Mimi with a Watering Can

Auguste Renoir. La Moulin de la Galette, 1876. Musée d'Orsay, Paris

In a few moments they came out carrying an enormous canvas, so large it caught in the breeze like a sail and they had to wrestle with it to hold onto it. In the foreground of the painting some figures seated at a table appeared to be nearly completed, but the dancing area and the background were still empty canvas. Even so, Jérôme could already see the love the painter had for the crowded Montmartre gaiety. To launch forth on a blank canvas of that size, to trust enough to go forward, brush stroke after brush stroke across the canvas, filling in with color and life, working, yes, but out of the pure, intoxicating compulsion to create a vision he held inside--it was astonishing.

He felt a faint beating inside him, like hummingbird's wings against his chest. He sat up straighter and slapped the arm of the chair. It's not too late, he thought. I could learn...

Possibilities rose inside him as the small orchestra from le Moulin de la Galette burst into a lilting melody. Elise beckoned to Mimi, and with hands joined, mother and daughter swung in a circle to the music. He felt a joy that exceeded art, love for two breathing women, one once within the other before they unfolded into two beings, for whom and by whom he would, someday, find himself whole. He could not look at them enough.