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The Work, In Progress II
The practice of writing Five Things, five things at a time.
For three or four nights I walked down to the water and partway over the bridge and then back. The Pont Neuf. I went down through the darkened park, down the street between the restaurants and the Art Nouveau department store and out to the open space by the river and on one of those nights, the night before last, the tower was even glittering, doing its sequined dance like Josephine Baker, right as I got there.
Last night I did not walk to the water, but headed west towards Victoires, intending to walk down through the Palais-Royal, but it was too late, or for whatever reason the gates were closed. I walked along the edge of it instead, under the arcades by the closed shops, in the dark, the restaurants with the waiters having coffee inside, the dinner service ended, and the other restaurants still full of people eating and drinking wine and champagne.
I realized I was going to have to start painting when the light was all I wanted to talk about. The same few things, over and over. Have you seen the way the light looks on the buildings? Have you seen the way the light looks on the water? I look and look and it is never enough.
I used to feel this way about fields, and said once, even, that I worried the sixty-or-so years I had left to me then would not be enough to spend inside these fields, looking at them. The person I told this to said, somewhat alarmed, that maybe I ought to change some things about my life if I, a New Yorker, felt that sixty years was not enough time to spend looking at fields. Maybe it wasn't the fields. Now I think about the light. Not that I don't have enough time to look at it, but that it is sometimes all I want to talk about. Or not talk about—I don't want to talk about it, because what is there to say—but it is what is always there when I go to look for what is there. The light spilled on the water. The light shattered on the water. The light multiplied in some cosmic multiplication of spores on the water, a planetary expansion, a seeding of light.
Maybe that is what it is to grow old, to think you will never tire of something and then, to tire of it. The six-year-old I was, so terrified of death, lying awake at night in her little bed, so conscious of how these little pieces of time could pass, how you could find yourself on the other side of them, from the moment you climbed into the car after school to the moment you got home, from anticipation to arrival, the passage of time. She knew time could pass like that, would pass like that, and at some point she would find herself at the end of her journey. But she goes away, in pieces, this little girl. She changes. The six-year-old is not here, and neither is the young woman in her twenties who worried that there wasn't enough time to spend looking at fields. To love things like this, to love the way the day breaks, to love the colors that are painted on the reine claude plums in the market, the green and blush and pale blue, the violet and gray, all together, to be in love with this. To speak it into existence, silently or with words, again and again.
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