Sarah West: Places and Time

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Rain moves lazily across the piedmont making its way nearer the Black Belt this morning. The rumble of the early train is transmuted by remembrance. I hear the clunking of subway cars as they pass by my window. I draw back the white curtain, and I’m in Queens. I turn the key and step into the studio, I’m in Smiths Station. A truck carrying harvested timber passes by. When the truck driver accelerates plumes of black exhaust are exhaled into the pale air. Outside my window in Queens, commuters board the early train for midtown Manhattan.  

I stand before Bellow’s painting Both Members of this Club, then turn toward John Sloan’s The City from Greenwich Village. When I draw back the curtain in memory, I too, can see the scene Sloan painted timelessly. I recall letters I’ve read between he and Robert Henri’s correspondence, and then turn again to see painted cityscapes by other members of the Eight. I can hear the sounds of the city, when I am far from it, the melody of shuffling pedestrian feet, the clicking of the traffic signal, the chatter of phone calls along every sidewalk, and the breeze caressing treetops while keeping time with the carriage rides in Central Park. I am here and I am there all at once. 

Sips of black coffee take me back across the rivers and vast patches of farmland, to the Delaware River and then the rolling hills along the Brandywine.  Echoes of cannon fire, and visions of revolutionary men rush by on horseback cutting through the quiet mist. Oil paint and leather, well read books and worn floorboards capture the north light. Chartreuse green cascades through the orchard. Raindrops glaze stepping stones, laced with fallen leaves from the late summer thunderstorm. Pages are turned in the photo album and paintings are recalled during a rainy day in Alabama. Journey’s past are never far.