The Artist at Rest in Switzerland
The picture shows him looking out over Lake Lucerne.
For once, no tension on his face, no furrows of concern.
The snow up on the mountain top echoes his beard and hair,
but no strategies of line or form are here for him to bear.
His nut-brown arms and hands at rest, touching no wood or clay,
His eyes collecting images—each thrust of rock, each ray
of light that dances on the lake. The murmured low of cattle.
The fisherman out on the lake—their laughter and their prattle.
We’ve come to rest in this green land, tired of our travel,
to calm the tension of the road and let our thoughts unravel.
Flowers, lake and greenery, mountains, light and cloud
help us to express our thoughts without speaking aloud.
For once he does not recreate what nature has created.
His need for shaping elements for this short time’s abated.
I know his thoughts as he knows mine, and so we are at peace.
Our best communication sometimes happens when words cease.
It was 1986–a year after we’d met and some months before we married. We spent the summer touring Europe via car and by the time we reached Switzerland, the tension had mounted. It was hard-going traveling from country to country where we knew none of the languages. Bob felt insecure away from his usual realm. I felt pressured with having to read maps and make all the decisions while he simply had to aim the car and grew unsympathetic with my occasional misdirections. He didn’t like the food. The French didn’t like us, so moments after we crossed the border into France, we veered back into Switzerland and decided to spend the rest of our time before departure in Switzerland instead of France.
It was the right decision. Bob loved the wienerschnitzel and the calm view of the lake and mountains. I loved not having to make decisions. We rented the bottom level of a house for two weeks. It overlooked the lake and the mountainside where the owners of the house ran their cattle. A telescope in our living room was directed toward the cattle who were virtually unreachable by road. If the snow got too high in the winter, they airlifted bales of hay to them, dropping them from a helicopter. My earlier decision of a few weeks before, when I couldn’t wait to get home from Europe so I never had to see this guy again softened, and seven months later, we were married. Within a year, I, too, was an artist and we made our living for the next 14 years doing art together. In the 16 years I knew my husband, this time in Europe was the only time I knew him not to be creating, yet for an artist, even the art of living can be a creative experience as they draw images and other sensory details into the wellspring of their creativity.