My son and I picked some of these flowers yesterday. I did it guiltily in the name of an improvised art class on still life drawing. As you can see, rain is a forgotten phenomenon in Santiago, Chile, yet somehow these flowers have managed, with little to no sustenance, to break the surface of this dusty path and breath in a moment – a harsh, dry autumn moment – before a boot or bike tread tears them asunder. The reds, yellows and greens glow against the lifeless backdrop.
So we cut several of them thinking they would make a nice art class. By the time we got home, they were already wilting. How could something so enduring, endure for such a little amount of time? It’s water. A glass of water. It’s the key to survival, yet this flower wasn’t interested. “If I can’t live in that hellscape up the road, I’d rather die,” it seemed to say in the theatrics of some great tragedy, flopping its head over sadly as we took out colored pencils.
My son quickly tore through two sheets of paper in bold strokes and breaking pencil tips. I, on the other hand, sat at that table and drew. And drew. And drew until at some point my wife walked by with a concerned look, and I broke away from what had clearly become a hour-long quarantine art therapy session that had started as a healthy exercise and was now headed toward some inspirational act of master artist self harm.
When we were cleaning up the table before dinner, my son picked up my drawing. “It’s your masterpiece,” he said. I thought he was joking. But he held it up in the light longer than briefly as I went on slicing avocados in the kitchen. I told him I was thinking about working a little longer on the sky. To which he replied, “ooh, yeah!” in excitement for something that could grow into something more.
Our days are bumping into one another now. They are piling up. The US ambassador to Chile warned us last night that this week may be the last opportunity to fly back to the US for quite some time. Is it really Wednesday? Those who choose to stay will stay for the duration. Are we going to stay in this house for weeks or months? Our school principal sent an email saying our school will not reopen anytime soon. I want to send a special apology to our seniors who are missing much of their last semester of schooling. This will endure.
I’m thinking of the little masterpieces of quarantine. There is time to spend basking in brevity and wallowing in what might endure. Who knows, you might even rediscover your masterpiece as he pings around the house offering up little kindnesses and reminders of the masterpieces that live and breath around us when we choose to hold in the light.