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Kathy Bradley - Time and tone and depth of field
Kathy Bradley
Kathy Bradley

The morning sunlight falls through the wooden blinds in long white rectangles onto the floor beside us. We sit at a table littered with three or four cardboard boxes of chalk. She would call them pastels, I think. The edges of the boxes are frayed and the pastels are worn down to various lengths, some of them no longer than a match.
    We are speaking in low tones. Not everyone is awake yet.
    She reaches for one of the pastels and holds it between her thumb and first two fingers. It is the color of the first blush of sunrise or an unshelled shrimp. She turns it sideways and swipes it deftly in two short strokes across the curve of the ripening peach she has drawn on the heavy paper.
    The movement of her wrist, the swivel from left to right, the rotation of ball within socket is so slight, so finessed, that under other circumstances it would hardly be noticeable, but I can't help but notice it. I cannot see the mark of the pastel itself, but I can suddenly see peach fuzz, stubby and shimmering.
    She lifts her hand, leans back in her chair, tilts her head to one side. I can tell she is pleased. I am amazed.
    We have been friends for a very long time, the artist and I. We were Brownies together in second grade, beanie caps and Bridge Ceremonies, and stayed in the same Scout troop all the way through elementary school and junior high. We went to birthday parties and sleep overs and Youth Week activities. We built floats and put together yearbooks. She was with me the first time I saw the ocean, the same ocean and the same beach that lie not too far outside the window where we now sit.
    She was always the artistic one. Those floats needed posters and those yearbooks needed illustrations and she provided them in large fluorescent graphics that matched our clothes. But it wasn't until later, long after the insatiable adolescent need for group identification began to wane, that the talent coerced its way into the light. Now she paints landscapes and still lifes in colors deep and intense and nuanced. One of them hangs at Sandhill.
    She holds the drawing at arms' length, lowers it and picks up another pastel, this one darker. She makes a few strokes on the background, picks up a paper towel and buffs. The depth deepens. The two-dimensional drawing is becoming a three-dimensional image.
    We talk about how she came to acknowledge her gift, the people who encouraged her. Tears fill her eyes. We talk about how hard it is for children who are different, even if it is a good different — artistically different, intellectually different. We talk about how lucky we were to have parents who loved us and loved each other. Tears fill both our eyes. We talk about how easy it is for a child, anyone's child, to lose her way and how important it is to remember that they always come back to what they know. We wipe our eyes. With our hands, not with the pastel-streaked paper towel.
    The drawing is done. It will be a gift for the folks who have given us this time away at their beautiful home at the beach.      "I will have to spray it with hair spray," she says. "I didn't bring any fixative."
    "So I don't get to smell banana Popsicle®?" I ask.
    My friend — my good friend, my old friend — throws back her head and laughs. Loudly. Forgetting for just a moment that not everyone is awake yet. I smile back at her thinking that a little color and a deft touch is all it takes to turn a two-dimensional moment into a three-dimensional memory.
    Laughter and tears in the early morning light of the ocean. This is the day that the Lord hath made. I will rejoice and be glad.

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