Wednesday, April 16, 2003

What a difference a warm and sunny day can make. Especially when it comes on your day off.

Not to mention, a great evening spent with your painting class outdoors at Federal Hill and the Inner Harbor. It was the first time that I think I've felt like a part of this city, and not a stranger in a strange land. Sitting on top of grassy Federal Hill overlooking the harbor where the Americans fought off the British, not armed with a canon, but a paint brush and canvas. I was not surrounded by my war torn registry, but my fellow artists. A warm wind blew, dogs romped and rolled around in the grass, rollerbladers skated by, and kids raced each other up and down the hill. Pedestrians stopped to look at our paintings, asking us if we were part of a class or just an art group, how long we'd been doing it and then musing on how they always wanted to paint.

"Then pick up a brush and start," I'd say, "that's what all of us did." They'd nod, then look off in the distance as if pondering their life choices. Hopefully, some of them took my advice.

The same kids who were racing up the hill, a group of African-American boys and girls ranging from 7-10 years old, came over to us and looked at each of our paintings. Sooner than I knew it, I had an audience of four as they watched me make brush strokes. I love how kids are enthusiastic and unafraid to come over and stand close around you to see what you are doing. Luckily, they felt safe doing that because we were "adults" in a friendly and welcoming environment. They moved from one person to the next, exclaiming, "Wow! Look at this one!" with each painting that they viewed. They were absolutely charming and darling, and nice kids. They were an unexpected pleasure of that day, and I was glad that they came across my path. I needed to see "good." And they were "good" in its purest form.

Once darkness settled in, a few of us became cold and walked down to the harbor to get some warm coffee. My teacher, two female students, and a male student who is very cute were in our group as we trotted down the stairs down the hill. It was the first time that I'd been out in Baltimore without family, and I was enjoying it immensely. Plenty of people walked about, and the city lights reflected off the black harbor water in thick wavy ribbons of red, yellow, and white. Yachts lined the docks and the stores and restaurants bubbled with activity. We talked about our paintings and the paintings that the full-time MICA students had on show at the school, and the difference between the two. I walked alongside the cute male student, and enjoyed our "getting to know you" conversation. It was good to be talking with a guy again like that, as it has been a long time. As we walked, I thought about how lucky I was to have found these people in my class, and cherished the company that it brought to me.

front stoop
The next day, it was gorgeous and reached over 80 degrees.

So, I went out.

I was greeted with the smells of spring, blooming trees, and warm air wrapping around my skin. This is the view of my street from the front stoop of my apartment building. My building is a row house, a former single family mansion much like the ones across the street that have remained single family. My building is one of the few that were made into apartments, so there are a lot of families on my block. My apartment has 14 foot ceilings, huge rooms and is a floor through unit. I can stand on the window sills and stretch my arms as high as they can go and still not fill the height of the window. Three of them flood light into my living room and kitchen, and two into my bedroom. Both rooms have fireplaces with original Victorian marble mantles. I frequently wonder who used to walk the floors of my apartment.

I stopped into the local coffee joint to have a mocha and some lunch. Again, the day did not let me down. Soft acoustic blues music filled the room as if it had floated in with the warm air to ease our winter embittered spirits. I found a table by the front door and watched Baltimore walk in and out. anne at cafe
I pet dogs, smiled at kids who walked by, watched a guitar instructor paste up a notice to the wall advertising his lessons. Listened to art students talk about their classes and saw them outside carrying huge canvases painted with the days lesson. Still lifes of fruit, nude figures, self-portraits, and landscapes floated by outside like a moving mosaic. I snapped this picture of myself as I was sitting there. And yes, the ceiling in the place really is green.

I'd brought my journal along to write, but passed on it because I was enjoying just being a passive observer. The people who work at the coffee shop were glad to see me, so I chatted with them a bit, then just sat quietly and observed what the day brought to me and slowly sipped my first blended mocha of the year.

view from table

Looks good, doesn't it?

And that goodness brings me to what I'm going to say next to the people who have been reading this blog and have written to me. I have received your emails and appreciate them more than you will know. I am touched by the heartfelt honesty in them and have read all of them with care, many of them, more than once. If I haven't responded, it is because I simply haven't gotten to you yet. But rest assured that your emails have been read and greatly appreciated. They have not disappeared into an electronic wasteland.

I am really floored at the response I've gotten from this blog and simply wasn't prepared, as it was as much of a surprise to me as anyone else that I was put on Blogger's home page. Not to mention, has recently found itself into another article. To say that I'm touched and moved by your responses, is a light way of putting it. Thank you for sharing with me. Thank you for your encouragement and willingness to share your wisdom. Thank you for your courage to share your own stories with a complete stranger. It is not lost on me.

And to the Danish journalist who has now served me two tough love kicks in the pants from abroad, I did respond to you. Read your mail.