Here we are, dust settling around the nation’s Capitol, snow on the ground, my daughter planning her 16-hour drive back to college, and a new surge of coronavirus cases spiking. So much to worry about.
Thinking back to last year at this time, my mother had just died after a fast-moving cancer diagnosis, we were recovering from the holidays after having her memorial service. Life was bleak and I remember thinking, and saying aloud, things can’t be worse than this. But in this moment in time they are worse. My eyes can still prick with tears when I think of my seemingly indomitable mother weakening and shrinking before our eyes. But even then I couldn’t have imagined the perilous times we are living in in 202o or these early days of 2021.
This morning I came across pictures of a painting called Hilltop Barn that I donated to a benefit auction in September. It’s a piece I painted en plein air last summer: a time before I knew my mom was sick, and a time when finding a four leaf clover was wondrous and special. Lucky.
Hilltop Barn is a white three gabled barn on Rt 12 between Woodstock and Pomfret, Vermont. It has a big sign meticulously hand-lettered with black copperplate type that simply says HILLTOP. I’ve driven past this barn for years and always wanted to paint it, but could never figure out a safe place to set up along the busy road.
On a day last June I found a place on the verge of Stimets Road that had a view of the barn across a newly plowed field. My feet were ankle deep in clover. After I blocked in my composition, rain started to fall gently. I rigged up an umbrella and persevered. As I daydreamed—as I’m apt to do when painting—I easily discovered six four leaf clovers all around my feet. The rain made me feel a little grumpy and unlucky, but this bounty of clovers turned my mood and my day in an instant, and this painting is the result of that morning.
As I look to the months ahead in 2021 with hopefulness, I feel gratitude to have memories like this one. So much in our country is broken and little acts of kindness and warmth toward our fellow humans may be the best hope we have for healing the chasm that divides us.