February 9: Point of View

February 9, 2009: Point of View

Today I have been in Oxford on sabbatical for exactly one month.  I have made a wonderful adjustment to my new environment, which includes the worst winter weather in modern history.  I take some pride in having achieved, in this short time, a renewed degree of focus and dedication to my work on the thought and writings of Thomas Hobbes.  But . . .


Across a small terrace outside my study window is an artist’s studio.  His window and my window are both one story above the small terraced garden below.  In the day time his curtains are open, and so are mine.  About 1000 each day students come to his studio to paint and draw under his watchful instruction.  I can see their easels and their canvasses.  I can see their intense focus and careful brushstrokes.  What I cannot see is what they are looking at, drawing, painting, enjoying.  The object of the students’ stares is within the studio beyond my angle of repose.  But whatever, it is tantalizingly near to my line of sight, but still just around the sill of his unshuttered window.

And so I must fantasize.  Well, anyway, I do fantasize.  I think it might be a bowl of lusciously ripe fruit – a Renaissance of opulence, Rubenesque in presentation — large yellow golden pears with drooping red purple grapes overhanging both them and an orange terracotta bowl.  There are also guavas intermeshed with passion fruit and green yellow Caribbean limes causing the students to lean forward, fixed in gaze, enraptured.  Their canvasses are at an oblique angle to me and I cannot see their renderings, but often they lick their lips and touch their salivating mouths.  Succulence.  It must be fruit.

Or maybe not. 

It could be a bicycle.  The art teacher has a marvelous silver blue racing bike that he never leaves outside where the rest of us lock and leave our bikes to the gentle mercies of the English winter.  Each day nice enough to ride, he pushes – God to be 30 something again and have back and leg muscles like that – his bike up our hill and soars off on the bike path toward Blenheim or beyond.  And, returning, effortlessly lifts his instrument of speed into his home and studio, vouched safe against snow, rain and thieves. So there beyond my craning neck his bicycle poses, a challenging objet d’art of glancing light and delicate hues.  I can see the teacher leaning over the subtle shoulder of a female student now, pointing out something, perhaps the smooth turning of the goose-neck or the chrome coolness of the crank.  It’s a bicycle.

Or maybe not.

Muscular, handsome art instructor person also has a Yellow Labrador Retriever that lives in his flat.  The dog’s name is Isis, I suspect for the branch of the River Thames that runs by the studio.  Isis is a young Lab and often sleeps in the sunshine – when there is any – of the window across the room from the window I can see into.  But Isis is not in her spot today, and I imagine her sleeping snugly just now on a powder blue cashmere cushion, an imposing still life for the students’ practice, just beyond my seeing round the corner of the window over there.

But then the students put down their brushes and their pencils and begin to applaud and smile, and walking in among them, into the line of my eager sight, a magnificent, tall woman with a sheet draped over appears.  The teacher hugs her ample torso, her head drops back cascading radiant strawberry tresses, and the applause continues, as ballerina like she pivots and then is gone from view.

I have made an important career decision.  Screw Hobbes, I’m going to learn to paint.

3 Responses to “February 9: Point of View”

  1. 1 Dr. Lynn Williams February 11, 2009 at 3:48 am

    Hi Buie! I am Jim’s wife, Lynn. I met you at the reunion. Jim forwarded your website to me and I have read some of your blog. I must say, if you did not paint with words so magnificently then I would agree with the ‘Screw Hobbes’ comment. Unfortunately for you and fortunately for us, you are one of the Master’s when it comes to painting with words – just as seductive and just as humorous. Enjoy your sabbatical and I hope that your point of view stays in fantasy, as I would hate to see it tainted or disappointed in any manner. Lynn

  2. 2 leviathanindex February 18, 2009 at 7:17 am

    Lynn, thank you for your good words. So nice to be in touch. Come back again and again. And take care of that dear friend of mine you’re married to!

  3. 3 Tracy Houston February 21, 2009 at 3:12 pm

    Greetings across the ocean to you Buie. It sounds like you are doing well. I had the chance to hear John Kennedy at Daniels – very impressive. I am enjoying mentoring Megan and Sara. Thank you for that opportunity. I am serving on a panel next week for Megan’s class with Don Bergh.

    I have been giving a presentation, Leadership Redefined: Top Ten Health Indicators for Boards. It is so popular I have had to extend the Q&A time to try and address the thoughts and concerns that arise in the audience.

    Kate sent me the web address and I will come back to visit you again.
    Take care in that cold…
    Tracy Houston

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