Monday, November 3, 2008
Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God.
But only he who sees removes his shoes;
The rest sit around and pluck blackberries.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Oh, what wonderful words! I read them again recently, and they "struck a chord" in my soul.
The entire reference is to the biblical story of Moses - while tending sheep in the desert, he sees a bush, ablaze with fire, but not consumed.
And then the voice of God speaks to him and Moses recognizes that this is a holy moment, and holy ground he is standing on, for the presence of God has made it so. Removing his shoes was a sign of his reverence and humility.
For the artist, the great challenge is to really SEE - learning to SEE sometimes requires unlearning a lifetime of preconceived ideas and a visual vocabulary that developed in our early days. For me, this learning to SEE is to grasp the wonders of God's creation, the incredible beauty and variety, the wisdom, the subtle or dramatic interplay of light and shadow, and sometimes just the simple loveliness of a flower petal. On those rare moments when I get a glimpse with understanding, I am infused with joy and energy to put that understanding on to a canvas with the humble tools of pigment and brush. It is a lifelong journey, and not always an easy task, because true art, like anything else worthwhile, comes from our whole self - our spirit, soul, mind, and body. And we are broken and in need of God's grace to put us all back together again so we can function rightly. How many times we simply miss it all, and "pick blackberries" while surrounded by such wonder. But that is the quest - and one that continually humbles me (I metaphorically take off my shoes !) To SEE with understanding, and to paint with joy.