Tag Archives: art

“Cultivation”…

Standard

My life is full of a lot of very good things right now. After I count down from my husband and three vibrant children, there is an elementary school musical, my writing (that is just humming along), and my job. I count myself fortunate that I get to call my job, my ministry, too, and the stellar team of people who are my coworkers, my close friends.

You can find one of my coworker’s blog at aslanslibrary.wordpress.com. (Sarah, can you see me?)

She’s rather brilliant and we share an ambition for creating new beautiful things. If we can’t find something we like our mantra is “write our own”! Over Christmas we created our own Jesse Tree devotional. She wrote the words and I drew the icons to go on the twenty-four paper ornaments leading up to Christmas.

For Lent we are working on a prayer booklet. Praying together as a church, everything we do tries to cover the broad range between families and singles, children and adults. For adults, the booklet alone, for families we printed the prayers on dark purple strips of paper for children to make chains with over the forty days.

The cover of the prayer booklet has been a conundrum. I had contacted a friend that has some amazing stations of the cross prints, but he couldn’t scan them in time. Words alone would work. It would be fine. But I love images. And I had already staunchly stated that I would NOT be doing any artwork for it.

But, as I was proofreading our Children’s Ministry newsletter, I read Sarah’s beautiful words:

“Many of us find prayer difficult or downright discouraging: are we doing it right? How do you find time, anyway? It doesn’t feel like anything is happening! My children are wiggling, I’m distracted, and honestly it feels more productive to get up and empty the dishwasher. And yet: it is in prayer — the messy, uncomfortable, imperfect spaces we carve out and share with God — that the Creator of the universe settles in close and breathes new life into us. When we pray, we remember again that we are creatures, dependent on the one who made us. Prayer is the fertile ground out of which all of our action grows.”

Perhaps it was the word “carve” or the image of “fertile ground”, at any rate, I began to consider this print. I drew it over and over until I understood it. And then I managed to find a couple of hours in this crazy long weekend to carve it out.

Here is “Cultivation”. It is six layers of soil, like the six Sundays of Lent, laid out on top of each other in preparation for the new life of Eastertide. It is also the desert of Jesus’ forty days of prayer (see the five stones?) before the action of ministry. Together in Lent we will journey with Jesus to Jerusalem (see Jerusalem up there in the corner?) accompanying God’s “upside-down king — who says NO to power and glory, who helps lost people find their way home, who surrounds himself with people who are humble and unimportant” (more of Sarah’s words!) to claim a cross that looks nothing like the throne we would want or expect.

cultivation-print-image

Land’s End Landscape…

Standard

I have been coming to Land’s End Trail of mornings. I sit on a bench in the chill and mist and watch the grey ocean spread beneath me like the dull side of a piece of aluminum foil crumpled and pressed smooth. It rolls out to the wide Pacific on my left, and on my right under the bridge and between the fingertips of reclining landmasses. My nose threatens to run and my shoe grinds a bit of sandy dirt as I settle.

The fog is thick and heavy just above the water, a single stanchion of the Golden Gate Bridge visible as if I am under Lady San Francisco’s skirts catching a glimpse of a sacred ankle. The shoulders of Marin are a curve more sensual today, the tops and less modest tips hugged by the lacy undergarment of fog.

Two lights, one standing on the last rock before the ocean, the other midway between that and the bridge blink on and off slowly, conserving energy for their eternal task. A fog horn sounds from somewhere, its own little joke, since visibility is perfect on the water. Small dots of light scratch white lines into the grey past the point. If the law would have these craft leave their lights on until an hour or two past sunrise it would be hard to know by the filtered light exactly when that was. A single fishing boat is in front of me, a red light at the top of its mast, deciding to rest inside the arms of the bay, comfortable to sit here with me.

To my right I can see where the ocean is making the shore, the never-ending group project of seven seas. Black rocks and blurs of darker textures spill across the sand here and there as it curves to meet the red bridge. The bridge swallows it all into its width or expectorates it, possibly the initial seed of fruit from which the earth springs forth. The road to the top is a perfect Bob Ross zig of paint scraped between the darker green of Presidio trees and descending speckle of beach shrubs. The road looks from this angle to curve straight down to the bridge, but I know it disappears over the hill, taking a turn and under a damp stone underpass before drawing its line of red light to join the others who for some reason are leaving the city at this hour.

Behind me to my left the grit trail runs straight disappearing abruptly into the cypress forests, standing on long stems, all looking like they have been treacherously betrayed by their hair product and a sudden gust of wind. Small dark birds bounce or zip, its hard to tell, across the path. And I can hear the incessant hiccough of a sprinkler on the golf course. I cannot tell if the smell of humidity is coming from there or from above. Occasional strings of birds indistinguishable from each other at this height fly low across the water until they complete a picture of a zipper with their reflection, unzipping and zipping as they ever alter altitude. The much larger pelicans fly closer so that I can make out colors and single indignant feathers.

I dab at my nose and shift my weight on the wooden bench to the other buttock. I wonder how long I’ve been sitting here. It’s grown warmer maybe; but I’ve gotten colder as my blood has cooled down from walking.

The lights are going out on the cars driving over the hill. My fishing boat has turned off its red light and is pulling out into open water. Lady San francisco has hiked up her skirts past her knees, and the view is a bowl in front of me, so much, with rivulets spilling out to the west and east and into my lap.

Left Undone…

Standard

“Is that why you do it?” my husband asked.

I had gotten a large envelope from a friend who had found a few things of my fathers in a work file. His large handwriting looped smaller where he had run out of space. There was also a script and a program from a play he had done when we had been living in Florida. I had said something under my breath about wishing he were here to ask him about the school play.

I considered my husband’s question. Do I do drama because my Dad would be proud, because he would do it, because he’s not here to do it anymore?

I remembered after he died how I tried for a month or two to get on top of all the marketing for his self-published book, how I vacillated about painting the last bits of his painting. Something in me was a-flurry to finish what he had left undone. I still struggle with the idea of leaving things undone; but shouldn’t an artist, if they’re doing it right, be still working on something when they die? I had to stop. I didn’t have the heart necessary for the marketing. I left his painting to the few base layers of hue that makes it still, to this day, rather, a misty suggestion of a landscpe.

I decided I wouldn’t have been able to continue with drama fueled solely on the love my father had for it. But it was a healthy process to realize where some of the credit is due. My love of drama is my own but the habit of drama is something that has been built into me.

As I told the students in rehearsal, “A successful painting is interesting to look at. A successful sculpture is interesting to look at from every angle all the way around. A successful play is interesting to look at from every angle all the way around throughout the entire play, a sculptural collaboration of artists existing in a single moment of time.” I doubt the elementary students quite appreciated the image, but it explains what I love best about theatre.

I have never known a time when my Dad wasn’t rehearsing some production, when there weren’t curtains and call times to be planned for. My early years are marked by my sneaking backstage and begging to be onstage. My later years are marked by productions of my own and the productions I missed (My brother’s Nathan Detroit and his narrator from Our Town! It still stings a little bit to think about today.)

It feels natural to be on the roller coaster again. I do it because I love it. I do it because it’s a gift to give others. I do it because it’s a habit of creation that was built in me by my father. And I do it because it’s a habit I want to build in my own children, his grandchildren.

I miss him so much. But new things, even piddly little things like elementary school plays, are still coming out of his life.

And as far as actors go, my little one is showing promise… 😉

Twenty Things…

Standard

Here are the twenty things I am most excited about right now:

  1. The next two days off, no rehearsals, no office. Just me and my beautiful babies.
  2. My 36th birthday on Sunday.
  3. The raspberry liqueur my brother and my sister-in-law bought me for my birthday that I am drinking right now.
  4. The lesson on the Wedding of Cana that we’re teaching on Sunday. He used the purification jugs! 20-30 gallons they held! God is kind!
  5. The talk I heard today by Wes Granberg-Michaelson on how to take care of your inner spiritual life while working in a leadership position in the church.
  6. For my birthday I will be making a girl date at my friend’s to watch Rushmore, the Wes Anderson movie I was really not sure about before I decided for sure that I loved Wes Anderson. Excited to finally love it!
  7. The school play, Aladdin Jr., is well on its magical way. I am three weeks into rehearsals as “director” and having a ball.
  8. The group of Moms helping out with the school play. My new assistant director and I figured out our babies will begin Kindergarten the same year so we are destined to work on the school play for a decade together. These ladies and I are going to be friends for life.
  9. I am excited that the children’s Christian calendar I illustrated for my church is going to be used in another church. I get to go see the training on Saturday.
  10. I bought CDs and books for my children for Christmas based on the qualification that they were something I would want to be liturgy, something I would want my child to heart-memorize. I succeeded. My two-year-old walks around reciting poetry. And my daughter has already memorized “Annie”.
  11. I love my coworkers. Last night we drove around the Mission district, had Mitchell’s ice cream cones, and saw our city lit up from Bernal Heights Park.
  12. My administrative assistant who is my brain at work and helps me be as super productive as I’ve always wanted to be. (I need a Leigh for home.)
  13. My stack of YA science fiction waiting to be read. This year’s resolution: read more fiction.
  14. The small stack of paintings on wood ends that I’ve recently covered with resin. They look great. I want to cover everything with resin.
  15. The fact that I was asked to do a linocut print for a wedding invitation.
  16. Seeing my artwork on someone’s wall.
  17. My husband’s indomitable motivation to work at things, old things, new things, new ideas all the time. Indomitable.
  18. The watch I think I might be getting for my birthday.
  19. The prayer tip my friend gave me for how she prays for her family. One phrase or idea from one verse prayed for each member of your immediate family.
  20. Doing things. Doing all the things.

Train of Thought…

Standard

I can’t be who everybody wants me to be. I’m skilled not brilliant. I’m passionate not a force. I have energy for now. I am creative but slowly. I’m disorganized. I can’t multitask. I’m not big BIG picture. I’m not fine detailed. I’m Barbara. I draw pretty pictures not daring ones. I love showing people the love of Christ. I want to live every moment. I hate not having enough energy. I hate letting moments slip by. I hate thinking about the hours of television that could’ve been a novel. I hate leaving art projects undone. Why can’t all the projects be finished instantly? I’m disgusted by the idea of leaving something undone when I die. But I find it improbable and most likely inauthentic to who I am to ever finish everything at the same time. I want to meet Jesus now. And I’m frenzied for living another day. I love my bed. I love to climb in. I hate to get out of it. I love being in my mind. I love being creative, letting my mind work. I love it when my thoughts keep me up till four solving problems, unable to rest when beautiful visions are being built. Yet I scroll down my phone clicking back and forth between email, facebook, twitter, and wordpress, just to make my mind be still so I can sleep. I don’t know who I am. I don’t know what God wants me to offer. I find out in the second. This is it. This is what you have to give. I’m tired. I’m crying. I wish others could see life as I do sometimes. It’s a gift this, the view, the creation, never bored in my mind. What would I do without characters talking, images parading. Just images, just stories, nothing grand, nothing that will affect the tides of politics or social justice. They’re not even true. They’re fiction as true as I can make them. I love stories. Some crazy story this, me, here, now.