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”
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.
You are so encouraging Teresa! Hearing from others that they have somehow connected with my offerings is what keeps me going. Art apart from connection with other people is empty for me. Many thanks.
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!
This is a beautiful painting Colleen. And thoughtful words. You express yourself so well. I fall into your thoughts as your words flow so effortlessly.
I am so enjoying your work, Walter! It stirs the spirit. Thank you for encouraging me in mine.