Three Lights, Two Towers, One Bride

Three Lights, Two Towers, One Bride – Watercolor – 10 x 11 inches.

For many centuries, Valencia was surrounded by walls. They protected the city and the sources of its wealth – silk, oranges, ceramics, olives, rice – from Muslims, pirates, and other invaders until the middle of the 19th century, when they were demolished so that the city could expand. Two gates survive. The painting shows one of them, Las Torres de Serrano, constructed in 1392.

The river Turia was also important to the health and wealth of Valencia, but a terrible flood in 1957 destroyed a large part of city and swept away the homes of thousands of residents in the surrounding area. At least eighty people lost their lives. The city redirected the river around the city so that it still empties into the Mediterranean. But what to do with the old river bed?

The city wanted to construct highways in it and, naturally, real estate developers wanted skyscrapers, but the citizens rebelled and fought back. “The bed of the Turia is ours,” was the rallying cry, “and we want green!” Against all odds, the people prevailed. An urban forest of thousands of pine trees were planted, along with orange and palm trees. Fountains and rose gardens were added, along with a concert hall, soccer pitches, an opera house, bars and cafés, ponds, even a baseball diamond. The park now meanders nearly 6 miles and comprises more than 450 acres. In it you’ll find runners, acrobats, families, T’ai Chi practitioners, children of all ages, gymnasts, picnics and playgrounds. Oh yes, and cyclists, like the bride.

Where she came from and where she was going I don’t know. I would love to have heard her story, but she was in a hurry and we’re left only with what we’re able to imagine.

La Partenza

La Partenza – Watercolor – 10 x 15 inches.

I remember: she met her on a bright afternoon in April. It was obvious to all of us that within minutes they had become enchanted with each other, and so they began an enchanted summer together. In April, the trees along the western side of the lake were in bloom and I had given up trying to paint the white blossoms rising and falling on the surface of the water. I gave up trying to paint the two of them as well, except for this little watercolor, in which only one appears.

I was her friend, their friend. We spent many hours together hiking and riding bicycles and talking about nothing I can remember now. Except for a song we loved, very popular during that summer. Sometimes it sounded faintly silly, like a lot of pop tunes, but the lyrics turned out to be prophetic: “I won’t be afraid of winter when I remember the summer when you used to love me.”

One evening, the heat of July inspired us to haul their bed out of the house into the orchard, to fall asleep listening to the songs of owls and crickets. One morning weeks later, we woke up, the two of them tangled in each other’s hair, our blue sheets covered with a blanket of yellow leaves.

It’s September in the painting. The days are still warm as summer lingers, but the hours of sunlight grow shorter. Soon the green mountains on the other side of the lake will be covered in white. She had cut her hair, and other things. She did not look back. I painted her as I remember her, hesitating slightly, but not looking back. Even when she stepped onto the boat and out of our lives forever, she didn’t look back.