Weatherman

I don’t know if any­body was there the first time Sam stretched out his hands and cre­ated a rain cloud. I don’t know whether there was a crowd or he was alone, whether it was day or night, whether he knew what he had accom­plished or thought it was just a strange coin­cid­ence. I don’t even know if it was a rain cloud that he first created.

I came to know Sam later in life, when he had already been rid­ing a wave of pub­lic appre­ci­ation for almost a dec­ade. The early years of tele­vi­sion appear­ances and big press announce­ments were behind him, and now he just took delight in his art, let­ting oth­ers handle the demands of the pub­lic and the media for him. He was hired for private func­tions, galas, grand open­ings, and he always brought some­thing special.

He got atten­tion from all sorts of places when he was first dis­covered. Pro­duc­tion com­pan­ies, ski resorts, paint­ers, may­ors, gov­ern­ments, char­it­ies. He turned them all down. He would only work when people wanted to appre­ci­ate what he made for itself, not for its res­ults. The requests stopped when one par­tic­u­larly insist­ent ski resort raised the amount it was will­ing to pay again and again and again, pub­licly stat­ing its inten­tions each time. Sam dis­ap­peared for three years after their last request.

When he pub­licly emerged again three years later, the recep­tion was rap­tur­ous. He still had his crit­ics, people who wouldn’t or couldn’t under­stand why he wouldn’t help in droughts or floods, why he didn’t become involved in the cli­mate change debate. I asked him once myself, and he looked at me with a dis­ap­poin­ted expres­sion and said “if you were to paint a land­scape and didn’t like the place­ment of one tree or build­ing would you have it removed? If you were sketch­ing a woman with a lazy eye, would you demand she had it sur­gic­ally cor­rec­ted before you continued?”

Whether you agree with him or not, and I have never worked out if I do, that is how he felt.

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