A New Year’s Resilience

I’m not making resolutions. If I did last year, either secretly or announced to anyone…  I can’t even recall what they were.

After 2013… it seems almost ridiculous to be optimistic about 2014- so I wake up today thinking, “Bring it on.”

And I could look at 2013 as a very bad year… a year of darkness and cold grief and mourning. But it is also the last year I got to spend any time with my son, Ethan. It is the year my faith was tested in the hardest, most real way. It is the year I discovered who would be there when life brought me to my knees and when there was no hope, no answers, and nothing to say– a discovery of the strength and the depth of my family- of my hoard of sisters from every corner of the globe. Experiences like this change a person. And I hope it made me more thankful and appreciative… more willing to help and encourage others.

From my two brothers. From my wife and son… and my 88 year old mother. And a discovery of my extended family- my huge family in Christ and my human family– with always persistent and present daily encouragements- sustaining words, prayers, and loving thoughts and energy… from random contacts at the market and post office, to the interactions at work. I can go on because of your hand on my shoulder… that concerned look, your smile… your words and prayers from Tennessee and Chicago… your hugs from Italy and thoughts from Argentina, and positive energy and vibes from Canada. I know I have people around the world that care and check in… and really it is largely because of that that I can and do go on.

Yesterday I read the lament of a mother who lost her daughter last year… “I can’t go on anymore. I can’t do this. I don’t even know why.”…. and I know how she feels. I know that pain… (and in my opinion it is better to live through it than to medicate it or let that dark heavy blanket of numbness cover it up.) I don’t know how to do “this” I don’t know why or how to go on… except that you do go on. I have found resilience and strength… drawn upon the strength of those around me… especially my wife, Marquita. She has found the strength to go on… to find life and to pick up all the little pieces.
When life brought me to my knees, I was never alone on the floor. It brought her to her knees as well… a life she carried for 9 months, she lost something deeper in a way I will never know. And if she could rise from that spot on the floor… I could rise with her. If she could walk along this path of a grieving parent. I can as well. And we can in fact go on and do this and we can find purpose and meaning…
Life is resilient. Amazing. And people have been asking about the last couple of paintings. Animals in desolate scenes. The best is the cat… a kitten really… he’s chasing a mouse that has hidden himself under a human skull. When I settled upon the subject, I was only thinking about the subject… about the dark greenish grey of this old abandoned gym and the sunlight bathing the floor in white… and about the mix of grey and yellow ochre of old bones…. about the gesture of the cat, the play face, the curve of his paw… and about dividing the canvas in thirds so that the eye of the cat landed near one specific intersection, and the skull, as close as possible with another…. all that while keeping the cat, mouse, skull, and room in some kind of real scale. (since based on my reference photo of the room, kitty is ten feet tall…)

But I know it is my best painting for date, not for the technique of painting light and shadows, or how the cat’s fur was painted, or the values of the background, The fading of details into the distance. It isn’t about the use of color or composition that people comment on… it was the different way it impacted them emotionally. Even the people who immediately hated the picture and saw it it a deep sadness… sorrow, desolation… they got it. Others saw that focus… the sunlight, the gesture… Life goes on. Life is resilient.
Marquita say the responses and thought they had missed the point. But I thought that perhaps they captured the mood and feeling… what I had felt inside while painting. The got it, really, and carried away the part the knew.
My friend’s daughter loved the cat. Saw the mouse and laughed. She saw this little drama and asked me if the mouse would get away. I said I didn’t know. I think so. She said she didn’t think he would. That no matter how long it took, that kitten would keep chasing him. Her cat did that. Then he brought the mouse inside and played with it until it died. I told her she was probably right. She loved the picture and connected with it… perfectly. It actually made her smile and laugh. And that is why I think it is my best to date.

I think it is my first real piece of art. A painting that not only looks reasonably like what I pictured in my head when I started, but one that communicates what I felt… one that people could look at and take something away that is theirs and theirs alone. Something that had to be a painting, and not a poem or a paragraph… or even a song. That crossed that line and communicated something that I couldn’t put into words.
That is my goal for this year. Art. Resilience. Not giving up. It isn’t a resolution. Just a target on a trail. A point that I am looking at as I step off… and I will go where ever that trail takes me, and probably never alone. Bring it on.



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