Painting Lessons

Today we’re going to paint the universe, she said, holding a brush in her hand like a conductor’s baton, as if she was determined to summon The Music of the Spheres out of us, and rather than paint chaotic Big Bang fireworks or a variation of coruscating stars à la Van Gogh’s Starry Night, I teased a single blade of grass out of my brush, long enough to bend slightly, as if sighing. It was midwinter with three feet of snow on the ground, but all I could think of was Whitman’s journeywork of the stars and all that, and knew it was just lying in wait. Perhaps a rising full moon could balance on the tip of my blade or a distant galaxy like the Whirlpool could float into view beyond. Suddenly I felt large and full of multitudes. I began to paint an ant crawling up the blade – when had I last looked at an ant? would they not inherit the Earth and run it like champions? – and made its head large enough to have stars for eyes. Then, an idea! To paint the ant crawling over the moon, bringing life to that “magnificent desolation,” and other ants looking for ways to climb onto the Whirlpool Galaxy. Just as I was enjoying their dilemma, the teacher came around and said try to add a few more blades of grass, to make it look like the beautiful uncut hair of graves.

Daniel Hudon, originally from Canada, teaches physics, astronomy and math at the college level. He is the author of The Bluffer’s Guide to the Cosmos, a chapbook of prose and poetry called Evidence for Rainfall, and Brief Eulogies for Lost Animals: An Extinction Reader, named a Must Read in the 2019 Mass Book Awards. He has recent essays in The Smart Set, The Revelator, Hidden Compass and Appalachia Journal. He can be found at  danielhudon.com , @daniel_hudon , and in Boston, MA.

You can see more from him in 9.1   

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