Day 20-Shadows

ShadowsFinal

Shadows are often thought of as dark places where evil looms. Yet they can also be rich, colorful patches that anchor us, and other objects, to the ground. C.S. Lewis said that our life here is living in the Shadowlands. My lenten pilgrimage is deepening my understanding of this truth.

ShadowsTree

This morning my feet stopped their pace in the direct line of a magnificent tree shadow. From where I stood I could see the shadowy branches and trunk on the ground as well as the actual living tree, and then, beautifully behind it, the sun in all its blinding glory.

Yet in this life, we are not always able to see the Son and that very substantial heaven which casts its shadow in this world. As pilgrims, we must always be looking for the real thing behind the shadow that so enchants us here.

Shadows1

Artists are taught to peer into shadows. They are not just gray or black. When you spend time really looking into them, they are many-hued wonders of warm and cool colors, depending on where the light is coming from and what kind of light it is.

Shadows2

We would do well to take good long looks at the shadows in which we live and move and have our being. Most of the sin that so easily besets us is something good, appearing light-filled and colorful. It is precisely our preoccupation with and exoneration of the shadow, without regard for the Light which illuminates all and exists behind every shadow, that trips us up and causes us to stumble. We then find ourselves far off the path, lost in a dark wood.

Reading Rod Dreher’s book How Dante Can Save Your Life has opened my eyes to this deceptive reality more than ever before. The lovely colors and hues of family, provision, and creativity in my life are mere shadows (icons) of the beautiful One.  I often fail to see the Light behind them, and they can slip into being my gods (idols). I must work to look beyond them and worship only Him who emanates through them. The good shadows in our path are only a kind of photocopy of the real thing. From where we stand, the shadows are distorted, flat versions of the actual object. Peering into the shadows will only serve us if we train ourselves to see beyond them to the Real Thing and the Light behind it.

Shadows3

If you come across a shadow today, stop and take time to study it. Look for the colors in it, whether warm or cool. Then follow it to the object that casts the shadow and on to the Light Source behind it all.

At first I am overwhelmed, and all my little happinesses look like broken toys. Then, slowly and reluctantly, bit by bit, I try to bring myself into the frame of mind that I should be in at all times. I remind myself that all these toys were never intended to possess my heart, that my true good is in another world, and my only real treasure is Christ. And perhaps, by God’s grace, I succeed, and for a day or two become a creature consciously dependent on God and drawing its strength from the right sources.” C.S. Lewis (The Problem of Pain)

The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshipers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.” C.S. Lewis (The Weight of Glory)

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Shadows4

Note on today’s painting: When I turned the page to create today’s drawing, There were too many bleed-throughs from the sharpie I had used on the previous drawing. So I decided to draw and paint on a separate piece of paper and glue it on top of the offending marks. One could also collage over it, or gesso over it and then paint or draw.

Shadows5

 

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Day 18-New Mercies

EmptyGround

I do wonder some days, as I head out the door to walk, whether I’ll find any treasures on the path. Thus far, each day, I return home with at least one present, sometimes more. Today I gathered a whole posy full of treasures out on the familiar path. I don’t know why I doubt…but I do. Will the presents stop coming? Doesn’t a well run dry sometimes? Could it be that I’ll hit a true desert on my pilgrimage, as all pilgrims inevitably do? Will there be parched paths ahead, with barely enough sustenance to put one foot in front of the other?

I cannot predict the future. I am only able speak to today and what I found to be true yesterday. It really does seem that morning by morning new mercies I see! And this realization is made all the more astonishing by the fact that I haven’t gone anywhere new or different! I am walking, day in and day out, the same routes I have walked for 13 years! Instead of just 3 to 4 times a week, I’m walking these sidewalks every day. Wouldn’t I get bored?

EmptyPatch

Not yet. It may bear out that I won’t. Even though I’ve walked and drawn these same paths for many years, they are new every day: the sun drapes over the land in different ways, gray skies heighten certain colors, weather of any kind brings a new look to the terrain each and every day. It is surprising.

And yet I don’t know why I’m surprised.  Though we are comforted by the truth that God is the same yesterday, today and forever; He is also NOT static. He is always creating and enjoys it when we take time to look for it, marvel at it, and celebrate it whether in sketch or word.

CloseLookEmptyGround

That patch of earth you see up there, the first one, is directly beside the sidewalk in my neighborhood. The patch is a small part of a neighbor’s yard…a neighbor who is a master gardener. I’m not talking about someone who faithfully mows, weeds, and trims the shrubbery. No. This is a gardener who paints a masterpiece with plants! Everywhere you look in this man’s yard, it is gorgeously gardened with sculpted topiaries, sitting areas and all manner of flowers and plants in their season. I have set up my chair in springtime right here on the sidewalk to draw the tulips that usually come up here. Now, at the tail end of February, if I look closer, I can see the first green shoots of what will be amazing tulips.

Life is rumbling underneath the soil. Beauty is afoot. Even when we doubt it’s there. Especially when we think it’s all dead and empty…new growth is about to be evident. I can’t wait to see what the Gardener has planned for this part of His garden! But wait I must…a little while longer.

His mercies are new every morning! Lamentations 3:23

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Since I create these posts the day before sending them out, you are reading this on Sunday. Sundays through Lent are not considered part of the 40 days of Lent, but rather are like mini-Easters. I am still walking on these days and plan on doing so through Easter. I am numbering each and every day including Sundays. I am actually one number off. It should be Day 19 today. Oh well. Altogether I think there will be 47 days to my lenten pilgrimage, including the Sundays and Easter.

Buen Camino!

Day 17-The Simplicity of Focus

Broad2Narrow

I knew at the outset that this drawing pilgrimage would help provide some focus for the season of Lent. I knew it would give me regular daily space in which to reflect on Christ and his journey here on earth. But I did not realize that it would usher in a simplicity to the shape of my busy days.

For some time now I have been bemoaning how scattered I am, how off-in-many-directions, careening from one to-do to another, my poor head nearly whiplashed from the ride of daily living. On my walk today it occurred to me that this pilgrimage is softening those edges, straightening out the switchbacks, slowing the pace at which I tackle life. This is pretty amazing to me.

DownSilverDapple

I used to wake up every morning, head filled with a to-do list a mile long, or at least it felt that way. Hot mugs of tea and a brief morning reflection and prayer time was used to wrangle the day’s to-do’s into something manageable or at least to throw my hands up to heaven pleading for help. Then I’d get our youngest out the door to middle school, and return home to the to-do-list treadmill.

Now, on pilgrimage, I waken with one (ok, two) things on my mind – how long can I walk today? and how might God meet me while walking? Directly upon returning from daughter’s school, I pull on walking clothes and head out the door.

Out here on the path, there is no laundry to do, no dishes to clean, no phone ringing (even though my phone is in my pocket, on silent, for a pic or two) and I cannot do one thing about the to-do list while walking. I get to just “be”. I get to walk and breathe, and look around at nature and my neighborhood and the sky. I get to pray and think and be silent. I get to treasure hunt – to look here and there, under rock and up in trees for something beautiful to take home with me; just like my kids always did when they were little, filling their pockets with pinecones and rocks, leaves, and wildflowers.

Broad2NarrowCloseUp

Somehow, from this space, the rest of the day flows. Somehow, and I’m not sure how this is, whatever I’ve gathered on my walk stays with me through the day’s events. It’s as if I can reach my hand in my pocket throughout the day and feel the treasures I had gathered. They are still there, still true, no matter what is happening.

It’s like standing in the broad, busy road of Life and seeing it narrow down to a small lane at the end. Having my sights set on the narrow path ahead brings focus for the busy now and I can walk with a bit more peace and stillness in my heart.

I hope you are able to walk today! It may be difficult to carve out the space for it, but walking daily just might bring a simplicity to your life and a more cohesive shape to your days.

“An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.”  -Henry David Thoreau

Buen Camino!

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Note on the above drawing: I love the combo of oil pastel with watercolor! The “resist” that happens is just so enchanting.

Broad2NarrowPastelW:C

Day 16-Winter Trees

TreeHandsColor

A storm and stout wind blew threw our area yesterday. As I walked in the clearing clouds this morning, I relished the look of winter trees against the peeking blue sky.

I am fortunate to live in an area where the weather and season coincide so beautifully with the path through Lent. Bare trees and windswept earth perfectly depict the inner landscape of a lenten heart. As we walk toward Easter, even the earth seems to prepare for that glorious day as bulb and leaf sprout bright and full.

TreeHandsLine

For now, I enjoy these “fingered wrists” shooting out of the ground in defiance of the winter chill. I walk reminding myself to stand with them in praise and allow the Wind to sweep away the follies of sin. In so doing, I’ll arrive at my destination free and unfettered.

Today and every day, I walk with the winter trees and bow to the Wind doing its work in my heart.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This is an illustration I drew to accompany a poem I wrote a few years ago, after coming home from a wintry walk. It is published in a collection titled Words On A Line.

Winter Trees

Like hands raised in praise

they stand tall and freed

From the dripping colors

that bowed them in the breeze.

*

Unfettered now from leafy sails

Which bent them low in windy gales

Enabled more to endure the season

Unburdened by Beauty’s reason.

*

The cosmic broom has swept away

the fluff and fancies of an autumn day.

All that Beauty which weighed them down

Has been brushed clean…nary leaf on the ground.

*

‘Tis Beauty too, these fingered wrists

which pierce the heavens and the mists.

And so I’ll stand among them now

with hands raised, though they bow…

*

In hopes the cosmic broom will sweep

away the follies that I keep,

The fluff that weighs my hands from raising

that I might freely stand, the heaven’s praising.

Day 15-Presents AND Presence

EmmausRdStreamFull

Every morning I wake up looking forward to the day’s walk. I kinda thought by now, two weeks into my Lenten pilgrimage, that I would grow tired of it. Not that I’ve ever been tired or bored of walking, but I guess I thought that making it a daily thing might cause some of the enchantment to wear off.

Not at all.

Each day I can’t wait to get out there, on the sidewalk or trail, to see what God has for me there. What will I see and hear? What beauty will strike my eye? What insights will He reveal to me as I put one foot in front of the other? What jewels lay on the path for me to pick up, gaze at, draw and reflect upon?

TreeClusterWyndfall

It is a wonderful place to be in, this anticipation. But on my last few walks, a still small voice has been prompting me to consider not merely the presents on the path, but the presence of Him who laid them there for me.

This is not an either/or thing. It is BOTH/AND. We are meant to look for and gather the jewels He offers us, while at the same time acknowledging and thanking the One who gave them. When we forget the Giver of life in the midst of its many good gifts, we are in danger of idolatry, exchanging the presence of God for the presents He gives us. His presents are intended to remind us of Him and His beauty, not to be a substitute for Him.

SilverDappleUmbrella

As you walk each day, look for the gifts as well as the Giver, the beauties and the Beautiful One, the presents of God emanating from the presence of God. This is surely the way of a pilgrim. Let us walk fully in it.

Lord, purge our eyes to see within the seed a tree,

within the glowing egg a bird, 

and within the shroud a butterfly,

til, caught by such, we see beyond all creatures, Thee.

-Christina Rosetti.

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I couldn’t choose just one “present” to draw…three favorites on my rain-filled path today. Final one is the view from under the umbrella.:)

Thank you, thank you dear fellow pilgrim, for walking this path with me.

Day 14-Color in Rain

ColorinWoodsFinal

I heard it last night rapping on the roof and windows. Smiling, I fell back asleep hoping it would still be raining when I went out for my morning walk. This may not be a typical reaction to the prospect of rain, but I love walking in it. I wished I could go for a really long walk in the rain. But I would take whatever the day might allow.

HillnDaleWoods

How does one draw rain? This is a bit of a mystery to me, as a literal visual translation doesn’t quite get at it. Abstraction may serve us better as far as depicting a rainy landscape. When poets write about rain, it is often in terms of feelings, and an abstract approach visually would certainly allow for expressing the feel of rain as opposed to what it looks like.

ColorinWoods1

Much of what I read about rain, or rainy days, is in gray, dull, dreary and tearful terms. Melancholy and angst flow with the wordy droplets just as sunshine sprouts all manner of bright, happy words in flowery language.

ColorinWoods2

With umbrella overhead, I started out on my walk and was soon arrested by the colors I saw in the dripping world around me. Gray is never just gray. At least not for me. Trees appear purple with tinges of maroon, the grasses pop greener than normal due to the grayed tones surrounding them. The rust-colored earth bleeds into the pewter sidewalks and roads are speckled with the blues of the sky which purply gray clouds have dripped onto them. It’s all there…a breathtaking spectacle of subtlety…if we will just look, really look, peering into the gray illusion.

ColorinWoods3

At some point in my walk I was able to take down the umbrella. I don’t mind drizzle except for the water-specks on my glasses. Yet even these gave an interesting image to the wet colorful world around me…fuzzy oval splotches, as if a paintbrush had smeared all the colors on the canvas together in those spots. I spent a fair amount of the walk amusing myself with looking through these blurry oval windows.

ColorinWoodsCloseUp1

Anyway. Its seems to me that Lent is often thought of as a long, rain-filled walk. Dark, gray, brooding and foreboding it appears as we are encouraged to consider our sin, be active in repentance, engaged in examining and scrutinizing self, or at least inviting the Holy Spirit to do so. Lent is however a paradox: a gray mist wherein lies subtle yet rich color. All that gray, if we really peer into it will reveal the many colors that make up the gray. Through Lent, we are daily baptized in a many-colored meditation, led through the soaked landscape by the hand of Christ Himself.

ColorinWoodsCloseUp2

Towards the end of my walk, umbrella had to go back up again if I was going to be able to see my way home. Grateful for the umbrella of Christ’s righteousness, I made it home where warmth, dry clothes, and a cup of tea awaited me.

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May you see the color in the grays of your lenten pilgrimage today!

Buen Camino!

ColorinWoodsFinal

***A fellow pilgrim asked me in a recent email, how I see the color when the photograph doesn’t show this color. A camera does not take a picture of what I, or you, see. It just doesn’t. As an artist, you must draw and paint what YOU see, translating the landscape or figure as your eyes see it. If you work from a photograph, do not do so slavishly. Rather use it as a only a guide. Recall what you saw on your walk and put that into your drawing. Show the world what YOU see, through your eyes. We will all want to see that. 🙂

Day 13-Mending Day

 

WhickerLandRelax

Mondays are often mending days. After a week and weekend of back-to-back events, I feel the need to mend…to gather my frayed edges and smooth them out, stitch them up, carefully, slowly, quietly. The jumpy rhythm of full throttle living needs to return to a slow waltz for a day before it ramps back up again.

If I were on an extended pilgrimage such as the Camino de Santiago, I would probably need a day here and there to walk a bit more slowly than usual, maybe even lessen the mileage for that day. But today I felt the need to walk longer than I typically get to. A long slower-paced five miles in and around the neighborhood would be just the thing to repair the soul. Draw, write, and then knit. Yes. I hope. Can I really afford to set aside this much time for such meandering?

WhickerLandphoto

In many ways, I can’t afford NOT to. Our society is addicted to busy, to that jumpy rhythm of GO, GO, GO. I contribute to that. Yet I long to get off the merry-go-round. And even if it’s only for a few minutes or hours in a day, to stand apart from it and feel my own heart beat slowing down. This is what walking and drawing offer me- an oasis of slowed time in which to mend, regroup, heal, breathe and listen.

May it be so for you today: a mending day where the thread of walking is stitched up and down by the needle of your drawing or writing pen. In this way we can gather strength from God’s presence for the harried pace of day-to-day living.

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It’s not too late…walk a stay-at-home pilgrimage of your own. Start today! Today is a good day for slowing down.

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WhickerLandpaint

The above painting is of the back end of Mr. Whicker’s land which I see every day in my neighborhood from one of the dead-end cul-de-sacs. The red barn far off in the distance is on his son’s land. There’s a small sign there at the fence that says “Private Property”. Even though it is a sign of warning, I see it as a call to stop and gaze for a while, drinking in the beauty of the land.