1990, Santa Cruz, CA: One of the other waiters pointed her out to me. That’s Linde. She always comes alone and sits at table twelve and drinks at least two margaritas. She has a German accent, loves to talk, full of energy.
Once or twice a week she comes in. I seat her at table twelve. I make sure she gets her drink. We talk about the menu and she’ll try anything that’s new from the chef. She’s the artist, Linde Martin.
We become friends. She works in the abstract style, with large putty knives and dramatic color palettes. Her paintings hang in museums and university galleries and the homes of private collectors. We talk about what it means to be an artist. She treats me like one. She tells me how you have to give yourself over to the force. My first novel had crashed and burned and I was trying to write another, but it was hard and desperate work. Linde does nothing except demand that I keep going. You must keep working, she tells me. You have no choice.
I visit her home and studio, full of stained glass walls and windows she’s created herself, and overlooking an arroyo scented by eucalyptus trees. She shows me some of her other work: the stained glass, which is both patterned and abstract, and many other paintings. She’s in her sixties and has been through many phases as an artist: cubism, surrealism, impressionism, and even portraiture. Always changing, she tells me. Always discovering what’s new in ourselves.
Linde gets to know Lou, the owner of the Sea Cloud where she likes to eat and drink. It’s one of the top restaurants in Santa Cruz, located right on the wharf, with a talented chef riding the California cuisine wave. The bonus is spectacular views of Monterey Bay from the picture windows. The interior décor is upscale nautical, inspired by some eighteenth-century schooner, also named the Sea Cloud.
But then Lou says it’s time for a change. He’s also been drawn deeply into Linde’s work and he decides to hang a couple of her paintings. I go with Lou to Linde’s studio and we choose the paintings with her guidance. At the restaurant, down come the sailfish and the ship’s wheel, and up go “Gateway to the Sun” and “Fifth Movement” — two large, brilliant, complex paintings. They make an immediate impact. Everyone is talking about them. Within six months, all sizable wall space in the Sea Cloud is devoted to Linde Martin paintings.
Thirty-something years later a fair amount of wall space in my home is devoted to Linde Martin paintings. I felt close to Linde, inspired and encouraged by her, and I knew she saw something in me. After I left California I returned years later with Harriet and the kids when they were little. We visited Linde in her studio, now in Carmel. She gave Julia and Owen a watercolor each she’d done. She had her usual burst of energy and artistic enthusiasm, and we talked about collaborating on a book together, but that didn’t happen and now Linde has been gone for a dozen years.
I go past her paintings every day, many times each day. The living room, dining room, breezeway. I hardly register them anymore. But this morning I did, something caught my eye and I remembered Linde, and I am better for it.
You can visit a gallery of Linde Martin paintings here. She’d appreciate your stopping by.