I went out to sketch a month ago today, was interrupted by life, and went back there today to finish the job.
April 2nd was one of the first days this year that was sunny, mild, and relatively free of icy patches on the sidewalks. After my walk-for-exercise, I grabbed my sketchbook and shoulder bag (which always contains my “Look at That!” Art Pouch of course), and went scouting out a good place to sit outside and draw for a while. I ended up in Eagle Square, Concord, next to the granite-block mound which during the summertime becomes a lovely rough-hewn fountain. (Photo here .)
On that day in April, a clean-cut young man was in the Square (‘young’ means a month or more younger than me) and he decided to walk down the steps past where I was sitting sketching. He paused at the bottom, set down his backpack, and pulled out his cell phone. We didn’t acknowledge each other’s presence at first since we were not facing one another, but that was fine. We Yankees like our privacy. After a while I looked up at about the same time he glanced over, and he smiled and quietly said, “Excuse me, do you mind if I look at your drawing?”
I hadn’t gotten very far, it was just the beginnings of a pencil outline. He was a shy sort of friendly, and started telling me about his 15-year-old daughter who is really artistic and how she would love to see what I was doing. After a bit he asked if he could sit down, and to be honest I was impressed by his politeness. It’s a public park after all, but he deferred. I liked that. Not common it seems.
Well, two full hours later, this charming young man who had just turned forty had told me his life story, had asked for nothing in return but a sincere conversation. We took turns being captivated by what the other one had to say. I felt a bit sagely I suppose, but more than that I felt filthy rich that I could afford the time to listen to another human being whom more than likely I will never see again. At the end of our conversation, without a drop of self-pity, he acknowledged that he was homeless, but that he knew things would be looking up soon. When we parted I asked, “Is a hug okay?” and he beamed. “Of course, wow, thanks.”
I went back today, a month later, another sunny day with a sketch-sized gap in my to-do list. I half expected to see him there, us two specters returning through another porthole in time. He wasn’t but the memory of him was. As I turned back fourteen pages in my sketchbook, to the pencil sketch from that day, I took a deep breath, smiled, and said thanks to the great god Serendipity. The truest words ever spoken are, “Ya never know…”