What describes your life?
As I search for a title for this piece, I see myself sitting like a child with old fashioned blocks tumbled around me. Bold letters are carved into the sides in primary colours. For me the title image usually comes first and I follow it along until my writing leads me to the inner truth that is asking to be conveyed through my words. The titles usually float to the surface fully formed as I am waking. Figs? Chicken Little? Hunh? But I’ve learned to trust a little until the ‘rest of the story’ emerges.
Today there was nothing. I sat quietly and composed myself before my computer screen. I have a new iMac – which I am passionate about – along with the man who gave it to me as a gift to encourage my writing. The screen saver is on the Mac Nature series. Even as I work now, the scenes behind this page fade from soft azure sky with wispy white clouds to black velvet lashes of a Zebra’s eye, then a macroscopic lady bug dangling on the tip of a blade of grass, then stones tumbled in a heap in shades of grey, taupe, lavender, cream, charcoal. But I don’t want to write about Mac screen savers. So I rest my chin on my fist and gaze into the middle distance.
And then I see it. My eyes focus on the still life in this room. Beyond the edge of my desk with waxy deep green leaves turning this way and that is a spectacular plant of unknown name. I love it because it thrives in spite of my sporadic care of dusting and watering. I admire it and tell it out loud how I love the way the new leaves unfurl out of glossy red buds, the perfect oval of its thick dark leaves with a yellow spine down the underside. A long ago leafless stem has curled twice around it’s base – just because. It’s a lovely plant but as my focus shifts, I see it’s loveliness all the more in form and colour because behind it is an art deco chair in suede with heaving stuffed arms the lush rich tones of ripe cantaloupe.
Form. Texture. Colour. And what else. Beauty? Yes, but more. There is a feeling as I see the colour and texture with a deeper regard. There is a pleasantness that becomes experience. I am experiencing the chair and the plant as a singular unit of its own expression. Even as I say this, I am reminded that I am fumbling with children’s blocks. The words I have are art. Colour. Texture. Form. Beauty. How can I use these to describe what is in my heart. What my heart’s eye has witnessed. I’m not describing emotion – or that orange and green make me giddy or contemplative. No, this is an awareness that beauty is a more ‘real’ matrix for our life on Earth than any other element. Nature would restore our equilibrium with constant calibration to peace if we would just know that.
I often think that even in the most war torn countries, one could always look straight up and see the sky. Just as in the most dire and frightening circumstances an act of kindness might light a tiny glimmer of love. Yes, that is naive, the world is in chaos – terrible, wasted, angry, abused. But what is in front of you now? This minute. What can you see that pleases you deeply?
A year ago, all my son wanted for Christmas was the Planet Earth DVD’s. They are magnificent in their spectacular depiction of the micro and macro world we live in. Aerial film shows the genius in the strategic flow of a pack of hyenas as it isolates and surrounds its prey like a river finding its way around rocks. Beauty isn’t always sweet and benevolent. It is stark and terrible and magical and thrilling. There are underlying patterns and rhythms to Life that are awe-full and awesome.
I want to tell you that I love art. That I am a collector. That art is throughout my house. Not only that, but that my house itself is a work of art. It has been designed – not only to be pleasing to the eye, but also to the senses. It is part of the landscape and, designed as such, is reverent in its framing of that bit of woods, this rolling hill, that expanse of sky. Light plays throughout the day on the walls and floor that is articulate, comforting and familiar. You see I can’t even describe my house without getting a feeling of love in describing its beauty.
A moment ago, I pulled on my boots and vest to see where Zoe, my aging Golden might have wandered. She goes up the hill and into the woods only to ‘forget’ why she went in there and which way is home. I climbed up through the snow to the forest edge and called her. As I turned back to the house, I was struck as I always am from this particular vantage, by the form of the house as it steps down the hill, accented with straight lines of pergola and window. My heart opens, but to re read my description I have done my sentiment an injustice. Again mere words are inadequate. Like blocks of letters when I want to describe a symphony.
I collect art not as a possession but as information for my soul. On my walls are depictions of an artist’s experience. They have picked up a brush, daubed it in – what colour? As they stood before the white expanse, what moment guided them to the first placement of pigment? What moved their heart or inner eye to choose the light between that reflects the pine bough? A humble street that speaks of coming home? A door left ajar – a cool invitation from a sun dappled terrace? I am moved – not by their experience because I can never know it. But by the truth of their soul need to communicate it. The communication is complete in and of itself. Who will be moved and when is not of consequence to their art. But their truth is of consequence to me.
There is energy in truth. Beauty in form and order. Art is an act of love. A collaboration with Life. There is no sophistication to be moved by art. No critical or studied judgement. It is an experiential communication between one soul and another beyond time and space and without language as we know it. I use the word art because I have only child’s blocks of letters to speak. But art is experiencing music through dance or lyric. Architecture in its truth is the art of living in union with nature as shelter and benefactor. Art is the photo that captures not the face but the longing, or devotion, or adoration, or tears. Art is the pen on my desk – gift from my sons. Handcrafted by someone who cares about beauty. Crafted with elements of the earth. Polished turquoise – aqua with veins of ochre, banded by gleaming silver. I use it to scribble in a notebook or sign a cheque. I use it with pleasure. Using it makes simple acts lovely.
Beauty in nature or art changes us. It opens us to our own truth. I remember so clearly when an artist, now a friend, brought his work to my boutique. It was the first time we had met. I hung the piece of stained glass work from the ceiling where it would get the most light from the window. It was a raven, with the sun – a circle of natural carnelian or similar stone – in its mouth depicting the birth of the earth. I was standing on a step stool. As I turned to step down, I had the most clear sight of my shoppe in stark relief. Like a beacon, the truth of this artist’s work showed all that was true and false. In that instant I saw where I was true to my vision and where I had pandered to a retail market. Formula music, trends in fashion, paintings that ‘match’, the next bestseller, and pretend chateaux may suit us in a moment but they do not lift us to a higher love. They ask nothing of us – except our momentary attention.
When my son was little his class did binders: We Are God’s Work of Art. We are indeed elements of Life’s own expression of creation. When we surround ourselves with other’s truth through art, and when we live in recognition of Nature’s artfulness, we truly become an artist of our own Life’s tapestry. Every day and every act becomes a blend of colour, form, texture. Truth and beauty.
Truth. Beauty. I guess I am not limited after all by simple words. These two say it all.
Here is the link to the Planet Earth BBC Series narrated by David Attenborough. I highly recommend it as it will change anyone’s perspective on the beauty and order of the natural world. When you buy a book or DVD from Amazon through this site you help us continue to bring awareness of Holism – Living in Body, Mind and Spirit. Heartfelt thanks for your support!