered across the floor—shades of red and blue and clumps of black and brown spilled over the sides and onto the carpet of newspapers she had thrown down to protect the wood floor.

Chaotic. This was the best way to describe her surroundings. She knew, though, that this was the way that a true artist painted—with absolutely no organization. For so many years she had been more than a little obsessive compulsive. Back in her New York City studio, all of her paints had had their own place and she had neatly stacked her sheet of canvas. Her desk had been impeccably clean and even the slightest spill had warranted a rag and some soapy water within a matter of seconds.

Now, as she swirled her brush in a mixture of blue and green paint, wiping her paint-spattered forehead with her stained sleeve, she couldn’t care less about what a mess the room was. Her hand was steady and her strokes precise. That was all that mattered. Regardless of her mood, with a brush in her hand, time seemed to stand still and everything just made sense.

Complication became simplicity, anxiety became relaxedness, and pain disappeared. What she could not express verbally, she conveyed through art. What she did not understand, she was always able to make sense of with a canvas before her and a brush in her hand.

She stared blankly out the window of her studio, searching for inspiration. Nothing stirred her more than the relentless, blinding rain, thunder booming right outside her door, and flashes of lightning so bright that they overpowered her lamplight tenfold.

As she continued to gaze out of the foggy pane, enraptured by the sparkling drops, a movement in the distance caught her attention. Through the sheets of rain, she could just barely make out a figure—a man—drenched from head to toe. It was an amazing image to capture. Her hand was poised above her canvas. At last, she had her inspiration. However, little did she know that she was about to do more than just create another painting, on this one rainy day.

Meredith LaFrance is a sophomore at the University of Oregon in Eugene. "Painting Rain" is a prologue to her novella-in-progress.

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