Wednesday, January 4, 2012

"Boy Riding Home Before Dawn"

Not all, but some of the drawings and paintings I have done are an attempt to describe what Virginia Woolf called "moments of being." "Boy Riding Home Before Dawn" was a moment imagined, continuing a story Richard told to me in 2001. Not the beginning of an endless happiness but happiness nonetheless.

The image was drawn in January of 2008, three months before Richard died. If you are a long-time reader at this blog, you've heard this story before, but I need to tell it again because it has a lesson for me today.

Richard's story was that late one night he went out walking down the hill in the direction of the ocean in Half Moon Bay, California. Before he reached the ocean, he noticed a horse standing in a pasture. After talking to the horse, he climbed over the fence and slowly and quietly approached the horse. He stood there talking to the horse at length, gaining its trust, and finally asked the horse if it would be okay for him to climb onto its back. The horse allowed him to do that. He told me that he took off his belt and was able to use it as a makeshift bridle.

At that point in his story he stopped to explain to me that although he had not known how to ride a horse at the time we went riding together in 1970 (in the first few months after he returned from Vietnam), he had learned later. At the time when we had rented the two horses and had ridden on the bluffs at Half Moon Bay, I had about four years of experience riding horses.

Continuing with his story, he told me that he rode the horse around the pasture for a little while and then opened the gate to the pasture and rode out into the night. He said that they went through the neighborhoods, out along the bluffs and then down to the long sandy beach. He said that they wandered for a good part of that night, and then they returned to the pasture, where he left the horse and went home and went to sleep.

He ended the story by saying, "When I went back the next day to see the horse, it was gone. I never saw the horse again. It was a magical night."

In the first days of January 2008, remembering Richard's story, I pictured that magical horse coming to him at night, coming to the bed where, depressed and anxious, he tried to sleep in the stroke rehabilitation unit at the V.A. hospital in Palo Alto. Richard was blind in one eye, unable to speak, breathing with the help of a tracheostomy tube, having difficulty swallowing and requiring tube feeding, and only able to walk with great effort. I pictured the horse talking to Richard, asking him if he would like to leave the hospital for a night ride. When Richard said, "Yes," the horse lowered itself down so that Richard could pull himself over onto its back. Once Richard was on the horse's back, he found that he had the energy he had had as a boy and that he was no longer in the hospital room but out on the hospital grounds. By the light of the full moon, he and the horse went out to the coast. They returned before dawn. Richard felt a peace of mind and heart that he had not felt since he was a boy. He asked for an easel and began to paint again.

When I woke up this morning, I was feeling depressed, still a little headachy and congested from a cold, wondering why, whenever I want to paint, there is some seemingly insurmountable obstacle. Mulling that over, I suddenly remembered the above scene from "The Hours," a movie that was released on Christmas Day in 2002, at a time when I thought I might never see Richard again or paint again. That movie put things in perspective for me.

I've been working on this post since about 7 a.m. It's 9:30 now. This is where my creative energy went this morning. So be it.


Sabine said...

Thanks for sharing, made me want to be near an ocean at night.

Taradharma said...

this is an extraordinary post. First, your image is beautiful. Then, the clip from The Hours led me to other clips from the movie (now I'll watch it again), then I moved onto your flickr pages and gazed upon your creative juices come to life, then back to your post to read Richard's story.

Do you think your resolve to get back to the studio is calling forth all these dreams/images/memories?

Anonymous said...

so much of the creative process is like riding the horse in the night. makes sense as you rekindle the fire to make new work the horse presents itself. kjm

am said...

Thank you all for stopping by and sharing in this creative process.

My mother wrote this down for me many years ago:

"Whatever you can do or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it."

bev said...

Agree with everyone's comments, and especially the lines your mother wrote. So many times, I have found that the only thing stopping me from creating is that I don't just "start".
Horses and horse dreams have been part of my life too - real or magical horses have such power to take us to places we can only imagine.