Vera Vivante

Images and memories of Lucia flash through my mind almost daily, for her paintings and woodcuts are “Pax Gioia” in our house.
I think memories are akin to brushstrokes in a painting, some stand out stronger, brighter, and some are more subtle, making the mind’s eye search for the color or the moment. Visiting with Lucia in New York or Florence or at our house in LaPrarie, Quebec, was always like a painting, rich with color and joy.
On one occasion during the seventies in New York I telephoned Lucia; she was very down in the dumps over the apartment she had somehow gotten in to in Westbeth (it was a lower-floor interior apartment, which she had viewed at night only). Oh, it was “DARK DARK DARK” she wept. “Together, Lucia, we can surely do something with it,” I said hopefully. “There’s nothing one can do to replace the light,” her voice sank down into the darkness. “But please do come, Vera dear, we could walk over to Lucca’s for capuccino; it will be lovely to see you and I need to get away from here.” As I remember, she wanted us to meet down-stairs, as if no one else should be contaminated with the darkness of the apartment.
We hugged, linked arms, in the familiar rhythm of our friendship, while hurriedly it seemed, moving ourselves away from the gloom that hung over her that day. Six or seven blocks can fly by when crossing town in the Village; conversing with Lucia for me, was always immediate, comfortable, spontaneous, and during that walk we managed to touch upon many years; the wars past and present; snippets from our childhood, hers in America, mine in England. She taught me how to remove the skin off a clove of garlic without crushing it, a tip she gleaned from her mother, she said happily. Suddenly while drifting along Bleecker Street we both stopped, as if frozen on the spot, in front of a dazzling shop window simply full to bursting with all types of flickering lights, lamps, extension cords, etc. With “SPECIAL SPRING SALE” plastered all over the place (a pleasant omen I thought), on that frozen spot we faced each other, and fell into peals of laughter.
“Lucia, shall we try?” I suggested.
“Oh no. No,” she exclaimed, “there’s absolutely nothing one can do with that place, I’ve just made a terrible mistake moving in.”
Luckily, somehow, she gave in to my persuasions, and I felt we got back to Westbeth as rapidly as we had departed, as well as carrying two bags of lighting equipment, and a couple of cheerful flowering plants.
As soon as the apartment door swung open, our creative spirits took over. Lucia was shifting tables, searching through boxes, and finding old wine bottles and vases for me to turn into lamps. I was in bliss, for one of my favorite things is turning rooms around, my way of being a painter perhaps? and sharing this with Lucia was heaven, rearranging her treasures brought out long forgotten stories and events, and we had so much fun. The temporary apartment was more cheerful, and I wished the day would never end; in fact for me it hasn’t!