Lying in bed this morning I asked Jake, “Do you know anyone you’d call Mythic? I mean someone your own age.”
“What do you mean by ‘mythic’?” he asked, putting on his belt.
“Well, like Mr. Elms.” Mr. Elms was Jake’s grade 6 teacher who figures dramatically in Jake’s internal lore.
“No, I mean someone you actually know.”
I’d just emerged from a satisfying dream that I was at the Minde’s house. As a teenager I spent a good deal of time at my boyfriend’s place. The Mindes were a remarkable family. Klaus was an exuberant psychiatrist with wiry body and wiry hair and a face that was heavily imprinted with his smile lines. Nicholas’s mother Nina was a psychologist. She spoke quietly and deliberately. Fine boned, sporting straight grey hair with a practical bowl cut I remember being struck by a middle aged woman who seemed to sprint cheerfully up the stairs. At the dinner table Klaus was animated, laughing loudly at his own stories, which always ended with “Can you believe it??”. He’d ask me my opinion about the latest developments in the Middle East. I probably didn’t know what the Middle East was.
Being in their home was profoundly comforting for me. The house was orderly, unpretentious and really reflected their owners. Walls were carefully adorned with Ugandan tapestries and masks they had collected while working there. Being German they ground their own coffee, unheard of at the time. Klaus would pluck tiny flowers from the garden and dance around the kitchen, extending this tiny bouquet to his bemused wife with a wave of his arm and a flourishing low bow.
The message I took from their home is that one can have a dynamic family, age while being physically nimble. One could be emotionally engaged with what was happening in the world while enjoying a daily existence that was nurturing, and cosy.
As an adult now I realize that the Mindes, having grown up in post-war Germany, context must have been everything. Perhaps they were grateful to have food on the table, children they could provide for. Somehow they didn’t cling to the ups and downs of life, and perhaps that equilibrium rested on not needing much.
Despite my rosy cameo, surely their life had slices that were mundane and tiresome. It occurs to me that possibly their inner life wasn’t all confidence and flowers. They must have weathered personal disappointments, little lonelinesses and the trials of running a household and two careers. If they were my peers now, would I hang out with them? How would I see them? Is this healthy learning or a series of deluded perceptions, pouring over my own version of People magazine?
Lately I’ve spent a good deal of time online studying the work of other painters. Some are highly skilled, mind-bogglingly productive and good at marketing themselves to boot. I get nosey; do they have kids? Have they struggled or has it been easy? I recently gobbled up a book called “In the Painter’s Studio” a series of interviews with NYC artists.
What am I looking to get from these stories, the folks who are so prominent in my psyche, but obviously distant from my reality? Do I want technical advice on how to live? Or am I seeking permission of some sort?
Whether it is exquisite painters or inspired parents of yesteryear, or most deliciously--people who seem to spread sunshine just by being themselves-- I savour their companionship on this ongoing journey… rife with a good deal of uncertainties and, if one is awake, a great deal of pleasures.