a painter in the driveway

Yesterday, around three in the afternoon, I walked down our long driveway to collect the mail. As I came up on the road from between some trees, I saw a disheveled-looking character sitting on a wooden crate next to our mailbox, facing the road. He had an assortment of bags and bits laid out all around him, and from behind had a homeless sort of look to him.

I stopped.

I thought, "Oh, geez. Probably some crazy nutter who's going to tie me up for hours with a sob story about this and that, and then he'll mace me and eat my face."

I turned and walked a few steps back toward my house.

I stopped again.

"Now, c'mon Josh," I said to myself, "We have rules about this sort of thing. First: you've gotta offer to help anybody you see who might need help. And second, you can't wuss out on random, weird opportunities. Life's too short and too fantastic to be dictated by routine."

Fortunately, I saw the logic of my own argument.

I turned and walked out to the mailbox, opened it, and extracted the mail. I looked over, casually, as though I'd just noticed my hunched visitor.

"Hey," I said, "How's it going?"

He started to speak in a low mumble. I couldn't make out what he was trying to say, but immediately noticed two things. First, that he was very, very old, rheumy-eyed, and liver-spotted -- and, second, that he had a piece of watercolor paper clipped to a square of cardboard, propped on his lap.

He proffered it in my direction as he mumbled, then picked up a sketchbook on which I saw were three thumbnail sketches of the house across the road. They were quite good.

I squatted beside him, in order to better hear his voice over the hiss-roar of the vehicles whipping by on the old highway that runs in front of our property. It turned out he was in the area visiting his son, who was working nearby. He showed me his painting kit, as well as the little mini-kit he always brought along in case he "had to go for a hike and couldn't bring more with him." He opened the mini-kit and showed me the brushes, the paint set, the little bits and doo-dads.

I looked from him to the house across the road, then back to his drawings. 

We chatted a little more, and then I wished him well.

As I walked back up the driveway toward my house, I thought about how bland and commonplace the house across the road had looked to me, and how it seemed to come alive in his drawing. I thought about the joy of Art, and of the precious beauty of a life spent creatively. I thought about the vibrance of an old man who carried a small painting kit wherever he went, just in case he saw something that needed to be captured. I thought about a man who looked around him and saw a creative beauty and wonder he just had to participate in.

Nearing my house, I squinted up into the sunshine and saw the breeze rustling the browning leaves of the tall oak overhead.

This! I thought.

Yes. This.


  1. This is near the top of the list of my favorite posts you have written

  2. Thanks, Paul! It certainly made me smile to write it :)


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