An Incident At Olana

She brushed her veil aside and tilted her head upward,
Not seeking comfort or benediction,
Only to confirm what she damn well knew was happening,
That the skies, full of gray and grim portent if not outright malice,
Had picked this very time to begin steadily dripping,
Signaling what was sure to be a sodden downpour
(The weekend already chock-a-block with disasters:
The chocolate fountain a testament to dysfunction,
The rehearsal dinner poached salmon overdone and dry
The limousine company downsizing them at the last minute,
Having realized their top-line models
Could never handle the grade or narrow figure-eight drive
Up to the mansion’s precarious hilltop locale.)
The photographer, who’d lived around here all his days
And had developed a sixth sense concerning the vagaries of the weather
As well as those of combustible brides,
Had done his best to border-collie the proceedings along,
But as the droplets increased in size and intensity
Recriminations were hurled and doors slammed
As the bridal party sulked off
Toward what promised to be a most interesting reception.

We’d witnessed the goings on,
(Bride fulminating, groom supplicating
The location for the pictures apparently his idea,
Thus proving there are places where angels and husbands should fear to tread)
From a safe distance, under the overhang of the great porch
Overlooking the broad, ostensibly placid Hudson below,
Having come here in spite of the clouds, the odd rumble of thunder,
The occasional spate of rain being part and parcel of things,
As we’d mucked through these parts long enough to know
That they were fleeting, and not without compensations of their own
If one was of a mind to seek them out
(We knew full well of the solace of seeing the clouds descend slowly,
Covering the sleeping silhouette of old Rip Van Winkle
Slumbering in the knobby Catskill foothills just to the southeast)
And some fifteen minutes after the newly minted man and wife left,
The sun broke through, glorious and unfiltered,
And we ducked into the great room of the house,
Reveling in the magic of the unaugmented light.

(AUTHOR’S NOTE: Olana is the fomer home/studio of Frederic Church, probably the most noteworthy of the Hudson River School of painters, now a state historical site in New York’s Columbia County.)

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6 thoughts on “An Incident At Olana

  1. I can picture this scene you have built and hope that you have taken some artistic liberty in its explication. Let’s hope that their honeymoon destination offered sun and warmth–surely their wedding day (as you have written) slugged along, damp and grey.

    1. Lots of liberty, stuff cobbled together from here and there–such as the wedding my wife went to (before we met, incidentally) where the bride and groom broke up at the reception.

  2. Thank shiva for asteriks or in this case parentheses. I would have never known who or what Olan was or Mr. Church for that matter. What a great thrill to be able to appreciate sunlight like that. I tend to play with dimmer light switches and pretend I’m doing what my brother’s wife once told me she was doing. I walked in on her, in the living room of her parents house and she was just sitting there and so I asked her what she was up to and she said, “just watching the light change.” I was like damn, let me sign up for the same meditation class as her or pass the magic mushrooms. I guess I have no patience, or not yet anyway, but one day I hope to sit and appreciate the sun or do like I once did in san francisco, dance around for it at 5 am…to hurry up and arrive.

    On a side note and with all due respect to painters because I can barely draw stick figures, I wonder what felt greater – painting a huge landscape with all that great light in the BC (before camera) days or now, when any tom-dick or harry – me can push a button on a cheap cell phone and take a picture and be like, “oh cool, a landscape.”

    Either way, I’d rather look at a painting that had a toilet or something painted into the landscape, just so it doesn’t look exactly like a picture taken. Anyway, great poem with words I had to look up, as always.

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