Daniel Heyman
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December 10, 2010

Drawing Plums

Larry Smith at Smith Magazine http://www.smithmag.net/ asked me to submit a short note about a moment “when everything changed.” Here is what I sent back:

I was sitting at the kitchen table, staring at a bowl of plums, a pencil in one hand and a small sketch book propped up in the other. I was sitting there, barely holding myself up, as Mme. Lucas, whose café was on the other side of the kitchen door, changed my sheets for the third time in twenty four hours. They were so wet. The door opened behind a small bar, with a coffee machine, atop a wooden drawer where the old grounds went, in front of shelves lined with liquor bottles. In front of the bar stood 5 or 6 men, local farmers, old it seemed to me in those days, with blue jump-suits and grey hats, chatting away and drinking small shots of coffee topped off with local calvados. Behind them were two small round tables, and a door that led out to the village, a cluster of 9 houses that bordered a departmental road, carrying passenger cars who would never know that they had passed through this tiny town. It was around 10 in the morning, and the field work was done for the day. My skin was cold and damp, and I was wearing pajamas and a quilt tightly pulled around me trying to stay warm. If you looked in my mouth that morning you would have seen white, not pink, the puffy and hurtful evidence of an internal war raging. It was August 1985, and I had mono -- the fever, I hoped, was breaking. I had just gotten off the phone with my boss, actually a family of bosses back in Vermont, announcing that I was very sick, and was for the moment anyway a useless trip leader. They would have to send someone to take the 15 or so teenagers on without me. I could hardly sit up in the kitchen, let alone get kids from Normandy to the Alps. I was stuck in a very small, not very interesting village in Normandy, sweating and shivering and just now drawing some plums in a bowl. I looked down at the drawing. It was simple, just a few lines describing the plums and another curve outlining the bowl. Nice I thought, better than the apricots I had drawn the day before. Right then it came to me, not a decision really, but a realization, that I would spend my life drawing.