Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Boston Common at Twilight

It was a sunny weekday morning in August. The doors of the Museum of Fine Arts had just opened at 10 o’clock, and I was one of the first visitors in the Art of the Americas wing. I proceeded with quiet, steady pace through room after room until I was surrounded by Mary Cassatts and Childe Hassams.

The stillness of walls hung with American Impressionist paintings suited the morning I had taken for a final summer visit to the museum. Settling with Moleskine journal and a book of poetry from home, I was intent on enjoying a view of two favorite paintings. The gallery would soon lure other visitors, but for the moment I was alone with my appreciation.

I had arrived before two paintings with which I had a history. From my earliest years living in New England, I had encountered prints and posters of Boston Common at Twilight. One year I had sent Christmas cards with that golden winter scene by nineteenth-century artist Childe Hassam. Mary Cassatt’s In the Loge, meanwhile, was familiar as the cover artwork of a paperback edition of some classic text that I used to own.

Seated on a gallery bench covered in leather, I could look from one painting to the other. No one blocked my view. No distractions. No interruptions. Neighboring rooms of paintings opened off the gallery, each one deep with sunlit distances.

The trouble was that I did not exactly know what I hoped to achieve in the ideal circumstances I had secured by an early arrival.

The journal I had brought with me ended up not for writing but for re-reading something I had recently written. My book of poetry by Wislawa Szymborska was bookmarked at a favorite poem called “Hard Life with Memory.”

It took a while for me not to need all this expression and depiction – painting, paragraph, poem. It took a while for me simply to raise my camera before I moved on.