Painting a Place Beyond

Beyond: 2013; 11" x 14"; mixed media: watercolor, acrylic, pastel.

Beyond: 2013; 11″ x 14″; mixed media: watercolor, acrylic, pastel.

I discovered this week that writing about the American/Vietnam War stirred up a torrent of scary emotions. I often “think” in feelings, not words or even images, but currents of emotional energy. After I wrote certain phrases, they tossed around in my head like a bare branch in the wind. Then, as I reflected further, brilliant colored-leaves, representing feelings for which there are no words, swirled and attached to the naked tree skeleton.

One evening on a crisp winter walk, my husband and I reminisced about Vietnam, a beautiful country we have both been fortunate to visit. I fell silent, and he asked what I was thinking. All I could manage was an embarrassed, “I don’t know.” My thoughts turned to images described by people I love of what they experienced in the war; I thought of a book called “War Cradle” that describes the impact of the conflict on children; through my head flashed the face of my friend’s husband who struggles with PTSD after serving in Iraq; I remembered people in Syria, enduring this very moment the atrocity of war. And I felt for all of them. I felt the powerlessness of what I cannot change or even understand. There were no words to verbalize all these leaves sprouting wildly, out of control.

The next day I turned to painting to scramble to a pinnacle of safety, above the swarm of brittle foliage rattling in malevolent gusts. The motif of a bird flying above and beyond called to me to soar as well. The safest place I know, high above the chaos, is described in these ancient words of Psalm 63:7-8, “…for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.”

There is so much wrong in the world that I am powerless to change. But I am confident of the place beyond it all, the shelter found in the wings of the One who promises to be near the crushed and broken-hearted. The One who says, yes, “in this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

6 thoughts on “Painting a Place Beyond

  1. Sometimes I see a painting of yours and I think, ‘THAT’S my favorite, then I see another one and I think, ‘Actually, THAT’S my favorite! I can never make up my mind but I LOVE this one. When I first looked at it, I noticed the detail but it wasn’t till I leaned back that I noticed the dove… words fall short. I would buy it if I could! Love the ending to your post as well.


  2. What Teresa said. 🙂

    The painting is really beautiful. What emerged for me- that I loved- as I looked at it was the realization that the darker colored swirls were somehow included within or enfolded by the dove’s wing, and it reminded me of a concept I’ve been feeling about (usually we’d say thinking about, but that just doesn’t do it justice, right?) for a while: the notion that healing comes from acceptance somehow. Jesus didn’t try to keep a gap between himself and the forlorn. He embraced them somehow in a way that transformed. For me the dove is carrying those blue-black-grays with itself into the warmth, not flying away from them. I loved it.



    • I love these ideas, Michael! Yes, Jesus carrying the sorrow… You’ve opened up new ways for me of seeing this painting that are very true with what I held in my heart as I created it. I love the interactive creation that happens as God moves between artist and viewer. Thank you!


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