Category Archives: art

What Do You See?

They were nineteen years old when I threw them away. I bought them before Jared was born, when Dave and I lived in New Hope with our toddler son, Colin. You can’t see it, but the soles are split, the laces are frayed (this is the second set of them), and the stitching has given out on the heels. They are permanently bent, as if my feet were still in them, lifting up to take my next step. I took the picture to remind me of how much care and talent went into their creation, and of how they carried me in comfort over countless miles.

Images evoke feelings and memories. The same image can mean different things to different people – over time, they can also mean different things for the same person. For these summer days, I’ll share some images that speak to me – like the boots above. I’ll also post a second picture – one at the end of the post. Without words for a few days, then with a story.

If you are so inclined, tell me what you see. A second set of eyes can bring a new perspective…

Next Image: What Do You See?

 

 

Finding the Rhythm

 

The time signature in a musical piece sets the rhythm – common time, three-quarter time, etc. It gives a frame for the notes, directions on how they work together in time, and keeps everyone singing and playing the various parts working together to transform dark spots on white paper into melody and harmony. It’s the touchpoint for improvisation, the place of reference for scat singing and jazz solos. When I dance, it directs my feet; it provides the when and how often for clapping.

It’s usually easy enough to find the rhythm that the time signature sets. But every so often, it isn’t so easy. I can’t quite find the underlying beat, and the pattern of the notes escapes me. Turning on the radio at the end of a song or during a guitar solo; a cappella chanting; some modern classical music that changes rhythm unexpectedly and often: these can throw me off, and it takes more than a few seconds to find my way in the piece. I have to wait until I can feel the structure and pattern in the music. It’s unsettling.

My spiritual life feels that way sometimes. The time signature changes throughout my life, and it throws me off until I find the rhythm; I’ve tuned in somewhere in the middle instead of at the start (more honestly, I tuned out for the beginning part!); someone’s offering a riff on faith, and I miss its connection to the standard version.

Finding the rhythm of the Spirit may take some time, and I may not catch on as quickly as I’d like – I may even clap in the wrong places. But given time and a little patience, I’ll find my place in the music. I may appreciate the time signature all the more for having missed it.

[The Book of LoveShall We Dance?, Peter Gabriel, 2004]

The Truth, In Word and Image

Debbie keeps it in a frame – a card her longtime friend sent to her years back. If you knew Debbie, you’d know this card is so much like her – an equestrian, a good woman, and just enough of a renegade to keep life interesting. That’s the specifics of why this card is so great.

In a general sense, it’s also amazing – a great message to all the girls who will grow up to be women, and all the women who grew from the girls they once were…

Life is an adventure. Be a good companion to those who join you in all the ups and downs – kind, considerate, and prayerful.

Just as important: dare to break the rules that need breaking, don’t be afraid to show strength and courage, and have a hell of a lot of fun.

You are a delight to God. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise – even your own inner critic.

You go, girl!

Thinking of You

The note came from a friend, with only one sentence inside: This picture has me thinking of you, literally. She’d seen my teapot of blooming nasturtiums; it might have made a leaky mess as a teapot due to a small crack, but it made a wonderful plant pot.

I firmly believe that we aren’t put on this earth for a single purpose, and that our beautiful souls and our God given gifts may find surprising ways to shower love on our neighbors. But even more, I believe that our flaws, our cracks, will point us toward something beautiful that we may never have found without them.

At the Moment

[Happy Spirit, Tazouz]

She was in residence when I visited Gallery in the Sun nine years ago, living and working in one of the buildings DeGrazia made for just such a person and purpose. She said she wasn’t going to be there long, but loved being there at the moment.

I love the sheer joy she captured in this charcoal drawing. It isn’t just the smile; it’s the light in the little boy’s eyes, and the dance in his body. He is the embodiment of finding happiness in the moment – and offering that happiness back to the world.

None of us are going to be here long. That’s just reality. So why not love being here at the moment? Find the joy and you just may find yourself dancing, too.

Gallery In The Sun

La Paloma, by Ettore DeGrazia

[To see more of DeGrazia’s work, go to the Gallery In The Sun, www.degrazia.org]

Everything is thoughtfully artful there – even the floors, made with natural stone and cholla cactus slices. DeGrazia sculpted, painted, and constructed this space for the creation of art and the fostering of the human spirit. It is a sanctuary in the Tucson desert, offering quiet and shade. It is an art museum, a studio with artists-in-residence, and a gift shop.

I’d never heard of Ettore DeGrazia until I visited his gallery with my two sons in 2012, but I’d seen many of his images – on Christmas cards, prints, and in a few magazines. I had no clue of the breadth of his work, of his concern that art education be made available to everyone, or his biography. Nameless until that point, true, but still a quiet presence in my life.

I could say the same for the Holy Spirit on most days. Not named or recognized in more than a sense of beauty, peace, and purpose, but patiently and dependably present. On the days that I recognize and name the Spirit, I catch a glimpse of the breadth of grace and holiness that I so often overlook. La Paloma.

It seems fitting that I chose DeGrazia’s La Paloma the day I could put a name and a history to the paintings; it reminds me of my limited awareness and the unlimited graciousness that alights just within its bounds.

So Much Sunshine

Hester van Huyssteen.

Hester moved from South Africa to Princeton when her husband became a seminary professor. As one of the student managers for dining events on campus (and the only seminary bartender), I’d see her at the occasional faculty function. No matter the occasion, the air felt a little bit lighter whenever she was there.

Dinner at her home was no different. Whether I was there as a guest or there to serve guests, Hester had a way of bringing life and light to all who came through the door.

Some people just have a way of restoring the sparkle in life. Not optimism or humor, really – just a twinkle in the eye and a brilliance to the soul. They come in all shapes, sizes, and ages – and they make the world so much better for being in it.

To hold this world lightly but not take it lightly is a rare and beautiful thing. Sunshine incarnate. When you see such a one, you’ll know it. And your life is the better for it.

 

What Really Happens

Is it your birthday? Or do you just like setting cakes on fire?

A levitating kitten, the mystical alignment of moons, stars, and planets above a desert, and a girly cake decorated with glittery frosting and candies; pink candles set ablaze by the feline ninja mind-and-laser-paws method: It’s my son Jared’s latest birthday card selection, given on my fifty-seventh just last month. It’s a new one, but in keeping with the others he’s given me over the past decade. I never know what’s waiting in those innocuous envelopes on top of my presents, but I am certain that it will be visually interesting. Quirky messages are always on the inside – one that comes with the card (written above), and his own: This is the real image of what Magic does at 3am if we forget to close the doors…

I like the idea that the noises our cat Magic makes at night are more than him batting pens across the floor. The heavy thumps might be the sounds of an epic battle against the forces of evil, not just our cat Taylor jumping off the rocker. Sleep, darkness, and walls keep 3am happenings out of sight; could there be more going on I imagine?

In the most literal sense, those 3am noises come from cats doing cat things – no lasers or levitation. But in the truer sense, I really don’t know what’s going on; I can’t read feline minds, and I don’t see what they do. In the yard outside my window, the wind moves branches. Animals fly through trees and pad softly under shrubs. Plants keep to their own lives, growing below and above ground. All this while I sleep, a negligible part of this nighttime reality. I am part of something so much bigger, even when I’m unaware of it.

I think that’s marvelous, and definitely worth setting a cake on fire.

 

 

Robin’s Birds

[Robin Nielson’s sister, JoAnn, sent this card – a Unicef offering of beauty that also provides funds for needy children all around the world. It is beautiful in form and intent.]

They land lightly on my window sills, waiting for their turn at the backyard feeder. Sparrows, cardinals, chickadees, finches, and the occasional flock of grackles, crows, or seagulls offer a glimpse of poetry in motion for the paltry cost of a few seeds and bread crusts. Spend  $1.89  for suet and woodpeckers visit; last week, a northern flicker appeared – something I’d never seen before but hope to see again.

They squawk and squabble, they crowd each other out, but they are also grace incarnate. Birds are living symbols of faith, found in the pages of sacred writings throughout the world. The Spirit and peace – a dove. Wisdom an owl. Darkness a raven and death a crow. A cardinal is a messenger from God, or a departed loved one’s spirit. They connect this mundane life of ours to something soaring, something transcendent.

A Christmas card of birds is a reminder that the spiritual life is as real, as common, and as extraordinary as the flight of birds.

Thank you for sharing your card, Robin.

Mysterious, Mystic, Mundane

If you take a close look, just right of the tree and above the glittery snow,  square figures emerge from the muted, misted background. Three rooftops, covered in snow. Just off the second and third boughs from the tree base, as if these two branches are pointing to it, is another square. Nestled against the dark green of background forest, it’s another building made by human hands. All these are too geometrically precise to be natural, and none of these are particularly impressive. But seen from this high vantage point, they show how ordinary human things are surrounded by beauty and clothed in misty mystery.

I think this is what meditation is about: seeing how our ordinary dwelling places, our ordinary lives, are part of something extraordinary and beautiful. In this God-related and God-created space, we live our lives. Unless we take the time and get some distance, we may miss the wondrousness of it all. The floor slushed by boots, the drafty cellar stairs, the walls and ceilings in need of a good scrubbing and painting. It’s so easy to believe that these are what is true and real. And they are real – just not definitive.

One does not and cannot cancel out the other. How extraordinary.