Once there was, and once there wasn’t, a beautiful young woman. She had thick, shiny hair that fell to her waist in waves of venetian red and titian hue. Her eyes were thickly lashed, a vortex of burnt umber with flecks of gold, her lips alizarin crimson, and she dressed in shades of pthalo blue, viridian green, ultramarine, and raw sienna. Painting was her passion, her life’s joy, and her fire. She had a box of paints and brushes given to her by her mother, who had been given them by her mother, and her by her mother and hers by hers until one cannot count how many mothers ago the box and brushes originated. The box had no paint in it, but the power to create whatever medium the artist desired. The brushes needed no cleaning; they too did as the artist bid them. They had magic, and could be used as per the artists control and command over the subject at hand. As you can imagine, the young woman was known throughout the area for her paintings, which were marvelous renditions of light playing with form and color, and she had many admirers, suitors, and benefactors. But it was to her painting that she was tied.
One day the young woman packed up her easel, box, and brushes and went to paint by a stream. A young man was watching her. He had coveted her for a long time, and always she rejected his suit, returning it with friendship and always he burned for more. As he gazed upon her, dreaming of the power she would bring him should she walk with her hand resting up-on his arm, the breeze whispered a thought that found its way to him.
Presently, the painter went into the woods to relieve herself. Quick as a flash, the young man stole away her brushes and box, and off and away he went. When the painter came back to her work and saw her brushes and box were gone she was beyond distraught. She collapsed upon the ground in despair, knowing nothing but grief. She headed home with a dull feeling. The young man visited her that night. When he inquired as to what was bothering her, she told him of the theft, and he put forth a proposal to her: to marry him and if she did, he would do everything he could to find her box and brushes or another like them. She agreed to this and before long they were wed. Their marriage was the talk of the town and everything the young man had hoped for. Afterward they travelled the world. Under the pretense of searching for box and brushes he dangled his prize to everyone, his conquest displayed upon his arm. She explored museums and galleries and gave talks and workshops, but never more did she paint, for the box and brushes were never found.
Decades went by; the young man grew old and died, leaving her destitute for he had saved nary a penny. The house they had lived in for so long actually belonged to his brothers and they came to tell her she had to move, for they intended to sell it. The debtors came like sharks, demanding payment for all the trips around the world that had never been paid for. She thought, perhaps if she tutored people she could earn an income from it, after all she had been a skilled and prestigious artist once. She discovered that it had been so long that she had been forgotten by the world, and her art, having been forgotten by her, was useless.
As dust, as garbage, discarded and tossed away, she remained in the decrepit crumbling house that she had thought was hers. The stray dogs and cats took up residence with her. She begged for food, begged for money to repair the small portion of the house that sheltered her, but if anybody heard her they did not care about one disheveled, filthy, old woman who seemed not quite of this world. So she lived on, alone, until she died one day when the roof finally broke and crushed her in a heap of rubble. They did not bother pulling out her body, her husband’s brothers, just bulldozed it away with the rest of the wreckage before they sold the land it all stood upon.
How do I know all this you ask, well my mother was her friend. She took food off our table to feed this old woman, and had she the money she would have patched up her broken roof too. But she did not have money, so she did what she could: fed her, gave her clothes gathered from others, blankets, candles, and an ear into which she could talk. We’d visit with her and walk amongst the relics of her past, listen to her tales, and think her a batty old woman. But she was not.
She showed me her secret one time, her box and brushes. You see she found them. After her husband died, she found her treasure hidden there in his clothes. The shock and horror that he was her betrayer, her killer, was such that she never re-covered from it. Worse yet, when she picked up the brushes and opened the box to paint once more, she found that the magic was gone. There was nothing there for her, nothing left that she could see, so she gave them to me.
I found them to be brand new and used them often. Sometimes I painted on paper with them, other times I painted pictures with words. Over time I saw that the box had always been empty, the brushes always dry; the magic that set them in motion came from the wielder not the things themselves. The magic was found inside and the paints and brushes were simply tools on the outside; to be used to bring to light what was invisible.