(alcohol inks on 6″ x 6″ tile)
Last night, after a session of meditative painting, I declared the above painting finished. Not because I thought it a great work of art but to save myself from fussing with it further. All week, I had been working on it, a little here, a little there. “It needs just a bit more orange here,” I’d think, and the next thing I knew it was again past my bedtime.
When I finally let go, I asked myself: why did you paint this image? And I discovered that I really didn’t know. Like most creative works, it evolved in the process of its birthing – yet there had been some conception of it in my mind long before I actually began the labor. Why?
In my puzzlement, I timidly asked God for a poem. It is only recently that I have dared to ask God for poems and I do so with a shy humility. I do not doubt that God has given me many poems in the past, but it is quite a different thing to ask for one.
Indeed, I have taken to asking God when I feel l might like to write a post or paint as well. “I would like to write for You (or paint for You), if You would like to give me something…” the prayer begins, accepting that God may have something else in mind and that all good gifts come from Him.
Before the poem came, I had thought I might simply post the image and invite readers to tell me if they saw any meaning in the painting. Why did this image push so hard to be born?
And so, I invite you, if you are inclined, to reflect. But it is not a Rorschach 🙂 and I know that the message to the painter may be unique and different than it is for each reader of the image. Whenever you are ready, the poem is below.
so ancient the tree
standing timeless, eternal –
yet lush and youthful it is,
alive in the mystery
of each leaf’s unfolding.
deepening into summer,
yet bursting with spring,
unchanging it changes,
with hints of autumn gold.
all in one tree. all in one time.
its roots plunge down deeper,
unafraid of earth’s darkness.
its limbs extend skyward,
embracing high heaven.
it is strong. it is unshakable. it is victorious.
it is Christ, the Savior.
(p.s. the butterfly, of course, is me.
i must be near Him.)
If, dear reader, you found yourself shocked by the line, “it is Christ”, know that I was shocked even more. I know, of course, that I could never paint our glorious Lord.
And yet in the painting and the poem, in the process of their being born and now being shared, God has given me something for which I must thank Him.
To Him be glory always.
Kind of odd to comment on my own post, I suppose, but I had some further reflections on my experience so I might as well throw them out there.
Yesterday evening, some hours after I posted this image and poem, I read Fr. Stephen’s article, “Behind Every Rock and Tree” (at glory2godforallthings) and something resonated. I certainly would not put my writing on the level of Scripture or the early Fathers (!). But, his mention of a tree in the title caught my attention and Fr. Stephen’s fine discussion of symbol and allegory got me thinking further.
In our culture, in this era, we are so used to thinking of “symbol” and “allegory” as the stuff of fairy tales. Nice stories, perhaps, but not REAL. But that is a very limited and arguably incorrect understanding of reality.
To encounter Christ as “tree” had seemed so odd to me that I hesitated about even posting the poem yesterday. And yet something in me experienced it as undeniably real. I see now, of course, that the Biblical Tree of Life in the garden prefigures the Cross (and appears again in Book of Revelation) and thus is indeed Christ and the source of my salvation. Nothing odd at all. It is real.
It fascinates me that I was not aware of this as I painted and wrote – but that the painting and poem themselves were my teachers. How glorious and inscrutable are His ways…
Hi Mary, I waited a while to see what I really saw. Those bright leaves were birds at first, fat (full of life) and sassy (happily noisy, like the flocks of parrots I hear near Los Angeles when I visit my grandchildren). After more than a week they are still birds. And I count that as good. Birds are sort of like angels –always around but seldom attended to. Their bursting with energy–the birds, I mean, the ones in your painting–picks up my spirits on this dark and drizzly day, getting colder as the light goes away. I need that energy now, that liveliness. I am glad that I came back for another look.
Besides, I can imagine a little person in the tree, Zaachaeus, whom I heard about in church today–trying to get a view of Jesus. It’s nice when images blend, and also when they invite us to take a closer look at, and reflect upon, many divergent things–although nothing is really divergent when we become quiet and try to pray, and begin to see. Thank you for the well-packed tree.
P.S. I kept noticing cracks in the sky 🙂 I think that’s good , a sign perhaps of something beyond, but if not, if it says our days are fragile, the flowing blue soothed my fears.
Thanks for giving the painting such deep and thoughtful attention. (I love it when I learn from things that I seem to have created. Reminds me of who the true Creator is…) Your comment on the bird-angels fascinates me. The tree seems so alive but I couldn’t really see any fruit on it…but, of course. Birds, to the earthly eye, angels to the soul’s eye. And Christ, the Center.
Your mention of “cracks” in the sky also got me wondering – I had to go back and look at the image again, What cracks? Having worked with the inks myself, I hadn’t seen the pooling of the ink that way – but it is an interesting notion. Perhaps the cracks signify “thin places” as spoken of in Celtic spirituality (though I don’t claim any special knowledge of this spiritual tradition). Just a happy thought. 🙂