What To Show After

The reason for my sorrow is pathetic in the details. For a week I’ve been wondering where all the watercolor paintings Claire and I made have been disappearing to. Claire taped an arrangement on the wall above her dresser. I taped a line of paintings near my desk. After work I’d see that another square of paper fell down (no Pinterist-worthy showcasing in my house, just tape unsticking from walls) and get on with the night. I meant to ask our maid if she’d put them in drawer or cupboard after I’d looked but hadn’t found the missing work.

I asked today.

She’s been throwing them away.

She apologized. I said it was okay, please don’t throw away our art ever again, waited for her to leave and went to my room to cry.

The fourth quarter of any school year is a terrible time for me to conduct a self-inventory but I did that, kneeling at the foot of my bed, crying about all my stupid paintings that were lost to all the other trash down our street. I bought the watercolors and inks because I was so tired (so so so tired) of making art that just sits in a file or gets put on a shelf once the notebook is full, art that rarely finds vocal expression or appreciation. I wanted to SEE what I’d made and enjoy looking at it after the pleasure of creating.

I look out my window and everything is the color of dirt except for clothes draped over balconies to dry. The last five years has been unrelenting examination. I question where I am, where I go. My watercolors were mostly stained glass, laundry on balconies, and maps.

I’m sad those first pieces of my return to an old favorite medium are gone. Like, really sad. Like, still crying about it sad. Because I can’t help but see a metaphor for every single thing I’m trying to do, in those pitched paintings. I can choose colors and let the first wash dry, add salt starbursts, play with texture, define with pen. I can paint with pleasure, an hour gone and the memory of street we walked down on paper. And then it all goes away. Nothing to show.

How much of our work, our art, is invisible after?

The lost watercolors viscerally remind me what I fear for the countless hours and pages I write. So I cry for what I suspect too, that one day all of this goes away. That I’ll find out I should have made play-doh on the stove or cooked better meals. That I should have pursued school leadership or hosted a Bible study. That I should have gone outside more. Something. I trade for my writing. But maybe I find out it’s a lousy trade. I thought about all that, kneeling at the foot of my bed, hoping the kids wouldn’t hear me cry about paintings that took twenty minutes when I’ve got work and relationships that are years, decades in the making, all of it as easily lost, and what to show after?

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