You’re a consolation. A stream heading for me and the wheat-colored light of a Virginia easing out of winter and into spring. I turn to this painting in my worst moments. And they are often moments of transition.
A few years ago, the painter, Richard Crozier, led my husband and I out to his new studio. It was a light-filled room built in his backyard surrounded by the terraced garden his wife lovingly tended. We didn’t expect what he said next. “Pick one,” he pointed to a box on the floor filled with oil paintings on masonite board the size of record albums. I tried to not look like I was panting as my husband said we couldn’t possibly take one of his paintings. Crozier waved that aside.
Crozier paints landscapes and taught art at The University of Virginia where my husband and I had gone to graduate school. He’s now retired. Here’s an article about his life and work: https://streetlightmag.com/2014/07/28/subject-to-change-paintings-by-richard-crozier/
We hung the painting in the living room in the perfect spot for a large screen TV. We have a console TV from the dinosaur era, instead. I remember there wasn’t a TV anywhere in Crozier’s house—I think he’d enjoy knowing his painting hangs in this coveted spot.
There were so many paintings in the box, it would have taken all day to go through them. “What kind of landscape would you like?” he asked as a way to narrow down the choices.
Immediately, I knew. “Something with water in it.” We were living in drought-riven Texas.
Those dry Texas days can lead me to this painting like a horse to water. And I drink. It looks like we’re in for another drought like the one we were enduring when we returned to Charlottesville for a visit. We’ve had less rain than we should have so far this year my husband happened to mention today. And I watched horses going into heat stroke last week where I go horseback riding. Ranches disappeared last time, replaced by a lot of strip malls and housing developments.
It’s a cold stream and shallow like ones where I grew up in Upstate New York. And quiet, except for the sound of the water. I don’t need a water feature in the house to conjure up that sound. I hear it every time I look at the painting. And feel cooler, thirst-quenched.
And less lonely as it’s been a dry spell for socializing and taking walks, too. You see, I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia. I feel very fortunate that I can still work, but it leaves me little energy and time for much else. It can leave you housebound and isolated.
I can see this as a dry spell or as a time for contemplation, the kind of looking Crozier must be doing as he paints, his easel set up along the edge of the creek or painting from the passenger side of his car. What birds are singing? And I remember how slippery and uneven the rocks can be in streams like this one. You find your way with your feet for a while feeling the sensations of cold water, small fish, guppies, slippery rocks, and pebbles. Because your brushstrokes are visible, I can let my own memories of a place like this in.
Or a day in Charlottesville walking across Jefferson’s campus. Everything is bustling with people going about their business among the brick buildings in those memories; buildings and people are absent in the painting. The sky, a blue ridge in the distance, a net of tree branches catching golden light, those take me back there. I didn’t have a car, so rarely got beyond Charlottesville proper and to any place resembling this spot. Except on my bike, where I found a road known as 21 Curves winding down alongside a stream and near a golf course. That stream kept me going on hot days when winding back up the 21 curves felt impossible. Cooling drafts and the smell of fresh water floated off the stream. But I didn’t stop to look, whizzing by, instead.
Now, I can look. And understand the depth of this gift. And then step away and return to where I am and a new turn.