In May of ’06, I lost my dad quite suddenly, from a heart attack. For almost all my life, and for a great big chunk of his, he’d had heart problems, and in recent years he’d begun to slow down more. Still, his death, at 68, seemed so untimely. It opened up a gap in my life as expansive and horizon-hitting as the acreage my dad once farmed.
This gap had to do with loss, of course, but there was something more to it, too. It required of me a shift in identity, a recognition of the place where I grew up – that was so dear to him – as something I would have to claim for myself.
For months, when I would go back home, I felt my dad’s lumbering presence everywhere. He was a deliberate man, an aspect of his personality that has outlived him. Years ago, he planted maple trees in our front yard based on what color they would turn in the fall – how they would blend with the landscape – just one of many examples I could use to illustrate his particular nature.
He had walked the fields around our house for so many years, it was unbearable to be there without his interpretations of the weather or his critical explanations of why the cattle in the new barn by the creek (an addition made by the inexperienced farmer he’d sold the land to) bawled all night long. In the midst of this absence, I found myself needing to make room for my own presence there, to be known less as Ned Allison’s daughter than as someone who could claim a piece of the town and the land I’d grown to love for myself.
My intensified connection to the farm also made it harder to live in the city – a place with which I have always felt a bit at odds for the anonymity it forces and for the astronomically high prices it asks for less than an acre of land.
I write all this by way of explanation for the painting displayed at the top of my blog. Last Christmas, my husband gave me the most touching, thoughtful gift I’ve ever received. It was a proposal more than anything else – for us to find an artist to go to Virginia and paint the farm, so that I could always have a piece of it here with me.
We found Brett Weaver at a gallery down on Bennett Street. He lives in Tennessee, not too far from where I grew up, and he paints gorgeous landscapes touched by clouds that look totally real and alive. We asked him if he’d go to Virginia and do some studies for us. He said yes. When he got to my parents’ house, my mother had made him a box lunch and some lemonade. He painted three studies in the course of a day and we loved them all. The one at the top of my blog is a side view of my grandfather’s house, where my dad grew up.
This one is the view of the family farm from across the railroad tracks, where our land ends and someone else’s begins.
And this one is the view of the landscape from our screened porch:
My dad would have been proud. To see more of Brett’s landscapes, go to http://www.brettweaverstudio.com.