Last winter, we met on a terrible snowy day. It was ten degrees that morning (we meet at eight in a nature center parking lot). Even the sun felt cold. The light was beautiful! About six of us were geared up and ready to go painting. The Polar Brush Club. Only the bravest nut jobs paint on the coldest mornings.
So, us collective nut jobs set up in a corner of the park we frequent. Slogging through the two feet of snow that had fallen. Stomp a clear spot, pack it down real good in a circle around yourself. Good enough to set up your easel and stand without your toes in the deep snow. Don't drop your brushes or tubes of paint! You'll have to dig to find them!
You either have to be committed to painting, or just plain be committed to an asylum to accomplish an oil painting in this weather. Those of us who haven't been commmitted, are at least committed to this challenge.
Mike is far off. Keith, Tammy, Jeannie, myself and I think Patrick are close to one another. I am smearing paint on my board. The paint is moving like butter fresh out of the fridge on a piece of Wonder Bread.
Yes, we are dressed for the weather. Hand warmers, boot warmers, lots of thin layers followed by bulky ones. Coveralls. Snow pants. Two pairs of gloves. Scarves, those neck warmers, hats of all kinds.
The world is completely still at 12 degreees. Even the birds are absent. I can hear every breath, squeak of boots, dabbing of brush against palette. I settle in to the routine. Large shapes first. Shadows. Point of interest. Background first...
I have to pee.
Nearby is the park bathroom. Is it open? And, more importantly, will I have to put my delicate parts on a toilet seat so cold I'll pee ice chips? Will I have to call for assistance to get my frozen ass off the seat? Why did I drink that McDonald's coffee? Why didn't I go before I left the house? Shit! Piss! Dammit... I try to hold it. My bladder, thanks to the cold, is probably the size of a walnut at this point. I put down my brush and decide to chance the bathroom.
I slog past Patrick, Keith and Tam. The bathroom door is open. IT IS HEATED! A whole 70 degrees - like an oasis! I am so delighted, I am singing as I strip off layers to pull my drawers down. The acoustics are AWESOME! THIS is why it is so important to pay for that park sticker every year! Hooray!
My outdoor clothes are in a heap in the corner of the bathroom (which was thankfully clean). I consider taking off my boots to warm my toes. I find a clean stall and sit down to relax and enjoy my luxury. And good luck. I stop singing.
You know, we can HEAR you, right? The voice is Tammy's, from outside. Keith and Pat are laughing. I don't care, I yell. You know we can HEAR you peeing, too? She says, softly. Everyone is laughing.
I wash my hands with WARM water and dry them with the hot-air dryer. I pull my boots off and push the hot-air dryer, pushing the air into the toes of my boots. It takes me ten minutes to put on and adjust my gloves, scarf, boots and hat. I check myself in the mirror.
I am staying in here! I announce to everyone outside. I'm bringing my easel and paints into the bathroom, and I'm gonna do a still life of a toilet. I'm coming out to get my easel, I say.
Pat says, from outside, don't be such a painting pussy. Get out here!
No, I say. You are all CRAZY, you know that?
Tammy drolly responds: You can't be a plein air painter and do a still life of the inside of a public toilet in the park. YOU are crazy. We are fine.
Yeah. What WAS I thinking? I open the restroom door, and assume my place.