These are the words I hear walking in through the front door of the house where my big brother lives. I pause with my jacket halfway off. I look at my brother James. He reads the hesitancy in my body language and repeats, “Go outside.” I counter with the already obvious, “But I just came in.”
James expands as if I should know better: “But did you see the trees? Did you feel the rain? Did you stop to-” I cut him off. “Alright. I’m going.” He’s right. I missed the whole thing happening outside this morning. The trees are just past perfect which gives them another kind of perfect. The Sugar Maple yellows and oranges have become saturated with rusts, chocolate browns, burnt umbers. There are still plenty of the vibrant cherry reds and some insanely, almost-fluorescent oranges mixed with peaches and pinks. The visual electricity has been so over the top during the last few days that it almost hurts.
I mean how much beauty can one person take in a twenty four hour period of time? And it’s all over in a few more days. The city will turn gray for almost six months. This reality makes the moment a bittersweet proposition. My eleven year-old daughter’s definition of the word “bittersweet” is “happysad”. We gently argue about her combining the two words into one. She wins by saying, “It’s one feeling and the happy goes in front of the sad because it’s stronger.”
Now I’m standing outside in a drizzly rain. My hair is getting wet but the air is warm for this time of year. I pull out my phone and hit the Weather Channel app – 52 degrees Fahrenheit. I put the phone back into my pocket and gaze down the street. A voice in my head says, “Wow” without an exclamation mark. Wows like this are better whispered. I actually do know what I’m looking at. This is roughly Indiana’s equivalent to the Rocky Mountains or the Pacific Ocean.
I don’t think any of these trees are first growth. You have to go out of your way to find the really old trees. You can get a glimpse of them in some of the landscape paintings at the IMA. The forests of Indiana, in the heart of the Ohio River Valley, were legendary back in the day. I’m looking at a smaller version kept alive in backyards, along city streets, in neighborhood parks. This is the moment to take this local miracle in.
So consider my brother’s “Go outside” for yourself. Grab a friend. They probably won’t want to go? But give them the chance anyway. You don’t have to be out there for very long to get it. While you are at it pull out your phone and take a picture. We’d love to see it. Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll use your pic in our installation at the Indianapolis Museum of Art entitled “One and All” coming up in January.
I turn around and go back inside. My big brother is now upstairs working. I hear his typewriter. I call up, “Thanks!”. The typing pauses. I hear his smile in the stillness. The typing resumes. I think, “Happysad”.