Watercolor Wisdom

“As for me, I am watercolor. I wash off.”

This last line of an Anne Sexton poem sucker-punched me one evening in the tenth grade. Until then I was filled with a child’s ego and content in the knowledge confirmed by my parents that I was a forever-burning star. Years later, I look at this passage and see the line of demarcation between my childish fantasy and adult reality.

Imagine the shock. My life was a temporal treat to the universe offered up to the gods as a situation comedy—mildly amusing, minorly offensive and over before your clothes in the dryer are done. I welcomed this revelation as one would the stuffy air of one’s own coffin. Could it be that I wasn’t remarkable? Was the watercolor painting I called my life so easily washed away like someone spraying a hose over sidewalk chalk drawings? I needed to investigate.

I came to my own defense citing the positive relationships in my life. Surely those would last forever—like my kindergarten friendship with Olive who would later develop schizophrenia. I remained a true friend when everyone else had long abandoned her. That was honest and altruistic of me. Surely that situation was worthy of a hearty oil based paint, was it not? Then a heat began to burn in my neck and my face flushed. I couldn’t remember her last name. It had been erased from my memory like old voice mail. So much for relationships that last forever.

One hundred years from now,all the funny stories of my life will be accredited to other people and with me long dead I will never have the chance to correct them. My talents, hopes, dreams, and desires will be given to newborn children whose parents will convince them, like mine once did, that theirs too is a special place in the universe. And this will make me smile from beyond because I get the joke.

“As for me, I am watercolor. I wash off.” I temporarily color my world and stain the hands of those that I have touched. I feel my colors strong and deep and I watch my steamy bath dilute them every night. So there I soak, a small freckly me, dreaming of a safe place behind complimentary matting and a cool protective shield of glass where the watercolor of my life can live forever.

Perhaps this is why fleeting pleasures are my favorite. There is something magical about the blossom that lasts for only a day or the cup of tea that provides perfection for a mere few minutes.  Let it brew too long and the magic disappears.  Don’t steep it long enough and there will be no evidence of magic at all.  My favorite at the moment is Bouddha Bleu by Mariage Frères which is a delicate green tea with cornflower petals. Its bouquet is heavenly, a delicate balance of fruit and flowers. If I could distill the scent, I’d wear nothing else.  Unlike black tea which can leave you with too frenetic of a buzz, Bouddha Bleu imparts a feeling of clarity and acuity I find invigorating.  Even if or especially because the magic washes off as quickly as watercolor.

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