Day 47 – Had I My Sketchbook

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The following is a poem I wrote a few years ago for Easter. The above drawing was made to go along with it. It is perfect to post today as well. It is in drawing that I am drawn to Christ. It is through drawing that Christ draws me to Himself. Through the vehicle of my sketchbook I can see life more clearly. There is an undeniable link between the ink in my pen, the paint in my brush, and the presence and love of God. Art is a spiritual matter. Yes, indeed.

Had I My Sketchbook

Had I my sketchbook on that day

facing the tomb

where recent horrors laid Him

and  a rock sealed the room…

*

Had I thoughts other than

to sit and weep and clasp my book,

I’d open the pages

of sketches and look…

*

Him laughing at table

Him weeping for a friend

His amazing miracles

the events near the end…

*

That last day he lived

if living it be called

I could not’ve drawn it

eyes swollen as I bawled.

*

But I was there

His agony my own.

And I am here now

gazing at a stone.

*

The finality of it all

I s’pose that’s what I should draw.

A last sketch of my Friend

to end this book of all I saw.

*

I’d begin the arc of that boulder

the crevices of the rock

Lines upon lines

sealing up my broken heart.

*

Hours must’ve passed

as I filled up the page

with line after line

of my Friend’s stony cage.

*

The sun was coming up

as a Voice gently asked-

What have you there, Little One?

At the words, I gasped.

*

Sitting down by me

He pointed to what I’d drawn-

An angel, an opening,

grave cloths, a song.

*

I checked to be sure

what I drew had not been dream.

There it was in front of me

the whole of my scene.

*

And He sitting beside

glowing in smile.

We spoke of nothing and so much

for a very short while.

*

Then he rose to visit others

to show them Death was done.

I asked what shall I do now

for this joy … it must run!

*

He said keep drawing where you see Me

in all your live-long days…

And paint the song you’ve heard this morn

throughout the years and always.

-jpe

EasterTulipsPaint1

I walked yesterday and I plan on walking today, tomorrow and in the days to come. I’ve been having a wee bit of difficulty thinking this pilgrimage is over and not wanting it to be. A fellow pilgrim who has been walking and drawing daily with me said in one of her post/emails that this is really just a beginning. I’m holding onto that! So the tulip drawing is a sneak peek of my walk yesterday and I will share the whole thing in a very soon post! Surely if one had walked the Camino for nearly 50 days, one would not just stop walking. And they would likely process what the pilgrimage meant, what they take away from it, etc. And so shall I.

I wish you the most blessed of Easter celebrations today! It has been a joy to walk with you on this lenten pilgrimage. I plan on continuing here, though not daily. I am a pilgrim for life and will continue walking at home and abroad, drawing from the experience both in word and image. I’ll be glad of your company along the way.

As you continue on your pilgrimage through life… Buen Camino dear friend!

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Day 46 – What A Waste

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Surely in the gawping silence of the days after His death and burial, the disciples at least felt, perhaps even verbalized, this sentiment. What a waste of a beautiful life! To be brought to such a horrid and final end. What a waste of the last few years following this guy we thought would be King of Israel and lead our people to victory. What a waste of our careers as fishermen to have squandered these years in promoting and serving this man.

***

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Who would spend their Friday off of work to walk with a cross on their shoulders? Surely they would be out on the golf course, or shopping, or traveling to visit family. A waste of precious time some might say.

***

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She broke open the expensive perfume, as well as her heart, and poured it all out on His feet in the final days of his life. What a waste, Judas said, as she gave so extravagantly and intimately. What a waste of time and resources, money and provision that could have been spent on the poor. What a waste of a life savings to throw it all away in one useless act.

***

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In the midst of the bombing, the little girl ran back to rescue a lone flower. In doing so, a bullet took her life as she ran back to her father with flower in hand. What a waste one might say, to risk one’s life for a blooming weed. What a waste to have nothing to show for so valiant a rescue. (Please read Makoto Fujimura’s beautiful account of this true story!)

***

CrossWalkDrawings

I too have this phrase flit though my mind from time to time. What a waste to spend one’s life drawing lines in a sketchbook. What a waste to knit stitch after stitch with wool and cotton. What a waste to forego a pensioned career with full benefits in order to follow a call to create and teach others to as well. It can hit with full force. But I know it is not the final word.

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Without tomorrow, the resurrection of Christ from the dead, it all truly would be a waste, a shame, a tragedy. But because of Christ… His victory over death… all is transformed, redeemed, renewed and  made beautiful. No matter how trivial, how small, how wasteful it may appear.

Waste your life for Christ’s sake and you will fill the world with a pleasing aroma.

“For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.”

-2 Corinthians 2:15

***

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Break open your heart and life, especially in seemingly small and insignificant ways…

…break open your sketchbook and draw

…break open your wallet and give

…break open your calendar and serve

…break open your compassion and weep

…break open your reserve and dance

…break open your life and love others deeply from the heart.

For none of it is a waste since Christ is risen!

Hallelujah!

*****

My Alabaster Heart

He came to us lately, but too late for healing;
For days my brother lay sealed up behind stone;
My heart twisted, grieving between riot and reeling–
He answered with a word and gave life to these bones.
And now pouring from my alabaster heart, broken
Is the fragrant perfume of my passion’s love and life–
Anointing his feet which runs out in devotion
For my savior who bears my sin, sorrow, and strife.
But worse than I feared my king did for me:
Faced his own death in silence like the Passover Lamb.
My heart breaks again, water from rock, tears flow free…
Is there hope beyond hope for this child of Abraham?
Placed in a stone vial my treasure is now sealed,
To await the word and breaking when love is revealed.

-Randy Edwards. 2016. Reprinted here with permission.

Please visit his blog to read more of his poetry and to hear him read this poem.

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Note on the drawings: My favorite fellow pilgrim and I walked our first ever Cross Walk yesterday, Good Friday. It was quite a moving experience as people from all over our community gathered to walk together, taking turns carrying the cross together, and arriving after a three-mile walk at a cemetery where many loved ones among our number had been buried. We remembered. We walked in silence to reflect and remember Christ’s lonely walk to Golgotha. Moving indeed.

The first image is of the trail of folks walking behind the wooden cross (you can barely see it in the drawing) as we are passing into Mt. Gur Cemetery. The second sketch was created on the handout we were given to guide us on the walk. I took a photo of the large wooden cross laying on the pavement awaiting folks to come and hoist it on their shoulders. A memorable time. I hope to do this again next year.

Day 45 – Webs

WebBasketsCollage

Something caught my eye at the end of Hill ‘n Dale this morning. Small white tufts of something that looked like cotton fibers strung among the branches of brush just beyond the fence and red signs marking the dead end. I walked closer to get a look at what it was. Spider webs. Small basket-like spider webs.

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I have no idea what kind of webs these are, but they got me to thinkin’. Though delicate looking, spider webs are strong, masterful works that function as both a home to a spider and any eggs she may lay, as well as a trap for catching prey.

WebBasketsLine

It is difficult, here in the midst of Holy Week, not to think that Christ just got caught in the web of human deception, injustice, evil and violence. The events leading up to and including his crucifixion are intricate, horrific and seem too strong for a mere mortal to wiggle out of.

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But Christ was no “mere” mortal. Though fully human, he was also God the King. The resurrection firmly displays that He was not the helpless caterpillar stuck in the machinations of a world gone wrong. He, himself, was the kingly spider, weaving His strong webs of love for all who would be caught by them. The sting was entirely His own. He endured the suffocating effects of sin’s punishment on our behalf and in so doing has cast His web broadly for all who want to be set free.

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Interesting, isn’t it, how freedom comes from being caught and captured by the love of Christ. If there be a sting for us to endure, it is in daily laying down our own agendas, to allow Him, once again to pierce our souls with His perfect love. And in dying to ourselves in His arms, we are raised to newness of life…true caterpillars turned butterflies in the web He weaves for us.

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Surely this is the good in Good Friday!

“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

-1 Corinthians 15:55-57

***

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

-2 Corinthians 5:17

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Note on the drawing: In the first drawing, it may be difficult to see the small tufts of mulberry paper I glued on to suggest the spider webs. They are nearly impossible to see in the photo. Tiny white spots mark where these webs are. In the second image, I took the liberty of imagining what one of these webs might look like close-up. So this is not a literal rendering of my photo. But then, none of the drawings and sketches here on this blog have been literal or exact. That’s the beauty of art. You translate what you are seeing  into what you want to tell others about what you have seen.

Buen Camino!

Day 44 – Scallop Shell

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The Scallop Shell has long been the emblem of those who walk the Camino de Santiago. The history behind this is multi-faceted, but has become the way to identify a pilgrim, and not just for the walk in Spain. It is broadly used to identify anyone who is “on pilgrimage” and so I have adopted it as well, painting it on my mailbox, wearing a shell on my sketching backpack, and pinning a smaller one to my shirt or jacket.

When I started this stay-at-home pilgrimage, I began seeing the scallop shell image places I did not expect. A Shell gas station sign is likely not referencing a pilgrimage. But the decorative top of the bowl from which babies are baptized in our church does have some connection to it. Apparently, the scallop shell became associated with baptism, signifying the beginning of a pilgrim life, as Malcolm Guite points out in his Word in the Wilderness collection of poetry for Lent and Easter. The Camino Bakery, in a neighboring town (Winston-Salem, NC), is named so because the owner herself walked the Camino de Santiago. The scallop shell is used in the bakery’s logo. I’ve enjoyed reading about the rich history this humble image evokes.

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My favorite of the pilgrimage poems included in Guite’s collection is Sir Walter Raleigh’s The Passionate Man’s Pilgrimage. If you click on the link, you can read it in its entirety. Well worth it! I include an excerpt here for your encouragement today in the middle of Holy Week.

Give me my scallop-shell of quiet,
My staff of faith to walk upon,
My scrip of joy, immortal diet,
My bottle of salvation,
My gown of glory, hope’s true gage ;
And thus I’ll take my pilgrimage.

-Sir Walter Raleigh (excerpt)

ScallopShellMailboxPaint

And you will also enjoy my favorite of Malcolm Guite’s pilgrimage poems. It is not printed in his Lent and Easter collection, but can be found on his blog via the link. It was written for the baptism of a parishioner of his, and read when he was asked to perform her funeral. A beautiful and poignant word as we walk this Holy Week. It is especially enjoyable to listen to Guite reading the poem, as he does for each poem on his blog.

Buen Camino!

CaminoShell

 

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Consider finding/buying a scallop shell as a symbol of your lenten pilgrimage. Or carve it on a walking stick as my husband has done here. 🙂

 ScallopShellStick

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Note on today’s drawing: I love line. I know, I know…this is not news to you. 🙂 Sometimes I really wish I could preserve the line drawing just as it is. But color begs. So I decided to be quite sparse with the color and only add small bits of a secondary triad of yellow, green and blue. Drawing is all about choosing. Choose what to include in the drawing, what to leave out. Choosing how much color to add, how much value will be expressed, what line qualities to use, how to show what the drawing is “about”, etc.

Taking the mailbox photo today as I headed out on my walk, I noticed the clematis vine that wraps around our mailbox is greening! The bradford pear trees, though still white, are also starting to green! Everything, everywhere is ramping up that favorite color of mine – Spring Green! Everywhere seems to sing New Life! New Growth! New Day! <sigh>

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One last note… It is interesting to look at the evolution of the depiction of the scallop shell along the route of the Compostelo de Santiago. It seems that earlier carvings into wood or stone along the path were more realistic, more detailed in its rendering of the scallop shell. More recent drawings/paintings of it are simple basic shapes, either rounded or squared off to depict the shell, using a bight yellow paint often surrounded by a blue square.

Day 43 – Ebenezers

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ebenezer
noun eb·e·ne·zer \ˌebə¦nēzə(r)\

Definition of ebenezer

1. usually capitalized : a commemoration of divine assistance <here I raise mine Ebenezer; hither by Thy help I’m come — Robert Robinson>

A large rock or stack of rocks by the roadside is often cause for pause. Why is this here? Is it random or for decoration? Is it defining property or outlining a garden? Is it marking the death of a beloved pet or a memorial to some other event? Along my daily walking path, I see numerous outcroppings of rocks that are probably more for decoration than anything else. In Bible times, a stack of rocks (or one large rock-1 Samuel 7) was often raised as a testament to a place where God met someone, provided what was needed, or simply showed up with His presence to cheer and to guide.

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An ebenezer is a sculpture with a story. Hardship, suffering, confusion, and desperation mark the stacked story. But it stands to herald to all who pass by – Here the Lord met me. Here I saw His face. Here I heard His voice. Here the hem of his garment passed by. Here He provided what was needed.

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On the Camino de Santiago, each pilgrim carries a rock or stone in his backpack. It is preferably a stone brought from home, to then deposit at the Cruz de Ferro, a now huge pile of rocks symbolizing the pilgrims through the centuries who have travelled there to lay down their burden of sin and regret. There are numerous other places where pilgrims deposit rocks, symbolizing their sorrow being laid down along the path. (Scroll down in this link to where you read about the stones. But the whole thing is a very informative blog post about the Camino.)

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I have a little pile of rocks on my drawing table that I’ve been collecting on my walks. Not every day. Just when I spy one that calls to me, and definitely when I’ve walked other places than my neighborhood. A couple of them are from my backyard. Here, on my drawing table, is a kind of mini-ebenezer. For here is surely a place where He meets with me and has helped me time and time again as I pick up a pen and paintbrush.

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Where would you build your ebenezer? What story would it tell?

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“Here I raise my Ebenezer

Hither by thy help I come.

And I hope by thy good pleasure

simply to arrive at home.”

Excerpt from another favorite hymn, Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing. Click the link to listen to Sufjan Stevens’ rendition. LOVE the banjo!

*****

Buen Camino! Thank you, as always, for your companionship and presence on this pilgrimage.

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Note on the drawing: As I walked today, I had the hymn, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing, running in my head. Everywhere I looked, it seemed, I saw piles of rocks, or large ones standing just so. Though I did not place them there, they very well could be my ebenezers…places where God has met me for years along this familiar walk. Even the very ground we walk on can be hallowed ground.

Day 42 – Soil Prep

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I am not a gardener. My husband says I’m a planter. I put plants in the ground, water them a bit and wish them well, fully expecting to come back in a couple of weeks to see them thriving. He says there’s a lot more to it than that.

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One thing I do know is that the soil preparation prior to planting greatly increases the chances of your plants thriving, be they vegetable or floral. I have watched this small patch of land at the end of Silver Dapple Lane go through a bit of soil preparation in the last few days.

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Every year, Mr. Whicker prepares this little plot for some of his tenants and neighbors to use for a  summer vegetable garden. Every year I love watching this garden grow. Every year I make drawings throughout the growing. This is the first pre-planting drawing I’ve made of the garden.

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Soil prep is not glamorous. I understand though, that a gardener can spend just as much time preparing the soil as he/she does in the planting. Plowing up the soil, getting rid of weeds and rocks, churning in manure or enriched soil, and grading it lightly before the seeds go in…all of this I’ve observed here in this roadside garden plot.

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It is also what’s  happening this week during Holy Week. It has surely been going on these last five weeks of Lent, but definitely this week will be fraught with plowing up, churning and grading the soil in preparation for the dying seed to burst forth in life on Resurrection Sunday.

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I’d much rather skip over this part and just get right to Easter. I’d rather not submit my heart to the gut wrenching last days of Christ’s life. Poor heart doesn’t like to be plowed up, churned or graded. But without walking through this week thoughtfully and reverently, my experience of Easter will likely be anemic, blighted, and stunted. In garden speak – I might have a few tomatoes on the vine, but they won’t be nearly so large, meaty and rich without the necessary soil preparation and tending ahead of time.

May we walk these last days of our lenten pilgrimage as a kind of preparation of the soil of our hearts. In doing so, we will reap a full harvest of joy, wonder and beauty on Easter morning.

Buen Camino!

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Note on the drawing: This one evolved and I love it when this happens. I started out wanting to collage the words in the prepared garden soil and the street sign. But after searching and searching for words like “plow” and “churn” in magazines, and not finding any, I decided to write them out. As I was looking for these words, a phrase caught my eye. It was an advertisement that included the dictionary meaning for the word “beginning”. Collaged as a cross, I thought it the perfect “sign” for the garden of our life. The cross of Christ surely is THE starting point from which we prepare for and receive the Resurrection story. The idea for the shadow cast across the garden came last.

I am so grateful for the ways creativity deepens and enriches my life and walk.

Day 41 – Edges

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Who knew there was such variety at the edges of a path? I’ve been taking notes of all the things I see on the edges of our sidewalks – grass, weeds, dandelions, fallen petals, wild onions, tiny flowers, dead leaves, a rock here and there. Some edges are trim and tidy, others overgrown and wild. There is a pleasure in noticing these small things instead of just focusing on the bigger features of the surrounding landscape. I would do well to do the same thing in my life.

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Christ always paid attention to the edges of his life. People and places off the beaten path seemed to be his favorites. Sinners, tax collectors, and other “outcasts” on the fringe of society were where he liked to camp out. Even in a crowd, his attention would be drawn to someone touching his hem or sitting up in a tree. No person’s life was too wild, overgrown or weedy for Him. It was actually the trim and tidy self-righteous folks he had few words for. Words of warning at that.

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Today, on our pilgrimage, may we take time at the edges of our lives to notice those around us, to have compassionate hearts, gracious speech, and a desire to see beauty growing in unexpected places.

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“Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing.”

-Camille Pissarro

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“Pilgrims are poets who create by taking journeys.”

-Richard Niebuhr

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