We went to live in Indonesia a few years ago. My ex-husband needed to do research – he was studying bamboo – and I was happy to go along.
I’ve always dreamed of having a green bird. A child’s dream, I know, but a part of me still is a child. Bright green, with jeweled eyes, she would ride on my shoulder and nuzzle my ear — my feathered talisman in this strange and exotic new world. Once, in a crowded, dusty market in Denpassar, I spotted my bird, high up in a cage fluttering with reds and yellows. We were rushed that day, we had no time for bird-shopping, but I knew I would go back for her.
A few days later, on his way to a research site somewhere in the jungle, my husband was in a car accident. His neck was broken, and his back. We were airlifted to a hospital in Singapore, where we spent the next six weeks in Intensive Care.
We didn’t return to Indonesia.
Many months later, I was back in my studio in an old mill building in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. My ex, who, miraculously, is fine now — was still recovering. There were many physical therapy and doctors appointments. It was winter. Everything was gray. I moved my paintbrush around the canvas that day, but I felt numb, as if all color and life had been drained out of me. I felt that creativity and inspiration had deserted me forever. I looked down and saw that what was taking shape on the canvas was a green bird. A flood of sadness and longing cracked open inside me, emotions I hadn’t had time to feel, emotions I had not known I was feeling. Sadness for my poor husband and for the loss of my dream, longing for things to have turned out differently. Longing for my beautiful green bird.
A lot of my paintings come about like this.