Two Women Asleep In A Punt Under The Willows

7:00 AM

John Singer Sargent, Two Women Asleep in a Punt Under the Willows, 1887
By LILI TUCKER

In nearly a week I'll be 18 years old. 

As I approach this impending ending to my "childhood" I have been looking back on many of the things that made me the person I am today.

From Kindergarten to about the third grade, American Girl Dolls were all the rage. When I was nearly 7 they began producing movies for them. The two women sleeping on the boat remind me of a scene in Samantha: an American Girl Holiday where Samantha and Nellie O'Malley stow away in a boathouse filled with Samantha's late mother's things. I remember wanting so badly to sleep over in a boat filled with blankets and pillows like Samantha. 

My Aunt Diane had a willow tree in her backyard. I remember asking my mom if we could get a willow tree as well but she told me that, planted too close to the house, their roots could mess up the plumbing or foundation. Later on, in middle school, we took a trip to Europe. Outside of our hotel was a giant willow tree, it's leaves hanging like a curtain all around it. One could pull aside the leaves, crawl underneath and be completely hidden from everything. Since then, I had forgotten my obsession with willow trees until seeing this painting. I had forgotten that my sister and I created a club called the "Willow Tree Club" complete with it's own song that we wrote on the piano. 

This painting, along with a few of Sargent's other paintings of similar subject matter remind me of two particular literary figures that mean quite a bit to me: Anne of Green Gables and Ophelia. 

In the first book of the series, Anne of Green Gables, Anne Shirley reenacts the poem the Lady of Shallot with her friends. However, not accounting for Anne's weight, the boat begins to fill with water and she is gloriously saved by her arch nemesis Gilbert Blythe. After watching the movie over and over and over, I fell in love with the iambic tetrameter of Tennyson's the Lady of Shallot. I remember trying to memorize it, though I cannot remember if I ever succeeded in the task. I've since forgotten most of it now, save for the phrase: The yellow leaved waterlily/ the green sheathed daffodilly/ tremble in the water chilly/ 'round about Shallott. It has always been my favorite. 

Fun Fact: Lucy Maud Montgomery's seventh novel (4th in the series) is titled Anne of Windy Willows outside of the UK and US

Finally, for Ophelia. 

I began doing theatre because I really liked to sing. It was freshmen year that I decided I didn't want to sing, so I thought I'd try the play. However, the play ended up being the Imaginary Invalid and I had to sing anyway. Anyhow, after the end of that show I swore I wouldn't do theatre again. It wasn't til I was accidentally cast as Ophelia in the Pretenders' play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead that perhaps theatre was worth pursuing. Four years later and I can't imagine my life without doing theatre. I can't imagine not spending every waking moment in rehearsal or memorizing lines or painting sets. 

This was all a longwinded way of saying that Sargent's painting Two Women Asleep in a Punt Under the Willows (along with many of his other works) creates an atmosphere of nostalgic repose. A moment of reflection before your life changes forever. 

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