Let’s say it was an early morning in July some years ago and you happened to find yourself in a small town in Northern California. Let’s say you were taking a walk through the nearly deserted streets, admiring the houses and stores built in the architectural style of a hundred and fifty years ago when the town was settled during the Gold Rush of 1849. As the town awakened, sunlight poured through the clouds and cast long shadows on Commercial Street. You noticed a rusty pickup parked on Pine Street and a dog in the back of the truck. His coat was amber-colored. His head was perked up and attentive to what little was happening on the street. He looked like he was posing for a photograph.
Lets say you passed by the truck, perhaps to say hello to the dog. You noticed a long-haired man in the rear of the truck, his back propped up against the cab. He was drawing. Near at hand were some brushes and a small tin of watercolors. In answer to your question, he smiled and said that Randy would love to be petted. You sensed that in other circumstances the artist might have enjoyed talking with you, but at the moment he was preoccupied. He didn’t seem to mind your watching him paint, even though he thought he was making a mess of things, especially, you noted, his faulty perspective on the left side of the truck.
Did you see the calico cat that paused to preen itself in the sunlight before disappearing into the blue shadows under the trees? Did you hear the raspy chatter of the ravens in the oak trees near the courthouse up the hill? The artist glanced at the cat and listened to the ravens, but he didn’t understand the conversations of the birds any better than he understood the light he was trying to paint.
There were more things for you to discover so you waved goodbye to Randy and left the artist to his work. You wandered around the town and peeked into a few shops that eventually began to open. You lingered for awhile in a bookstore. Before long it was time for lunch. You crossed Pine Street on your way to a Chinese restaurant, but the rusty truck was no longer there.
Let’s say that three July’s later, on your way to somewhere else, you happened to return to the town. Sunlight glittered on the streets as it had before. The day was as hot as it had been then. The town seemed the same, except that now there were souvenir shops, more stop signs, a new municipal parking lot and a lot of people on the streets and in the stores.
Let’s say that after lunch at the Chinese restaurant you happened to wander, by chance, into an art gallery and there you gazed at a street corner in morning light. Memories made you smile. The only things missing in the painting were the truck, the artist and his dog, whose name you thought you would never forget.