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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Awash. By John von Daler

               You reach out the small paint brush and dip it into the water. A cloud of hazy blue puffs and billows at the top of the glass where the brush has been. Carefully you move the wet brush above and across the face of the picture you have been painting: two sailors on a boat in a lake beneath a mountain bathed in sunlight.
The dry colors in the metal case on the other side of the picture have to be mixed with a drop or two of water, but the drop never gets there. Just above the sailboat, like a stupid seagull relieving itself, the brush loses some water onto the face of one of the sailors and what was supposed to be hyper-realism turns into impressionism. The sailor loses all facial characteristics and turns into a colorful monster without any features at all, blue and yellow and red kaleidoscoping around the visage and finally settling into a fuzzy blob just beneath his hair.     
                I remember the situation clearly from kindergarten. Why did I place the water on one side of the picture and the paint on the other? The tragedy of the lost drop and the obliterated face meant enough to stop me from ever doing it again. But I never forgot that washed out visage of the poor sailor.
                The other day it occurred to me that passing faces have looked to me like that sailor's for the last two years. I was suffering from cataracts without being aware of it. So when people I know came past I would start thinking, Hmmm. about 5.9, dark hair, wearing a suit, hmmm, it's probably Tim. Then I would greet the person and hope I was right.
                Greeting people is important to me. I grew up in Tulsa and I am a "Howdy" person. In Danish "Howdy" is "Dav" with a soft v and I say it all the time. But in a city the size of Copenhagen you cannot just greet everybody on the sidewalk. So for two years I had to be very shrewd to guess which people I knew and which I did not.
                Now I have had the operation, successfully, on both eyes. (See my fictional account at:  I can see everything. This means that people suddenly have their rightful, clear faces and bodies. So I have to start working my way back through all the blurry images I have gotten used to the past two years; now I have to figure out who is who.
                Today a beautiful woman greeted me sweetly on the street and I could not remember her face, so I gave her what probably was a tentative, half-smile, uh, you lookin' at me? I think she was one of my many nice neighbors. I have to get over this hurdle if I am to continue to receive the small gifts that the fates send my way in the way of smiles from engaging people. Tomorrow I think I'll greet everyone I pass by and I will try to remember all of their faces. That should get me back on the right track - oh, unless senility sets in. What if I cannot remember which ones I do or do not know or if I ever have met them before at all? They say that old age really means a return to childhood. So here I am blurring faces with my watercolors again in the kindergarten of my mind.
                Oh, well. Maybe I should just greet everyone on every street all of the time for the rest of my life. Howdy, y'all!

                My book, Pieces: A Life in Eight Movements and a Prelude (WiDo Publishing) is now available. Order through, the publisher or your local bookstore. Click to buy Pieces at the top of the blog. Please feel free to write a short review of the book in your own language at or GoodReads. Thanks for your support!

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