Over decaf, a friend told me of the time her teacher inherited a country club . Acre upon acre of sprawling grounds, putting greens, tennis courts, bungalows, a pool. Each August, he closed the club for a month, hung a chain across the drive, and filled it with artists, his students. He flew in models from New York and all day long they drew. At night they spread their work across the ballroom and he picked through the field of paper, a cassowary in a stained polo shirt, diving into the pile to pluck out a sheet of newsprint here, a watercolor there. As they sat cross-legged, smoking and paring the paint from their cuticles, he would weave a long twisting narrative that connected the works, a story of art and struggle and life.
This magical month of sunshine and charcoal and stories fueled the students through the year of ordinary living, until they could return the next summer to sip bottled beer on the club porch and pass around their sketchbooks once more.
I felt my cheeks grow hollow as I listened to this story from another era, a time of commitment and freedom I will never know. To live art so utterly, to learn without end, to share, to be young, to be led, to experience the drawing life as a mighty oak to add ring after ring to, never completed, always stretching and growing and failing and learning. Not a hobby or a vocation but a 24-hour life without end.
The story made me feel old and spent, standing on an empty train platform in the rain. Yearning for youth and ink and sunshine and possibility. Till deep in my head, a voice, a boy’s voice, said the sun was still shining and the day was still long.