Kristal woke in the gray before dawn.
The room felt chilled, and the cold reach behind her eyes, behind her heart, settling into her lungs.
It wasn’t cold, she realized, when she sat up. It was pain. The room wasn’t cold–she was.
Clouds rolled in from the coast, settling over the mountains, bringing the scent of sea and rain.
This was the feeling of pain.
Healing didn’t happen in a straight line, she realized. It doesn’t resolve in a day, a few weeks, a month. You can’t wipe it away, no matter how much paint you apply to a canvas.
Or can you?
She took a quick tally of how many canvases she’d painted so far. Seven. That was nothing.
What had she done before, in college, when that long-haired boy with a slanted smile and eyes that hid when he laughed–what had she done when he left her? How had she buried those dreams she’d made with him?
This wasn’t the first time she’d felt this cold inside.
She’d written poems, she remembered, about rain boots caked in mud; vines in winter, spiked with thorns.
She remembered a line about her heart, a blackberry left, shriveled and molding, on the vine.
After twenty poems, warmth returned. And there had been happy moments during the nights of twenty poems.
One evening, unable to sleep, incapable of focusing on translating an assigned passage from The Iliad, she took her moleskin notebook and a black pen that splattered ink like a monk’s quill to the campus coffee shop.
Peter Beagle was there, singing and playing his guitar, stopping now and then to recite a passage from The Last Unicorn.
She fell in love with him, for that evening only, and while his voice wound through her, and now and then he caught her eye, where she sat in her solitary corner and smiled, she realized, yes. She could love again.
Behind her stood the paintings of the yellow bike and the single tree.
She wasn’t meant to heal in an instant.
She was meant to discover the patterns deep within her, those that led her towards others, and those that drove her away.
Her stay was a little more than half over. She still had weeks to find her way back.
She took the day off from painting to explore.
Parrots filled the jungle canopy with splashes of red and blue, as bright as their voices were loud.
In the plaza, a speckled gecko hunted crickets near the planters.
A rainbow arced over the falls.
In a moment of awe, she felt that the air within her was the same as the air without. She lifted her head, spread her arms–this was the joy she’d known as a child when the broad oaks called and hawks circled on thermals overhead.
She played her violin against the percussion of the cascades, a large iguana her only audience.
When she set down her instrument, the stillness of the pool spread out, beckoning towards the coast, sixty miles away.
A single lantern shone, suspended from a pole on the dock. Though it was day, the lantern’s light was brighter even than the sparkles of sun on the green pool.
This is a moment of happiness, she realized. The music of her violin still resonated within, and she watched the quiet water until the notes faded. Soak in it. Happiness is here.
In the evening, she tried to capture the patterns of light and dark at the edge of the clearing.
The next day, under a cloudless sky, she layered blue, and black, and green over the empty canvas.
His life goes on, like this twisting black line. Her life spreads, like the sky. There is no merging, but the context of everything, of life, of the green breath of living, offers moments. And that is all we need. No more. No less.
Author’s note: For a poem about this painting, see Kristal, Day 2 of my GloPoWriMo project.