I Know Them All

          The sun rises pulling long shadows back from across lawns and black top streets. Women still in housecoats stand in driveways , coffee in hand, about to pick up newspapers laying at their feet, still in protectives bags.  Watching me as I pass, a stranger to them - but I know all of them, in my mind they are all friends. Passing through each morning the same people inspired me to wonder who they really are. 
          I give each a story, a life to suit my image of my little town. I continue on pass their picture perfect houses, taking in their lush green lawns, gardens, perfect and filled with blooms showing an array of colors that challenged my palette each time I tell their story. Picket fences, a tiny sandstone church with a bright red door all beckon me to stop and set up my french easel.
          A wash line drying clothes means someone got an early start. A well dressed man nods to me as I come to a stop at my favorite corner, Jackson and Main, all four corners present possible masterpieces for any artist. I always take the side streets through this little town of mine to feel part of it for a moment. It's my Mayberry. 
          Tempting as my Mayberry is I continue on, getting back to the main state highway that follows the Fox River through the valley dividing every town into it's east sides and west sides. Just north of my little town is Fabyan Park once a private estate, now a park, my real destination. Every morning for six years I've spent my mornings sitting in my car sketching the people at Fabyan Park pedaling the bike path or standing on the banks of the river watching their bobbers fishermen line the banks of the river at Fabyan Park. Lovers laying on blankets under the oak trees catch my eye, giving me subjects for my first sketches of the day. Their moment, and my sketching of them,  comes to an end when the first van load of kids arrive from the local day care center.
          Streaming from the vans kids of every shape fan out to every corner of the park, councilors scramble to get some sort of order going. A dozen are running wild from a sugar high others are claiming picnic tables for their little members-only club. A few loners wait for signals from the councilors to find just what they should be doing. The loners are my first subjects for sketching, they usually hold still for a while. Loners tend to be boys. Five sketches tucked away I turn to the plotters, four girls who have a table staked out who whisper and become quiet when someone gets too close. I sketch the leader first with a few lines, leaving her to form the second girl. Another line drifts off to form the third girl. Three of the girls have become a single figure in my sketch. Only the back of the fourth girl's head and arm will make it into the drawing. Each  one will change their position a bit, but they pretty much keep to the original pose. 
         One of the loners is seeking comfort from one of the councilors. He is crying, hugging her, pressing his face against her. This is a possible painting so I shift into serious high gear which really means I both slow things down and speed up. Make every line count and  position perfect. My body tenses up as the drawing progresses. Once or twice a week I see something that will make for a good small painting. This is why I drive through the side streets of my Mayberry.