On Tuesday afternoon as I sat on my porch swing with my doggies basking in the sun after much planting in the garden, a fed ex truck drove down my driveway. My dogs barked as I walked barefoot towards my carport to meet the driver. A large cardboard box covered the small fed ex guy. I laughed as he stretched his neck to see me around the box. "Where would you like this? " He said.
I smiled and extended my arms and thanked him as he gave me the package.
Now I knew the portrait was due to arrive on Wed according to the tracking so I honestly didn't expect it. I figured perhaps my husband had ordered something but the label had my name.
I didn't have to guess, I knew, she had arrived.
When I finally finished uncovering the painting I was thrilled to see it had come in a lovely gold frame.
I rested her on my table on my porch and took a step back. I didn't understand why I suddenly was swept with such a strange mixture of sadness and joy that I burst into tears.
I thought to myself as I was crying "why am I crying?" I had never met this woman in the portrait but somehow I felt as if I knew her in some small way. I cried because I thought of all the years this portrait had exsisted. Of how she had come to arrive at my house and all she had traveled and experienced. Was she loved? Had she been admired with appreciation or was she just packed away somewhere?
You might say this was silly but I said "Hello, Harryetta. I'm so glad you're here. I'm going to take you to your home now."
I thought of how I could tell Meg she had arrived a day early. Tossed around a few scenerios of how to surprise her in my head and then I ran inside, brought the dogs in and the painting. I put on shoes and grabbed my straw hat and Harryetta with a little bubble wrap and put her in my car.
Six minutes later I was pulling up Meg's driveway. I knew she would be working but was hoping that she would be in her office and not on a road trip somewhere. The day was very hot and I was afraid to have the painting too long in the car exposed to the elements.
I took my phone and sent her a verbal text since I was driving. "Are you working?"
Before she could answer I was literally parking my car outside her office. I opened the window and walked outside to the door of her office. The screen door was closed but the inside door was opened. I rang the doorbell. It startled me because it was very loud. Meg came half way towards the door carrying her phone talking to me saying "I was just going to text you."
She looked up and I said, "She has arrived." That's all I had to say. She stopped in her tracks and looked at me through the screen door.
She said "She's here?" Pointing out towards the car. "I mean in your car? She's here?"
I nodded and said "Oh Meg, she's even more beautiful than in the picture." I could hear my voice tremble as I spoke. It was very emotional for both of us.
Meg said, I need a minute and went inside. I told her I would wait outside and I walked towards the car but she was close behind.
I thought it was funny that Meg brushed her clothes off with her hand and adjusted her top as if she were to be introduced to someone or meet a friend when caught off guard. She followed me to the car and I told her "She's truly stunning." We walked around to the car and I asked, "Are you ready Meg?"
She nodded and didn't say a word and braced herself as she stood watching me open the car door.
I pulled the portrait out slowly, took the bubble wrap off and rested the back of the painting on my foot so that she faced Meg. Meg held in her breath as she saw her dear friend painted on canvas. She said "Hello" and then she broke down.
I broke down too as I watched her come closer to study the portrait.
I can't begin to explain what a magical, amazing, spiritual experience this has been. Spiritual I think is the perfectly suited word for this moment or extraordinary happenstance.
After looking at her together I lifted the painting to take it to Meg's house. To my surprise there were papers on the back of the painting.
James Wilmott, the painter of the portrait had started The infamous Boothbay Playhouse in Maine with his partner and friend Franklyn Lethall. Harryetta appeared in the play "Private Lives" with the one and only Christopher Reeves. See below.
These actual photos were stapled to the back.
Left is Harryetta herself.
Below, in the same play are Christopher Reeves again, Harryetta seated, Franklyn Lenthall next to her and Jean Ten Brinck another actress on the right.
Along with the photos was a small aged newspaper clipping of a small bio of Harryetta, A newspaper article on Jim and the Boothbay theater and a copy of the obituary of the gentleman who owned the portrait. He had passed in 2016. According to ebay it was listed under an antique collectables company. How it got to them I guess we shall never know.
Yesterday Meg text me and said there would be a small celebration at her home to hang the photo and that there would be some champagne. I pureed some strawberries and went to my local bakery and had this done for the occasion. I thought it would be fitting.
They did a wonderful job.
These photos were from this evening.
Below, Meg and Harryetta. Together again.
When I look at portraits I've often wondered about all the time we spend looking, studying and staring at them, is there any chance that we've gotten it all wrong and they are the ones looking at us. They are watching us, our mistakes, our fumbles and they see our shortcomings and somehow they are at peace just watching.
Life is peculiar. It is filled with moments that are both high and low and at times we are walking around too preoccupied with our lives and our responsibilities that we tend to forget that we are not alone. We are surrounded by those that have walked this earth before us. They are still here and sometimes, if we are quiet and still, we might hear them or actually be put in the middle of a path of something happening.
It is all bigger than us, bigger than what we can comprehend and as much as we try or proudly assume that we understand it all . . . something like this happens and you are humbled and feel smaller than a grain of sand and you realize how great and vast the world, life, and God is.
But as small as we may be in the grand scheme of things, we can make a small difference by being open and not afraid to hear what is being said in the quiet.