You should know that I hated the painting from the first day I saw it. Something inside me revolted-- driving me to cover it--to use the wall space for more reasonable, education inducing, literary propaganda. However, the painting must have been forewarned of my coming, of its potential demise. It waged a war and gave me a choice, an ultimatum if you will. I could either continue on with my plan to paint over it knowing that by doing so I would most likely extinguish any chance of creating relationships with my students, or I could just let the idea go... allowing it to continue living. Either choice proved victorious for the painting, as I'm sure it was well aware.
The mural, painted by some unknown artist years prior, covers almost the entirety of one wall in my classroom. A secluded lagoon quietly rests surrounded by cliff walls and waterfalls plunging from varying heights and rocks jutting into the water and large, lush green trees. The painting is massive, and assuming, and attention seeking, and my desk is situated directly across from it allowing it to lure me in...daily.
As if a paper doll placed here and there by some child, I spend hours in different adventures. Most often, I'm jumping off the cliffs, racing waterfalls as I drop deep down into the lagoon. Sometimes, I just float on my back, relaxing my breath until my feet slowly drop beneath me and the only part of my body sticking out is my face, mostly my nose and mouth. I take in a nice, slow, deep breath until my lungs fill back up and my legs drift up toward the surface as if the oxygen is a marionette directing my body. Up and down, up and down. I open my eyes and stare into the soft blue sky that is only visible from the very center of the lagoon, away from the cliff walls and trees.
Sometimes I'm seated on the edge of the highest waterfall with my feet hanging over, gazing at the beauty before me. I can feel the spray of the falls, misting over me, droplets of water attaching themselves to my hair. I imagine sitting there on the edge till nightfall.
Sometimes I enter the scene a backpacker who has just discovered this secluded spot...seemingly untouched by any other human. I set up a hammock between some branches of the big trees right at the edge of the forest and I take a nap. I wake up and scrounge around for some kindling to start a campfire.
Sometimes my adventures go beyond the visible portion of the painting. Perfectly soft sand creates a natural mattress for me to set up my sleeping bag and tent. I play fetch along the beach with Leah and Latimore. They run along the water's edge splashing back and forth until they too realize how relaxing the mural is. They are so elated at their leash-less freedom, that they lay on the beach sunbathing. I too feel that freedom, that solitude, that awe that comes from being absorbed in true beauty.
Sometimes my husband is right there with me, hand locked in mine as we jump from the cliffs. I see him rugged, with facial hair and water glistening off of his face and body. Sometimes he's climbing trees and he's smiling and he hasn't a care. Sometimes he's playing with the fire, poking the fire stick in and around the wood, moving each piece into just the right place. Sometimes, we lay on our backs on the soft, perfect sand and we wait...we wait for nighttime, and for the moon, and for the stars...until the sounds grow louder.
Louder and louder, the hallway is full of students. The sounds bring me back to my desk...my grading...my planning...my life. My vacation temporarily halts. My pups disappear down the beach, nipping at each other playfully as they splash in and out of the water, until they are no longer visible. My husband takes one last dive into the water and swims to the cliffs, pulling himself out and up the rocks disappearing into the forest...returning too, to his own classroom.