no. 03 : The Woman in White

I’ve been lost for hours. I am wandering the halls of the Metropolitan Art Museum in New York City. I’ve seen old friends from traveling exhibits and pieces I’ve known my whole life in person for the first time. I stand in front of some, I am sure, for a quarter hour, maybe a half, maybe more. I am absorbed in line and color, movement and composition, and shape. All these things stoke the fire, the whatever it is, I am infected with. Wonder at what I cannot do. Inspiration to pursue more in my own work. Mostly, though, just happily captivated for a day.

Then it is time to go. I have no schedule, and so I meander on my way out. Satisfied, but I am still watchful to discover a jewel I may have missed. It’s a pastel, by the way, by Degas. The room it hangs in seems to have some lights out, but maybe that’s intentional, because it glows. Chalk on paper and it appears to be lit from within. Amazing.

Two children and their mother. The boys, kindergartners probably, are running. They shouldn’t be running and their mother tells them this. They laugh, their tittering floating to the ceiling. It echoes against the hard walls and floor. Then she is there.

She is motion. She moves in a way that sets her apart from the crowd. Blond hair and a white dress, all flowing. She wears a white coat and her skin, pale white also. The only color, a touch of pink on her lips.

She is radiant. Something emanates from her. She is ethereal. She has stepped from another world into ours. Not an angel, not something you would expect, she’s more.

This is the odd immediate connection with a stranger encountered only a few times in a lifetime. That knowing. That I know you feeling. This is one of those moments, today. Here she is. I cannot escape her so I follow her. She is too fast. Carried along on the wind, a leaf pursued, just quick enough that I cannot reach her. The heavy glass and metal doors open. They close. She is gone.

It has been a couple of years since this moment. Still I am haunted by it. I did not catch her; I was not able to talk to her; so she is, and always will be, a figment made real. I don’t remember her face, but that doesn’t matter. That’s not what’s important. 

She is an ideal. She is what a part of me has always chased--that dreamer, the romantic, the idealizer. She was the feeling, the emotion, of beauty incarnate. Perhaps I was susceptible because I was drunk on inspiration from all the art. Perhaps she emanated everything I felt.

The clear-eyed part of me is quick to dispell any magic. Certainly there was no real power, no sway. Yet, even my most pragmatic self grudgingly admits gladness to have had that moment with her. To have had that dreamlike chase in the corporeal world.

What I know is love is more than awe. It is more than flowing white dresses and momentary captivation. It is real. It is choice. It is sometimes hard. It is, however, I think, still those wonder filled moments; a brief glimpse at the flash of the heart's mad devotion. In that way, that fellow, the dreamer, is right.


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