The Golden Rose
By Paulo Coelho
For The Bali Times
I have just had dinner; now I am having some coffee and contemplating the painting in front of me: it was put in a river and left there for a year, waiting for nature to give the final touch to the painter’s work.
Half of the painting was carried off by the waters and bad weather, so the edges are all uneven, but even so I can still see part of the beautiful red rose painted on a golden background. I know the artist. I remember 2003, when together we went to a forest in the Pyrenees, discovered the creek – which at that moment was dry – and hid the canvas underneath the stones that covered the river bed.
I know the artist, Christina Oiticica. At this very moment she is physically at a distance of 8,000 kilometers, and at the same time she is in everything around me. That makes me happy: even after 29 years of marriage, the love is more intense than ever before. Never did I imagine that this would happen: I had been in three relationships that did not work out right and was convinced that eternal love did not exist until she came along – on a Christmas afternoon, like a present sent by a angel. We went to the movies. We made love that same day. I thought to myself: “This won’t last long.” For the first two years I was always expecting one of us to give up the relationship. For the following five years I went on thinking that it was just an arrangement, that in a short while each of us would go our own way. I had convinced myself that any commitment of a more serious nature would deprive me of my “freedom” and stop me experiencing all that I wanted.
Twenty-nine years on, I am still free – because I discovered that love never enslaves us. I am free to turn my head and watch her sleeping at my side – that is the photo I have on my mobile phone. I am free for us to go out, enjoy a stroll, go on talking, discussing – and occasionally arguing, as always. I am free to love as I have never loved before, and that makes a great difference in my life.
Let’s go back to the painting and the river: it was the summer of 2002, I was already a well-known writer; I had money; I felt that my basic values had not changed, but how could I be absolutely certain? By testing. We rented a small room in a two-star hotel in France, where we began to spend five months each year. The wardrobe could not get any bigger, so we had to limit our clothes. We wandered through the forests, dined out, spent hours in conversation and went to the movies every day. The simplicity of it all confirmed for us that the most sophisticated things in the world are precisely those that are within everyone’s reach. All that I needed for my work was a portable computer. But it so happens that my wife is … a painter.
And painters need gigantic studios to produce and keep their work. By no means did I want her to sacrifice her vocation for me, so I proposed renting a place. However, looking around, seeing the mountains, the valleys, the rivers and the lakes, the forests, she thought: Why don’t I work here? And why not let nature work with me?
And thus was born the idea of “storing” the canvases in the open air. I carried my laptop and went on writing. She knelt on the grass and painted. A year later, when we removed the first paintings, the result was original, magnificent.
We lived in that small hotel for two unforgettable years. She continued to bury her canvases, no longer out of necessity but because she had discovered a new technique. The Amazon, Mumbai, the Way to Santiago, Lubijana, Miami. Today she is far away, but tomorrow or next week she will be close again, sleeping at my side. Content, because her work is beginning to be recognized all over the world.
At this moment I see only the rose. And I thank the angel that gave me two presents on that Christmas of 1979: the ability to open up my own heart, and the right person to receive it.
A happy 2009 to all.
© Translated by James Mulholland
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