All a glimmer

November 16, 2023 @ 9:52 am | Filed under:
my two oldest girls, very young, silhouetted against a twilight sky and blue hills

Photo by my father, Murray Brannon

The maple has dropped perhaps seventy percent of its leaves now. All the upper branches on its south-facing side are bare and the morning light glows through into my studio. The north-facing side is holding its secrets a while longer.

I love that I can see—in the wide gap between the Norway maple and a different neighbor’s Douglas fir—a distant blue smudge of mountains in Washington State.

In a middle-school art class in my hometown of Aurora, Colorado, I once painted a picture of blue mountains beyond a wide green valley speckled with wildflowers. Blue-green foothills, and mountains in deepening shades of blue and violet. We saw the Rockies every time we walked outside, and I painted those mountains the way I saw them in my mind’s eye. But then another student made fun of them. Mountains aren’t blue, he scoffed. And I remember the sudden flood of doubt. Of course he was right. Mountains are brown and green and gray and snow-white. What was I thinking? Mortified, I cut the entire mountain range off the page and threw it away. I tried pasting the meadow to a new sheet of paper and painting properly tinted mountains, but the glue wrinkled the paper and anyway, the new range was hideous. I trashed the entire thing.

And went outside and saw that I’d been right. There was blue in the hills. I’ve been watching for blue mountains all my life. For a few years I lived at the feet of the Blue Ridge and drank in those blues and violets all day long, feeling like I’d found my own personal Innisfree.

There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

I’ve thought often of that boy in class with a kind of wry gratitude and ruefulness. Of course I had no idea at the time, but that encounter helped shape me: it taught me to trust my own artistic vision. I knew what I knew. My mountains were blue, and they were beautiful. Everywhere I’ve gone, “standing on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,” I’ve seen them in the deep heart’s core.

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3 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. Elli says:

    Ah, nothing quite like the scalding sense of having done something wrong, when criticized for our creative visions!! I can vividly recall how it felt when my English teacher scoffed at my 14-yo self — I’d written a short sci-fi story featuring visitors from afar whose skin tones were reds and oranges, and her tone was biting: “I can’t believe aliens would be such crazy colors!” followed by a hearty *sniff* … after battling back the tears (I would *not* cry in class!), for oh it wounded me, as she was a favorite teacher and I valued her opinion, I vowed (silently!) to keep them the way they were … but I wrote a different story to submit. *sigh*

  2. Kim says:

    I’ve been quietly following your blog for a handful of years and I just want to tell you I’m happy to see these new posts this week! They are delightful to read. Looking forward to your new substack venture, too.

  3. Rowan says:

    I just wanted to drop a little ‘thank you’ because I have found your blogs to be very inspiring and a nice place to come to for peace of mind.