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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Peace. Love. Paint.

This blog is about painting.  But of course the lines are not always drawn clearly, boundaries can be elusive, and more often than not--at least for me--living is the raison d'etre for art.  Some very strange and powerful things have happened in my life in the past ten days, and I feel compelled to share them.

Here's the first one (Friday morning).  I was in the bathroom and heard a horrible noise that sounded like a car crashing into my bedroom.  I walked into my room and the first thing I saw was broken mirrored glass ALL over the floor.  My barefoot two year old, Jackson, ran across the broken glass, as did I (also barefoot).  I then turned to see my four year old son, Julian, pinned to the ground by a very heavy mirrored chest of drawers.  Apparently he had opened all of the drawers to this massive piece of furniture and tried to climb to the top of it, causing it to fall forward onto his ankles. The glass was from the mirrored panels on the furniture, but also from the two mercury glass vases that were sitting on top of it.  The chest must weigh at least three hundred pounds, and I cannot move it by myself.  That is, until the moment I saw Julian's little body pinned to the ground.  I effortlessly picked up the dresser from his ankles, and mentally prepared myself for the sight of blood and crushed bones.  But no.  There was very little blood.  Again I walked barefoot across the broken glass as I carried him to the kitchen to ice down his ankles.  There was no swelling.  There were no broken bones.  There were no fractures.  Aside from a couple of scratches on the tops of his ankles, there was nothing.  He was a little sore, but by the end of the day was running around the house as usual.  And neither I nor Jackson had a single scratch from walking across the huge mess of broken glass.

I knew this was divine intervention.  I knew it was good, and I knew it had meaning.  I knew I should come away from that experience with some kind of message or understanding, but after hours of thinking and wondering and turning it over in my head, all I could come up with was that right that minute angels were in the room with us, and we were being protected by God.

The following morning, Saturday, my husband Doug went to the urgent care clinic for a relentless cough and shortness of breath.  I thought at worst, he had pneumonia because it had been going on for a couple of weeks.  I didn't think it was too serious since he had continued to run at least a couple of miles every day, as he has for the past thirty years.  But when he saw the nurse at the urgent care clinic, he was rushed to the ER for congestive heart failure.  His heart rate was near 200 beats per minute, his lungs were filled with fluid, and we were later told that his lower left ventricle was only functioning at 10-15%.  After several days in the hospital, he continued to worsen, his blood pressure bottomed out, and a balloon pump was inserted into his heart to keep him alive.  There was another frightening close call early Wednesday morning, but he survived. He was been in the ICU for exactly seven days and was moved to a regular room this morning.  The balloon pump has been removed, and he is recovering much better than his cardiologist expected.  It is my understanding that the working theory is that a virus attacked his heart.  I believe and hope that he will be home soon from the hospital very soon.

I do not understand why this happened.  Even if at some point there is a medical explanation, I do not yet know the meaning of why this happened.  I do not yet understand the correlation of these two events, but I know that there is one.  Obviously, this has been a very difficult week for Doug, for all of his friends and family, and definitely for me.

As odd is it may seem, during all of this trauma and terrifying drama I found myself needing to paint.  I haven't had a lot of time to paint, but I have been able to find at least a short while during most of these past ten days to work. I feel at peace simply being in my studio during all of this insanity.  Which brings me (finally) to my point.

Painting is a lot of things to me.  It can be a release, it can be thought provoking and intellectual, and it can be calming, frustrating, stimulating, and enlightening.  And painting can also be nothing to me.  A time of nothing.  Silence. A necessary moment of being without thought, without emotion.  A meditation.

One more thing.  (I am a Louisiana girl telling a story, so bear with me). In graduate school I studied for a semester with an iconic second generation abstract expressionist named Louise Fishman.  I was elated to be in her presence, let alone to hear her thoughts on painting, to have her in my studio, to hear her constructive criticism, etc.  Much to my horror and frustration, all Louise wanted to do during our SIX hour class was to sit on the floor and meditate.  Um, let's just say it was almost torture for this impatient, overcaffienated, paint-obsessed workaholic.  I never was able to internalize the important thing she was trying to share with us nor was I able to appreciate the place she was trying to take us, at least not during the course of that class.  However, a few years and thousands of studio hours later, I eventually did come to understand and value this message of meditation.  And through this experience, I have come to understand the importance of continuing to thrive in whatever capacity--for me it is creating art--during these times of sorrow, fear, or devastation.

So I will leave you now with this beautiful song, the Neville Brothers singing The Rivers of Babylon, which I have listened to dozens of times in the past couple of weeks.  Peace.

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