He’d grown up on the eastern bank of the river, and had spent nearly sixty years travelling up and down that same bank, first south then north to the headwaters, marveling at its changing face as it altered over the miles and the seasons of his life. When his painter friend came to visit, they’d walked for a couple hours following the varied and well-worn paths alongside the water and stopped in a small thicket, stood there silently gazing at the water through the trees for some time until, finally, the painter said, “Beautiful. I’ll hafta come back here with my paints.”
He wasn’t surprised, then, when he awoke the next morning to find his friend gone, to note as well the absence of his friend’s paintbox and easel. He made a pot of coffee and sat down at his desk, looked out over his beautiful river, and began to write.
It was well into twilight when he heard the creak of the screen door’s hinge. Eager to see his friend’s work, he met him in the mudroom where the painter was hanging the canvas on a nail that normally held mittens in the winter, sandals in the summer.
Eighteen or twenty perfect birches filled the canvas, and behind them myriad shades of green except for the small hint of shimmer glinting in the lower left-hand corner, almost an afterthought.
“Everybody’s gotta be from somewhere,” he thought, then smiled and said, “You’re right, man. Beautiful.”