Painting Courage

Courage Rises; 2015; 11" x 15"; mixed media: watercolor and acrylic.

Courage Rises; 2015; 11″ x 15″; mixed media: watercolor and acrylic.

The trouble with courage is that we don’t know if we have it until the moment we need it – until we’re teetering on the edge of a cliff, ready to plunge to depths below, or to spread our wings and fly. And really, it’s not until the desperation passes that, looking back, we see its tender lift.

I know a man who walked in courage. When life suddenly and irrevocably stripped him of much of what he loved and valued at age 54 with a sudden, massive stroke, he chose the way of courage. Certainly he wrestled with discouragement and grief:  a man who hiked the mountain tops of Colorado, sentenced to stumble over sidewalks; a man of articulate encouragement who lifted many a weary soul, silenced as words refused to flow; a man actively engaged with children and grandchildren, cheering from the sidelines. But he daily chose to keep living. He wrestled for the promises of the Great I Am.

All his life he loved the Native American culture. In his last ten years, after the stroke stole his job, forcing him into early disability retirement, and many activities he loved, he sank into an Indian community who welcomed the wisdom of his interior journey. He joined their ceremonies and prayers. He kept a driver company as they delivered goods to reservation elders.

When he died, his Indian friends honored him at his memorial service with an eagle feather presented to his family. Revered in American Indian culture, eagle feathers represent “honesty, truth, majesty, strength, courage, wisdom, power and freedom.”*

There are days, three years after he left, when missing my beloved father strips me of courage. I feel only my own terrible loss, teetering with my feet still tethered to the cliff. I try to spread my wings, but grief weighs heavy.

It is then I cling to what I cannot see, but I know is true. Just as surely as heaven exploded in joy as he set foot there, finally home, even as here we wept in shock, so there is a view above the clouds, expansive, flooded with color and light, that I can’t see here in the rain.

“The Eagle flies higher and sees better than any other bird. Therefore, its perspective is different from other creations that are held close to the Earth, and it is closer to the Creator.”*

I’m fighting for the courage of the eagle.

* All quotes taken from:

6 thoughts on “Painting Courage

  1. What a beautiful tribute to your father, Colleen! What a courageous man, and I see that same courage in you.
    Also, I love the symbolism of the eagle feather and the quote about an eagle’s perspective. Well done!


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