We had fallen into a habit of an evening walk along the Thames.
“I trust you won’t think me mad,” I said to my nightly companion as we strolled along the Embankment toward Big Ben.
With a twinkle in his eye, he shook his head and said, “What is madness, Alex? So often it’s just an ignorant dismissal of someone or some idea we simply haven’t put our minds to.”
This struck me as a very civilized and intelligent attitude. “Would you like to hear the story? It’s about a vision I had not too long ago.”
My friend simply nodded.
“One night, in my studio I became terribly frustrated with my work.”
“I admire your painting immensely, Alex. You’re the artist with the numinous light. I’m not surprised to hear you speak of visions. Tell me what you saw.”
“One night, against the windows of my studio, a golden egg rose up, shimmering with beautiful gems—diamonds, rubies, sapphires and emeralds which sparkled like the purest sunlight. This marvellous object throbbed with life as if it contained all the energy in the world. It was the cosmic egg.”
“Really! Tell me more about it.”
“At first, it reminded me of a Faberge Egg–it was perhaps three feet in height and, at its widest point, two feet in breadth. At first, I thought I was simply imagining one of those Faberge eggs, but it rotated majestically several times and then drifted upward toward the ceiling–insubstantial as a rainbow. And then it began to dissipate before my eyes.”
“The cosmic egg—what does it mean?
“It’s the seed heralding new creation—telling me everything necessary is at hand and contained within that egg. For eons, it’s tantalized humankind with the secret mystery of creation, life and death and the promise of immortality.”
“Do you have visions frequently?”
I shook my head. “No—and it usually happens without any warning and certainly I can never command it. But I do cherish these dreamy, extraordinarily beautiful fantasies.”
“What did it mean to you?”
“It heralded something else which I’m still trying to understand. You see, it seemed to unleash an entire string of incredible events in my life which made me believe that there are forces in play in this universe we do not understand and perhaps can never understand.”
“What do you know about synchronicity?”
My friend shrugged. “It’s about surprisingly unrelated events coming together to form a sort of message, I think. I can’t say I’ve ever experienced it…Well I suppose I’ve been thinking of someone and he suddenly appears.”
“Hmmm… That’s not all! The very next day, I went for lunch at the Savoy with my art dealer, Jamie Helmsworth. He showed me a painting of the exactly same cosmic egg! It was astonishing! Not just one that looked similar but one precisely the same in every gorgeous detail!”
“It wasn’t signed by the artist, but it was dedicated to one Henri Dumont, Parisian pianist. When I saw that I determined to go to Paris and find this pianist in hopes of finding out the name of the painter.”
I have spent months trying to understand the significance of these events and even now could only speak haltingly about them. My friend didn’t speak but I could see from his expression that he was waiting patiently for me to continue.
“Just like the first two incidents, that decision unleashed a series of events so bizarre that I’ve scarcely been able to understand…You see, I took the ferry from Portsmouth to Caen and on that trip, I met an elderly woman, Miss Trump. The boat trip ended disastrously.”
“Disastrously? What on earth do you mean?”
I waved him off. “I’ll tell you but let me finish this part first. She struck up a conversation about a dream she’d had. After that dream, she just knew that life continues on after death.She said something else very strange which made me reconsider my art.”
I could see my friend’s patience was beginning to fray. “Please Alex! Tell me what happened on the ferry.
I chuckled at his eagerness. “Of course, but I should tell you that Miss Trump spoke of the spaces we think of as empty aren’t really but are filled with something she called the stuff of all creation.”
My friend stopped up. “Interesting…but don’t leave me hanging. What happened next?”
“And then the ferry we were on began to sink. I tried to save her but she pushed me away…saying I must save another woman with a baby. New life needs its mother!
My friend’s eyes bulged and he caught his breath. “What a choice! What did you do?”
“Miss Trump…she pushed me away and drowned before my eyes!” As I spoke, I visualized that very moment when her head sank under the water for the last time. “And then,” I said, “the cosmic egg appeared right above where she went under!”
“My God! What did you make of that?”
That was the hard part. What did it all mean? “I’ll tell you only a bit more. It’s too long a story for this walk. This trip took me to Paris and then to St. Petersburg and back again.
I met so many people whose purpose seemed to lead me on to my goal—whatever that was. Henri was a brilliant pianist and composer. But he was deeply scarred by his father’s cruelty. I met a painter named Anton Chekhov who revealed shocking details of Henri’s life.
On the train, I met a mortician who had great understanding of life. Fyodor, the taxi driver in St. Petersburg, took me through the back streets of his city to show me another side of myself.
But here’s the most important part. During that time, I had the strangest feeling! As if I were possessed by an alien spirit directing me toward this unknown goal.But I was absolutely determined! And all that time I carried her ashes with me!
“What on earth for?”
I took my time to answer his question and then I blurted out— I don’t know but I think I learned about a love so profound, it transcends life and death—about fathers and sons and cruelty and compassion…about art, life and love and the magic of making something from nothing. And—it’s about finding that balance between love and the passion to create and that yearning in all of us for what lies beyond. Only in retrospect did I understand why I carried the ashes.”
At first, my friend seemed startled by the passion in my voice and manner. But then—a smile spread slowly over his face. “I would very much like to hear the whole story, Alex. Is it written down anywhere?”
“Yes. You should get a copy of the novel Night Crossing, the third in The Trilogy of Remembrance.” This water colour by the famous British artist J.M.W. Turner is on the cover.
Since Night Crossing will be available later in the summer, in the meantime you can read the first two in the trilogy, The Drawing Lesson and The Fate of Pryde.
This is little bit of Night Crossing, the third in The Trilogy of Remembrance. Alexander is Britain’s finest landscape painter and star of the trilogy. He’ll be back with more short stories.