Frederick flings my door open and starts talking. I pay him no heed and lean over my painting of a secluded Japanese shrine in the forest. It’s raining there, raindrops pat gently on the tiled roof and leave tiny circles on the puddle right before the entrance. The painting is almost finished, but I can’t get the colors right. My blues, greens, and yellows end up dull and cumbersome, nothing like those clear, subtle hues of the forest rain. If only I could glimpse those hues somewhere —
— and then Frederick’s voice pierces the air.
I’ve been at this art residence in a tiny Danish town for a couple of weeks, and no matter how much I ignore this guy, he would never leave. I place the brush on the table and try to make out what he is saying. Ah, there it is: lemon ice cream.
“In Middlefart.” He smirks. “It’s the nearest town, a couple of minutes by bike.”
It’s not the nearest town, and it is sixteen kilometers away. I steal a look at my painting and consider it for a minute. I do need a break, and there will be a lemon ice cream in reward, so in the end, I nod.
On the way, he rants about his favorite passage in the Constitution of Denmark. Why is it always the Constitution? Why is it never Andersen or Kierkegaard? Frederick is a musician; he writes pop songs and sings them to a bunch of local girls; what does it have to do with the Constitution? I shake my head. Lemon ice cream, then.
As we ride up the hill, it starts to rain. Not a gentle drizzle from my painting, but a real, vigorous, bone-chilling shower. Of course, we have no raincoats, and of course, there are no trees to duck underneath in this open field. We plod our way through the mud, desperate and miserable. Finally, our hearts lighten up at the vision of red-brick contours of Middlefart.
Frederick’s face is hardly visible in this water world. He turns to me and yells over the rumble of the rain:
“You know what I like best about this place?”
“The weather?” I wonder.
“No,” he laughs. “The colors, especially in the rain! And lemon ice cream, of course.”
We stop by a small storefront and get two cones, each with a yellow lump of ice cream on the top. My teeth clatter and my hands are freezing.
“Not the best time for ice cream. I’m soaked to the skin!” I grumble.
Frederick frowns and gives me a sulky look. We sit in silence for a few minutes, interrupted by occasional rolls of thunder; the storm is moving further into the fields and the downpour has subsided. Frederick starts, “You know, Chapter five of the Constitution…”
I take a deep breath. The air is a soft translucent blue that has condensed into a deep indigo in the distance where the storm still rages. The rain has released gorgeous colors that have been hiding in the dull grass, that is now pure, luscious dark green mottled here and there with chartreuse and olive.
I bite into my lemon ice cream: it is an earthly, warm yellow with beige and white speckles. My hands are still cold, but the ice cream is delicious and the elusive hues I’ve been looking for are all right here.
“Frederick,” I say, “tell me more about chapter five of the Constitution.”