The Painter by the Lake

Coming home for fall break is always a breath of fresh air. There is nothing like spending time with family and friends enjoying all of the things that make home so special. It is truly the best, especially in autumn when everything is in full color. This weekend is the first time I have come home since I left for school in August and I couldn’t be happier to enjoy family dinners and be able to relax after midterms.

My absolute favorite thing about this time of year in upstate New York is how everyone participates in the typical fall activities as well as their own town or city’s traditions. Because we get the full four seasons to their extreme, traditional activities accompany each one. This season, everyone goes apple and pumpkin picking, go to the haunted hayrides close to the lake, and decorate for Halloween and Thanksgiving starting in mid-October. People also enjoy hot apple cider and donuts from the local bakeries, light their pumpkin-scented candles and spend their afternoons watching football with friends and family. Fall is in the air and everyone feels the change in some way.

This Saturday was a bright, brisk day perfect for a walk around Skaneateles, a beautiful little village about ten minutes from where I live full of shops, restaurants, bakeries, and set on one of the gorgeous Finger Lakes. My dad and I went to the Skaneateles Bakery for breakfast and walked around to all of the shops and out on the pier.

As we wandered out toward the end of the pier, we saw a man with an easel set up right at the end of the pier. It was a windy day and he had strapped his paper down firmly so that the wind didn’t disturb his work. He was visibly cold and I was impressed with his determination to complete his painting before leaving. He was also unperturbed by the fact that tourists and villagers were scattered around him, brushing past him to look off the end of the pier, or even standing behind him to view his work. He was painting a landscape of the sun reflecting off the water and of the golden trees around the lake for as far as he could see. His work was astoundingly detailed and I wondered if he had been out there all day. I couldn’t stop staring. It was as though with each flick of the paintbrush he had a purpose in mind, like his hand just knew where the colors would make the most sense. He saw each individual value for what it was and took his time building the shapes and forms of the trees using those values. It reminded me of one of those shows where the painter describes what he is doing as he goes, but this man said nothing and that in itself spoke volumes. He was clearly enjoying it, even with the biting cold and the numbing wind.

I left that day feeling inspired and a little relieved. I had always thought it took no time or effort for truly talented artists to achieve something great, that it came naturally. But seeing that something so beautiful, even coming from someone who was so clearly naturally talented, still took a lot of time, effort, and stubbornness to create, consoled me. If I put my mind to it and put in the time, perhaps I could do the same.

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