My Grandfather left us many of his paintings. One of them hangs in my bedroom. It is different than his others, which are landscapes or ordered still life paintings. The flower painting seems to be more of a study or experiment. The flowers vary in their renderings, the orange ones completely flat, the yellow with a bit more development in the paint and then grey flowers with pink highlights which are the most three dimensional. The flowers are not presented in a realistic manner, they fill the canvas and have neither roots and stems nor a vase to contain them. I often meditate on the painting, allowing my eyes to focus on one flower or another and the pleasing contrasts among them.
Suddenly last night I happened to glance at the painting and was filled with what may be laughably obvious. I saw in my imagination my grandfather in his Deer Park home mixing the bright paint and placing his brush on the white canvas. The sunlight that fills the bedroom he has made into a studio is bright and warm. It is summer. The intimacy and lasting power of this act in time. The gift I have in surrounding myself with his work and therefore what remains of him on earth. The summer on my wall even in the throes of winter. I then flashed in my mind the future of the painting, after me. I imagined it stacked in a row of others in a dark closet. Today, however, I do not awaken like an Ebeneezer, newborn with recognition at the meaning of his life span. I just hope I keep awake.
The statues of Mary and Joseph in my front yard, which once belonged to my grandmother, were pummelled by the wind for weeks gave way and are now shrouded with snow. When I tried to pick up Mary, the cement felt brittle in the cold and i thought i should let them rest until Spring.
It is Spring at my college, or rather that is what this semester is named, “Spring 15”. There is so much darkness, as I spend my days in a windowless room and come out only when the sun has set. I don’t mind it much in this kind of weather and actually feel cozy at midday but early in the morning before I leave for work I am filled with dread as I anticipate the muted light. There are a few moments when i feel really alive and participating in something greater than myself. Last week a mother came in filled with immense dignity and anger for her disabled child. As we talked her anger turned into heaving sobs. How dearly she wanted to protect her child from pain. I was humbled to witness her great love. The last time i was at the labyrinth the ground was flooded in one of the quadrants yet frozen and crunchy in others. The garden was brown and sad and abandoned.
I walked the labyrinth on December 31, the last day of 2014. The sun was bright and there were no leaves on the labyrinth, and for the first time, the ground was frozen. There was an enormous kale plant that had turned bright red, but otherwise the colors were somber and I was grateful for the sunshine.
I went to the labyrinth next on January 3, after a profound yoga class. It was hailing and dressing that morning in black and grey I had felt dim, smiling to myself I whispered “I am the Woman in Red” to cheer myself up, but somehow a rather tranquil melancholy which matched the grey of the day followed me and I just relaxed into aligning myself with the wintry mood. The afterglow of my yoga class somehow allowed me to observe my own dark mood without the usual fear, sadness and judgment. There was a taste of ashes in my mouth.
When I got to the labyrinth, I discovered that the statue of the little girl with her arms outstretched with birds perching on them was gone. The waterfall was dry and even the bright red kale plant which I had just discovered on my previous visit was gone. I cried. The statue, celebrating the life of the little child who had died of cancer, has come to me to symbolize the labyrinth, my secret garden, my very own place. As I took the winding path I reflected that I had no one to ask about what had happened, and it is absolutely not my place in the least. I am not a member of the community, and Kathy the pastor who was always so kind, is gone. I now think it must have been vandals.
In the moment I was very shaken and bereft, but I had to admit to myself that this is was illusory. I thought of all those who lost homes (and the symbolic objects within those homes such as family pictures) to devastating catastrophes. I thought of moving out of my parent’s home, of readying it for sale this summer. We found many papers of my mother’s. I opened up a notebook and she had written about her competing commitments around clutter. “I want to clear my space, but our things have meaning.” Hence, many of those things remain in my basement.
During the Protestant Reformation, many zealous Protestants destroyed statues of the Catholic Church. I think of how painful that must have been even for some of the reformers. My grandmother’s statue of Mary and Joseph are aging and cracked and the snowfall this week has caused them to bow forward.