I have several pictures hanging on my walls, and they are works of art, each and every one. Some are painted on canvas in rough oils, unframed. Others are watercolours framed quite ornately. Some are huge prints spanning the entire space from floor to ceiling. But, rest assured, it will be the miniature portraits, drawn painstakingly on tiny cardboard matchboxes, which will be of most interest to your visiting eye.
I suppose I should really give you a tour, starting from the front door and all of the way to the big sliding back door and the garden. Perhaps you will then insist on seeing the garden as well, out there I have a tennis wall, which is really just a fancy way of saying it’s a wooden fence which is sturdy enough to bounce back a tennis ball, for practice you know. Colours the Clown (we go way back) once painted her wooden back fence; when she told me she painted it, I thought she meant one colour, but she meant a work of art. When I came over to her house the next day there was a figure of a woman walking off into the distance of the fence, with two children, one on each side, holding her hands. Colours has moved since then, but when I think about it, quietly, I guess she really started moving the day she painted that fence.
No, I haven’t forgotten about that tour of the walls of my house. Please, do come in, and so nice of you to have dropped by. This unframed canvas, covered in thick oil paint? Why, that one really takes me back. Strange how the paintings hanging on my walls were merely the background to my daily news, like grey newspaper setting the tone for the print, until the lovely esti knocked on my front door, and invited herself, and all of you too, in. How shall I write over this painting for you? I would have to tell you a story of two women, four babies, the smell of turpentine and the feel of a brush in her hand and a keen green eye, looking, wary. The window in the picture really did exist once, and the view really did look in at us, in exactly that same way, peering in on the growing understanding of a grumbling domestic scene. You see, that’s a landscape growing outside of the window, and it’s daring us to open the window just a little bit more, just another little crack, just another breath of air and then, truth or dare. But times have changed, she cut her hair, and the babies, why, babies are also no longer there.
Follow me down the hallway and you’ll see, as you pass, my watercolour swirls of a youth misspent. How can one misspend a youth? You may well ask. I shall show you, my darlings, it’s all right here in front of you, in the timidity of a pale sea blue, laid down beside the merest hint of a wash of brown. It is the thinnest version of my ocean, a mere pond of youth, encircled by those gentle dabbings of green, a laying of a lawn which is only there for the looking. I have framed them beautifully, and as you see, they match the diplomas, so they all fit very nicely together, in a grid. My neatly nothinged watercoloured memories, slowly growing even paler on the walls of my house.
But now, wait, step into the library and see the stupendous life-sized prints, they span the entire walls from floor to ceiling. Yes, I suppose they could be taken for wallpaper, or tapestries, or maybe even collages. But whatever you take them for, you cannot take them with you in the end. At least, that’s what my grandfather said when he rolled them up into a huge cylinder, and placed them on his ocean, and gave them one, strong, almighty push on their way to me, so far away. Please take a seat and look at the walls of my library, they are a mystery and an invitation, they are a riddle to solve over a very, very long life. I am not sure if it will be my life, or maybe the life a descendant, still unimagined. Although, if I try very hard, and squint my eyes, I think I might actually be able to imagine that.
There are, of course, more paintings and drawings and prints scattered throughout my home. I will not lie. But they are more form than substance, and so I do not feel the compulsion to show them to you today. You could live your life without them and never miss the difference. But I have a secret little room in the very back of my little house, and this little room has four walls of substance, and on them I have hung my tiny little matchbox portraits. These I insist that you see, right now, follow me and I shall reveal the people stories, each one a miniature image of a person, each one standing in a different place on the timeline of my imagination.
You see a tiny blackbird sitting on the mast of a boat, you see a tiny boat sailing around a colourful globe, you see eight tiny globes standing on the top of a bookshelf, you see a bookshelf standing in a room whose walls are painted a cheery yellow, you see a cheery yellow wall and in front of it a woman’s face looking at you and grinning, you see that woman’s face framed on the screen of a computer, you see a computer screen standing on the desk of an office beside a jar of pencils and a mug, you see a mug being held by the strong hand of a strong woman who is sharing morning tea with another woman, you see that other woman holding a tiny baby girl and taking a photograph with a camera, you see that silver camera on the passenger seat of a car being driven by a woman who is on her way to a picnic, you see a picnic basket and in it is an apple pie, you see this apple pie as a recipe on a piece of paper held by a tiny woman with a pixie haircut and a wicked sense of humour, you see that sense of humour change into the shape of a softer hairstyle, a mass of auburn dreadlocks held back by a scarf and a pair of cooling eyes, you see those eyes look down at something on their lap and it is reflected in them, that reflection is a tiny baby boy with soft skin, that soft skin shines just a little bit more and it is now the flush on the skin of a dark-haired sister as she stands by a lake, and look, look at that, on that very same lake is that very same sailing boat with its mast, and its bird, sailing around the globe, again, and again, and again.