Some autumn days are not beautiful but oppressive and uninspiring. The interminable gloom never quite allows enough light to energise one’s spirits.
By the window Clay poised thoughtfully, waiting to begin. Sketches and notes pinned all around, palette prepared, brush in hand.
The light was deadened by a dull grey wash of depressing sky. Self-doubt and frustration rose. Where to start? Despite days of planning he felt uninspired. He couldn’t remember why he painted. He’d been fooling himself – he couldn’t really paint at all.
‘I can’t do this,’ he growled, lashing out at the canvas with violent strokes.
‘What a useless waste of life. I wish I was dead!’ His palette hit the door. He threw his beaker of water too, just because it was there.
Head in hands he looked around at a room of mess and failure.
The scrap of human dignity remaining prevented him from roaring in frustration. He grabbed his jacket and stormed out, slamming the door behind him.
Clay’s angry strides pounded the pavement. His arms swung crossly at the cool dull October air and his lungs punched out angry breaths. Women saw beauty in the unkempt, dark-haired, artist. They caught his eye and smiled. He felt vaguely amused.
He walked around older, slower people, dodged parents with young children and was forced to wait behind a wheelchair at a pedestrian crossing. All signs that said, ‘This life isn’t just about you.’
Humbled, he began to calm and realised he was hungry.
Mrs. Mack’s was the best place for late breakfast. Slowing as he checked his pockets for money he let the anticipation of fresh coffee and homemade omelette push the frustration of his painting from the top of his hierarchy of concerns.
In the lull between breakfast and lunch Mrs. Mack was grinding coffee beans. Clay’s hair and every stitch of his clothing was instantly soaked with the sweet, smoky fragrance as he entering the building.
He recognised a young mother with two daughters at the table in the window where they had already been served drinks with straws and sticky cakes and greeted them as he walked past. The smallest girl repeatedly dropped crayons on the table, laughing at the sound and waiting for her mother to pick them up so she could do it again. ‘Don’t take the pinks, I need the pinks,’ the older child was saying.
Clay relaxed back with his coffee, watching Mrs Mack fry up his exquisite-smelling omelette while his gastric juices voiced their impatience.
The mother smiled at him. Flattered, as always, he smiled back but realised as she stood up, walked towards him and reached over that her youngest was sniffing his jacket on the back of his chair.
‘I’m sorry – she likes to sniff people. Come away Abby, the man’s got hot coffee.’
‘Hot,’ repeated the child holding her free arm out in front of her as her mother guided her away.
Clay suddenly realised: Abby was blind.
Abby’s sister sat quietly drawing. Her head rose and fell as she copied the pink plastic flowers in the middle of the table. He wondered if Abby could draw and if so, what? Clay felt at once bereft for her lack of sight. She could never see the colours that her sister could see. She didn’t know that last week the sky was blue and inspiring yet today he could barely get out of bed due to the low insipid light.
Back at his apartment he cleared up with the TV for company.
These terrific hot oranges give this otherwise dark border a real sense of warmth, said the woman on some gardening programme.
He continued cleaning.
The voice described shapes and sizes of borders, structures of spiky plants, and different scents.
‘How amazing that someone could describe a scent,’ Clay thought.
Strolling through the lavender walkway, one instinctively brushes the flower heads and the clean, familiar fragrance lifts and comforts. You hear the swish of the ornamental grasses and now, even if you close your eyes, you know you’ve reached the rose garden. The climbing rose against the south-facing brick wall gives off the most heady scent, so we thought this would be the best place for a small lawn and seating area. And, because the surrounding hedgerows encourage lots of birds, we’ve put up feeders and are rewarded with beautiful birdsong.
Without once glancing at the TV, Clay’s head became full of shapes, scents, sounds, brightness and animation. He imagined a garden. Maybe not the same as the one on the programme – maybe better. In Clay’s garden a basket of plump strawberries sat atop a mosaic bistro table and a child’s small hands felt their way over the tiny tiles to the woven texture of the basket, reached in and grabbed the juicy fruit. He imagined the welcome refreshment of the delicious fruit explosion after running around in the sun.
Sounds, smells, textures, taste – all vivid things that lit his darkness and coloured his greys. Grabbing a sketchbook Clay began a plan for a picture that he would call Abby’s Garden, with tactile sculptures, different walkway surfaces such as brick and gravel so you could hear where you were and not get lost, wind chimes, water features…The creative possibilities for the other four senses were endless…
This is an edit to fit Flash length of a short story I wrote a couple of weeks ago called Colourless Day
(This version is better 🙂 )