A glorious trip to Europe in the company of two of the small circle of people most important to me, my husband and my younger brother, ended two weeks ago today. After returning to the US, jet-lagged, on Monday afternoon, and staying over at my brother’s house (because it was closer to the airport), I did this watercolor the next morning while we sat together in the garden behind his house. This garden was a favorite spot of his and faced the garage off to the side and the back of his house.
Illustration: Watercolor on a quarter sheet of watercolor paper, “In the Backyard of Andy’s House,” July 18, 2017 by Black Elephant Blog author
We were just enjoying the early morning sunlight, before a drive back to our own home. I was just dabbling, with the only paints I could find in the outer pockets of my suitcase: brown pink (closer to a yellow) and indanthrone blue watercolor. While the house is actually white, I thought I could get away with the yellow because of the light morning sun crowning the trees in the backyard.
We’d had a wonderful trip to Europe, and soon we were saying our own goodbyes, as we continued on to our own home in another state. A week went by–with all of the ordinary contacts now so special in hindsight: emails, a phone call just a week ago, then more emails…And then, quite suddenly, that brother, the younger brother, was taken from us, in a seizure that was not his first. A father, a husband, a son, an uncle, a brother, and a friend to so many…and everything went haywire in an instant.
Illustration: Andy in Germany, July 2017
The world has thus been turned upside down. From a joyous trip involving close family and magnificent sights to a gaping hole that can never be filled. My confidant and co-sketching buddy who also had great hopes for our country and our world–despite worrying evidence to the contrary–has now suddenly gone. Such are the tough times we all must go through, in some way or other, I realize. This pain is a part of life, and we are all here temporarily. But, it’s a fact: Art so far has been (much) easier to do–in generally happy times. The challenge is to work one’s way through a devastating loss, and to comfort the many people beside myself who also are affected–as my brother would also want.
I have a feeling I will paint again. My brother would not want me to stop. RIP my soulmate: I can’t believe it but I must accept it somehow that we won’t again be sitting somewhere in a green field sketching some historic view together. I am thankful, so thankful, that just a little more than two weeks ago, we were doing so in Germany and France. Rest in peace. The world is diminished without you in it.
I share this here because I started writing this blog in a spurt of joy and relief in the week after this brother of mine was discharged from a rehabilitation hospital following a highly risky surgery in late 2014. It was called “elective surgery” because you had to choose it, but to not choose was to choose a certainly fatal route. All the family members were very involved. There were highs and lows. My younger brother would tell me he liked this or that painting, and he made his own wonderful sketches. His sudden departure left many thoughts still unspoken. He would want me to carry on painting if something like this happened; we never talked about it but I do know that. I hope he is sketching too. These are crazy times with intense news cycles that can demand so much of our attention. But what’s really important is often right next to us. RIP.