THE ELUSIVE MUSE
The reason for my trip? I had reached a serious crisis in my art. In my studio, I had been working on one of my more serene landscapes. Suddenly, strange and fearsome creatures fought to escape my brush and jump into my landscapes. I had no idea where they had come from, but I feared I was losing my mind. I boarded the Orient Express in hopes of finding some explanation of why such ugliness persisted invading my paintings. Nasty little beasts aren’t they?
THE DRAWING LESSON, the first in the trilogy.
I met Daphne quite by accident, over breakfast in the dining car. [I’m not so sure I believe in coincidence.] She wore a gold bracelet and necklace with a single diamond. No rings were on her fingers.
Although her polite smile made a bright facade, her deep blue eyes were tinged with unfathomable regret. Vulnerability flickered in her expression and I ached with an acute awareness of her wondrous humanity. I had to unearth the dark and mysterious secrets which seemed to afflict her.
That night, we had dinner together. I was so profoundly inspired by her very being that, after dinner, I returned to my cabin and made twelve charcoal sketches with such energy I was finished within an hour. That is the power of the muse! And need I say that not one troll raised its head?
I rushed to her compartment with sketches in hand. I told her she was my muse. She seemed pleased with the sketches but was puzzled. Just what did it mean to be a muse? I tried to draw out her concerns. We each had a glass of cognac.
I was greatly inspired by her beauty and grace.
“Why are you so sorrowful?” I asked.
The cognac had warmed her and she did not resent my directness. She spoke without hesitation as if in a trance.
“When I first visited Venice, my lover committed suicide. I loved him very much, at least as much as any twenty-year-old can. But when he needed me most, I deserted him.”
I sighed deeply. “Two souls alienated from each other at the moment of their greatest need. And when you left him, you were angry and wanted to be free of him and his black moods.”
“How did you know that?”
“Simple human nature. Why shouldn’t you feel that way at such a young age? You had your own life to live.”
She gazed up at me over the top of the tiny crystal glass. “How do you know this? You weren’t there.”
“It’s a very old story. It belongs to the generations.”
“Who are you? How do you know my story?”
“Your story has been enacted a thousand times over down the centuries. As for me, I’m just a painter trying to understand life and create art.”
And that was the beginning of our relationship, which was constantly filled with questions. I knew she was my muse and she wondered if I could be the lover she wanted and deserved.
When we arrived in Venice, we decided to explore the city together. But the next morning, she rose very early and, by herself, walked to San Marco determined to find the very spot where she had last seen her lover—dead—twenty years ago.
Frantically, she rushed across San Marco–a vast, ornate piazza. And beyond that lay the Grand Canal. She came upon something so strange, mysterious and inexplicable that she was nearly overtaken by a sense of doom.
Near human cries came from the water’s edge. At first, she thought they were from the white seagulls circling in the sky above the great tower in San Marco–the Campanile. But no! The cries grew frantic becoming painful shrieks rising up from where the gondolas bobbed up and down in the Grand Canal.
The body of a man lay on the dock. Within his mouth, the boatmen had found a watch. Such primal cries had come not from birds but from the gondoliers.
What on earth could it mean? Much time had passed since her lover’s death. Her thoughts were madness, she feared! Had her lover been waiting for her for twenty years?
Later, we met at the Florian Café on San Marco and ate pastries with cups of cafe au lait. We tried to unravel the mystery. No. I will not tell you what we found. But I can assure you that it provoked a lot of thought and questioning in both of us. Although I tried to relieve her distress, I, too, was overcome by the inexplicable significance of the man’s death. What, if anything at all, did it portend? What greater mystery could there be than the very mystery of life itself?
What is a muse? It is a question with a thousand answers. Is there more than one muse? Can there be a thousand muses? So often we speak of the effect of the muse upon the artist, but how does the muse regard it all? That was a question Daphne considered!
It took a number of years and much more travel for me to answer any questions. The Trilogy of Remembrance is filled with fundamental questions about the meaning of life, love and art. Perhaps you will find your own questions and answers.
For Daphne’s description of their first meeting on the Orient Express, it’s right here —
And visit Alex’s studio to witness the
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Mary E. Martin is the author of two trilogies: The Osgoode Trilogy, inspired by her many years of law practice; and The Trilogy of Remembrance, set in the glitter and shadows of the art world. Both Trilogies will elevate the reader from the rush and hectic world of today and spin them into realms of yet unimagined intrigue. Be inspired by the newly released and final installment of The Trilogy of Remembrance, Night Crossing.
Coming soon! The fourth volume [?] of The Trilogy of Remembrance will be published as The Wondrous Apothecary in 2019 You can read the prologue and first chapter of The Wondrous Apothecary right here http://maryemartintrilogies.com/the-wondrous-apothecary/
I would always love to hear from you, so please add your comment right below. What do you think is the future of this relationship with Daphne?