The widow of my dear, late friend, Allan van Nostrand, is moving today. Mary contacted me a few months ago, and asked me to varnish the portrait I had painted of Allan while he was still alive. And so, in the past week, I touched up the painting of Allan at my studio before she left. This morning, when I went to drop off the painting at her house, Mary was gone on an errand. It was as if a giant plastic spider had wended his way through the house and spun all their belongings up in bubble wrap. There was Allan’s house, the home he built with his hands, his gnarled writing table, his books, his delicately restrained colonial gardens, his brick walkways, his paintings… evidence of this man’s spirit everywhere, but the man gone. As I placed his painting softly against the wall, as I looked into Allan’s gentle face, I understood art, I understood portraiture, and I felt the pain of the passing of time.
BY ROBERT FROST
Out through the fields and the woods
And over the walls I have wended;
I have climbed the hills of view
And looked at the world, and descended;
I have come by the highway home,
And lo, it is ended.
The leaves are all dead on the ground,
Save those that the oak is keeping
To ravel them one by one
And let them go scraping and creeping
Out over the crusted snow,
When others are sleeping.
And the dead leaves lie huddled and still,
No longer blown hither and thither;
The last lone aster is gone;
The flowers of the witch hazel wither;
The heart is still aching to seek,
But the feet question ‘Whither?’